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Where To Find A Pet
Taking Care Of Your Pet
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Okay, so now you have the thumbs-up to become a pet owner. You know you're responsible, mature enough, and prepared for a pet. But where's the best place to find your new friend?

If you're looking for a lower maintenance pet like a rodent, fish, lizard, or bird, your local pet store is probably a good place to start your search. Keep in mind that not all pet stores are created equal, and some may take better care of their animals than others. If a pet store is dirty and rundown, if the animals don't look healthy, and possibly if the staff doesn't seem to know very much about them, you might want to take your business elsewhere (and maybe report the store to a local humane society so they can investigate).

If you're planning on adopting a cat or dog, consider a shelter, humane society, pet adoption fair, or reputable breeder instead of a pet store -- especially if you want a puppy. Sadly, even though the pups in many mall pet stores look cute and healthy, they usually come from "puppy farms" or "puppy mills."

Puppy farms are often inhumane breeders who don't care about the treatment or living conditions of their animals -- they're just trying to breed as many dogs as they can, as fast as possible in order to make a ton of money. Be sure to ask your pet store where they get their puppies and have your parents help you look up the breeder to find out if they have a good reputation.

One of the best ways to find a cat or dog is to adopt one from a shelter, rescue, or foster care. Here's why:

  • When you adopt a cat or dog from a shelter, you might be saving its life.

  • Even if you adopt an animal from a "no-kill" shelter (meaning that they don't put animals to sleep just because they haven't been adopted) or a rescue group, you're helping the people who run these organizations make room for more homeless animals.

  • You're helping to put an end to the worldwide problem of pet overpopulation and homelessness.

  • Shelter staff and volunteers will often know the animals' personalities, especially if they live in a foster home, and can help you make the right match.

  • It's usually less expensive to adopt an animal than buy one from a store or breeder.

  • Most shelters or rescue groups will ask you to return the pet to them if for some reason you can't keep it anymore, or will help you find a new pet if the one you've adopted isn't working out.

  • Dogs and cats who've been rescued usually know they've been rescued, and really show their gratitude.

Web sites Here are two great Web sites where you can search for pets
in your area who need a home:


   You can also check your local humane society, animal control center,
   newspaper, and local bulletin boards (both online and offline) to help
   you find a pet.

If you're interested in a particular breed, like a Labrador or a Siamese, look for rescue groups that save and adopt that breed. If you'd rather go to a breeder, get recommendations from friends or a veterinarian; if you're answering a classified ad, ask the breeder to give you references from other pet owners who've bought their animals. That will help you know that the animals are raised in a healthy, loving environment.

But there's no reason to stick to purebreds. Mixed breed cats and dogs make great pets, too -- and they often have fewer genetic problems!

Dogs and cats aren't the only animals you can find through rescue organizations. Did you know that there are rescue groups for rabbits, turtles, birds, and even horses and livestock? If you're looking for a certain type of animal and would like to adopt rather than buy, ask a local veterinarian for suggestions.

Things to keep in mind when choosing your pet

Never select a pet on impulse. No matter how cute that mouse is, make sure you've done all your homework BEFORE you enter the pet store.

Choose your pet wisely. Research the species or breed you're considering. Books, magazines, and Web sites offer lots of information about various kinds of animals, what kind of pets they can be, and how much care they require.

Get to know the animals. Visit, or even volunteer, at humane societies or animal rescue organizations in your area. Spend time with some of the animals. Many shelters allow you to take a dog for a walk so you can get to know him or her and see what the personality is like. Observe the pet when it's alone with you and try to make a mental list of its positive and negative points.

Find out about leash, licensing and vaccination laws in your city BEFORE you bring a pet home. You can usually find this information on your town's city government Web site.

Next: Taking Care Of Your Pet


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