You can’t get a rescue dog – you don’t know what they’ve got,” Brisbane teacher Danielle Milne was warned numerous times. Upon deciding to get a canine companion, Milne researched her options thoroughly, but she found herself having to contend with stern warnings from people who insisted getting a pet from a shelter was a gamble.
“Initially, I was definitely steered away from rescue animals,” she reveals. However, despite the cautions, she became increasingly drawn to the idea of finding her new pet at a shelter.
“Something resonated within my soul that I must get a rescue dog,” she says. Since adopting a young dog she fell in love with at a rural animal shelter, Milne hasn’t looked back. Five years on, her Pomeranian cross, Honey, is a pivotal part of her life.
VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE
Some people fear that animals in shelters are second-rate, inferior in behaviour and health, and even constitute ‘damaged goods’. Tim Vasudeva, CEO of the Animal Welfare League NSW (AWL), challenges this view. “There can be a perception among people that there is something wrong with them. Invariably, that’s not the case,” Vasudeva says. “The vast majority are just happy animals. They just didn’t have the right home the first time around, through no fault of their own.”
Animal shelters across Australia take in hundreds of thousands of surrendered and abandoned pets each year. Many arrive in shelters due to a change in their owner’s circumstances, including rental housing issues, the loss of a job, relationship breakdowns, or even death of the owner. Vasudeva also says that some people buy a puppy without first considering the work required to keep them happy and healthy.
There are several benefits to adopting a pet from an animal shelter. “You take a lot of the guesswork out of it,” Vasudeva explains.
“With a mature animal, six months of age plus, you’re dealing with a known temperament and personality with established likes and dislikes.”
Dr Christine Cole, shelter veterinarian and CEO of the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home (SDCH), agrees. “It is an advantage because you know what you are getting behaviourally,” she says.
Buying a purebred animal from a pet shop does not necessarily guarantee a healthy pet. “If you adopt from a reputable shelter, the animals will have been health-checked by a vet and had their temperaments assessed,” Dr Cole says. “This is not the case from a pet shop.”
She points out that many purebred dogs available from pet shops come via ‘puppy farms’. These are intensive breeding facilities where dogs are housed in overcrowded conditions, with little regard for their psychological and social wellbeing. They also often lack adequate veterinary care. Unsurprisingly, puppy farms have recently come under intense scrutiny.
A HONEY TO LOVE
Milne speaks proudly of Honey’s protective behaviour towards her infant son Henry, and also loves that Honey is unique; one part Pomeranian, one part her little secret, she stands out in a crowd.
Sydneysider Adrian Hayward also has a ‘honey’ of his own. He found his tortoiseshell domestic shorthair Honey Bunny at the Cat Protection Society of NSW eight years ago. Honey Bunny has become a close companion for Hayward. He refers to the 11-year-old feline as his ‘little mate’, and reveals a host of other affectionate nicknames he has bestowed on her.
The motivation to adopt from an animal shelter stemmed from Hayward’s wish to give a cat another chance. “The thought of all those animals without a home is sad,” he says. “I don’t like the idea that animals get destroyed if they can’t find a new home, because for some reason the original owner can no longer have them.”
Hayward was pleased that Honey Bunny was well-mannered and house-trained.
Jemmah Latham can also attest to the quality of animals from shelters. The veterinary receptionist has been a regular foster carer of kittens from the AWL and SDCH for two years. “I love watching them grow and develop, and go on to become beautiful pets,” says Latham, whose dog Zac also loves fussing over the kittens. “All the kittens I’ve fostered have been happy, healthy pets and very well adjusted in their new homes.”
Latham’s first dog came from a shelter, and she has vowed that all her future pets will too. “In my experience, you can’t get a better pet than a rescued pet,” she declares.
For those concerned that finding a pet to suit their lifestyle may be a challenge, Vasudeva lays fears to rest. “We match pets up well. We are able to find a pet to fit in with people’s circumstances,” he affirms. “If you’re looking for a dog that’s good with young children, we can introduce you to those dogs.”
Searching for a pet need not be exhausting as people can simply go online and see for themselves the range of animals awaiting re-homing. AWL, SDCH and PetRescue all have good websites with profiles for animals currently available for adoption.
For Danielle Milne, there is no doubt that Honey was a match made in heaven. “I think she knows that I rescued her,” she says.
“She walks the earth with a sense of appreciation; a silent thank you for having given her a second chance.”