You Want To Be a New Pet Owner. Now What?

Clear the Shelters

You’ve seen that doggie in the window and fell in love — but you’ve never raised a dog before. Or a cat. Or a hamster. You’ve never even had a bowl of goldfish as a kid. 

Like any other major life changes — and adding to the family is a major life change — aspiring pet owners-to-be have a laundry list of considerations and preparations that need to be made before Fluffy can come home to stay. Rachel Maso, the senior manager of behavior at the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City, breaks down what you need to know before, during and after adoption for anybody thinking and wondering “…now what?”

I’m thinking of adopting a pet, but I’ve never owned a pet before. Help!

If you are thinking of adopting and raising a pet for the first time, Maso recommends taking a hard look at your lifestyle and budget to see what type of pet companion would be the best fit for you. Larger dogs may cost more to raise than smaller dogs; cats may be the better companions for a frequent workaholic with little time to spend walking a pet around the block.

“Consider your activity level, amount of time spent at home and the types of activities you would enjoy doing with your new pet,” Maso says. Flexibility and an open mind to other pets can help ease first-time pet owners into the adoption process.

The size of a pet does not have to stop you from adopting if you, like many other pet owners, live in an urban shoebox. The amount of space a pet needs depends more on its energy level and personality than its size.

“Some dogs may benefit from living two streets down from a great dog park; others may show no interest and will prefer a nice, quiet walk around the block followed by a long day of napping,” Maso says. For cats, plenty of spaces to climb, jump and leap will make up for a lack of square footage in your home.

Should You Adopt a Dog? This Flowchart Will Help You Decide

What else do I need to know before I adopt?

Sudden allergies are just one of several reasons why pets are turned over to a shelter by their owner. And pet allergies are common — they hit approximately 5 to 10 percent of the population, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

A visit to the doctor to determine any pet allergies is a must for first-time pet owners that have had limited access to animals before adopting. Don’t think you’re safe from allergies if you adopt hairless breeds either. Reactions can develop in the presence of saliva, urine or dander.

Surprise bills and unexpected costs are another reason that owners might surrender their pets. Use the tool below to get an idea of how much a pet might cost to raise over its lifetime, and if that number is within your or your family’s budget.

(Don’t forget that adopting on Aug. 17 could mitigate some of these costs as hundreds of shelters around the country will waive or discount fees as part of the one-day adoption drive.)

What are some myths to know about as I decide on the kind of pet I want to adopt?

Glad you asked. Here are four:

  • The age of a pet does not determine how affectionate it will be with you.
  • Shelter animals are not necessarily given up because of a troubled past. Ask the shelter for a pet’s background or known issues if you are unsure.
  • Species does not determine energy level. Cats play just as much as dogs do.
  • The space of your home does not determine the size of your pet. Large dogs can be happy with smaller backyards and homes depending on its (and your) personal needs.

What are my first steps to becoming a great pet owner?

Your home is pet-proofed, your budget is sound and your pet is ready to start a new life with a new family. Make sure you check off the following:

  • Get your pet spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Most shelters will do this as part of the adoption process with the fee you pay, Maso says, but for pets that aren’t, this is a great time to…
  • Get to know your local veterinarian or pet clinic (and get your pet those booster shots.)
  • Designate a short-term pet caregiver in case of emergencies. Think of them as the godparent for your pet.
  • Stock enough emergency pet food and supplies to last for two weeks.
  • Research and prepare a plan for severe medical emergencies. Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses accessible in case your pet gets sick.

What should I do once they’re here?

The most important thing right after you bring your pet home is to give it some space and time to get used to its new home and new surrounding. Maso recommends setting up a safe, quiet space in your home or apartment for your pet.

Dogs should have a kennel or crate with its door left open.

Cats should have a box or carrier on a shelf, cat tree, or any space that’s elevated in your home.

“For the first few weeks, focus on relationship building and establishing routine,” Maso says. “Try to create a consistent schedule and have everyone in the household participate in activities that your new pet loves.”

What if it doesn’t work out?

Things happen. Surprise bills, health concerns, barking, hyperactivity, aggressiveness and personal emergencies are all reasons that an owner might have for giving up a pet. Shelters around the country took in over 3 million pets alone in 2018, according to Shelter Animals Count.

But don’t be quick to get rid of your new pet early on over behavioral bumps that could be fixed with some time, space and support. “Animals, just like people, need time to adjust to new surroundings and environment,” Maso says. “It may take some animals months to settle in completely.”

Rehoming – having another family take your pet in – is another humane option if an adoption does not work out. If all else fails, check in with the originating shelter.

Sounds great. I’m ready to adopt. Where do I go?

We got you.

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Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Clear The Shelters

Shelters near you


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Thousands of pets are looking for their forever homes and News Channel 8 is On Your Side helping to make that happen in the Tampa Bay area.

We are teaming up with hundreds of shelters across the country to host Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive on Saturday, August 17, 2019, to help find loving homes for animals in need.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015.

Now is the time for shelters to register by completing the online application located here. Organizations interested in participating in Clear the Shelters must complete the Commitment Registration form to ensure proper verification of all interested participants.

When registering, please make sure you select the TAMPA-ST.PETERSBURG-SARASOTA, FL region. This will put your shelter on our CLEAR THE SHELTERS online map, driving families to your shelter. 

Here are the local shelters that are offering no-cost or reduced-fee adoptions for this event:

  1. Citrus County Animal Services - 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  2. Humane Society of Polk County - 3195 Dundee Road Winter, Haven
  3. Barking Out Loud Rescue, Inc - 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  4. Paw Warriors, Inc. - 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  5. SPCA Florida - 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  6. Friends of Strays Animal Shelter - 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  7. Pinellas County Animal Services - 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  8. SPCA of Hernando County - 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  9. Humane Society of Tampa Bay - 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  10. SPCA Tampa Bay - 9099 130th Ave North, Largo
  11. Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services - 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  12. St. Francis Animal Rescue - 1925 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice
  13. FLUFF Animal Rescue - 11220 Park Blvd N, Seminole
  14. Manatee County Animal Services: Palmetto Shelter - 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  15. Manatee County Cat Town - 216 6th Ave E, Bradenton
  16. Pasco County Animal Services - 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  17. St. Francis Society, Inc. - Pet Smart - 12835 Citrus Plaza Dr, Tampa
  18. The Humane Society of the Nature Coast - 7200 Mobley Road, Brooksville
  19. Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center - 440 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa
  20. Humane Society of Manatee County - 2515 14th Street W, Bradenton
  21. Save Our Strays Inc. Safety Harbor, FL - 3223 San Jose Street, Clearwater
  22. Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Section - 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  23. Hernando County Animal Services - 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville
  24. Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, FL - 5718 21st Ave W, Bradenton
  25. Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  26. Rescue Cats of Florida, 211 West Alexander Street, Plant City
  27. Precious Paws Rescue, 5164 S. Florida Avenue (Route 41), Inverness
  28. Hands Helping Paws Rescue, 53 West Bay Boulevard South, Lake Wales
  29. Cat Kids Rescue, 10500 Ulmerton Road, Suite 308, Largo
  30. Suncoast Animal League, 1030 Pennsylvania Ave., Palm Harbor
  31. Cat Haven Rescue of Tampa-Pasco County, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Wesley Chapel
  32. Cat Haven Rescue of Pasco County, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  33. Suncoast Humane Society, 6781 San Casa Drive, Englewood
  34. Rebels Rescue, 11665 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa
  35. Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka city
  36. Cat Crusaders, Inc, 6248 Commerce Palms Drive, Tampa
  37. SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  38. Rescue Cats of Florida, 3313 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico
  39. Countless Cats Rescue Inc., 3139 Duane Avenue, Oldsmar
  40. Cat Call Inc, Pet Smart 1051 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon
  41. Cat Call Inc, 11331 Causeway Blvd, Brandon

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