The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Resources & relief

June 16, 2011

RESOURCE: Plenty of pets are up for adoption, but potential families should ask questions

JOPLIN, Mo. — Out of the 1,196 tornado-impacted animals, the Joplin Humane Society has returned more than 400 to their owners. But there still are plenty more animals available for adoption both in Joplin and at the SEK Humane Society in Pittsburg, which accepted overflow in recent weeks to provide relief.

When it comes to picking the right one, however, Karen Aquino, director of the Joplin Humane Society, advises taking five things into consideration:

it Takes time, energy

Kittens and cats, puppies and dogs — all require varying amounts of time and energy, Aquino said.

“People need to remember, it could be an 18-year commitment, it requires regular veterinary services, food, flea preventive, play and exercise, and if it becomes ill will need to go for treatment,” she said. “When you make that commitment, ask, ‘Can I do this right now?’”

Aquino says those who work long hours, who do a lot of traveling or who don’t have a friend or relative to check in on a pet should avoid adopting a puppy or a dog.

“They require being housebroken, regular potty breaks, behavior training and socializing, and that’s hard to do real well if you don’t have the time or aren’t around,” she said.

Cats, she said, are a little easier to leave for a day or a weekend, as they’ll use a litter box and eat when needed.

Families may wish to consider adopting on a weekend when parents and children are home from work and school, and less activities are scheduled, so they can devote time to getting to know the pet and helping him adjust to his new surroundings.

it Takes money, too

As with time and energy, different pets can require more or less money.

In Joplin, it costs $60 to adopt a cat and $20 to adopt a large dog — and that’s because the large dogs are usually overlooked for smaller animals.

Likewise, Aquino advised that a small dog will cost less to feed and care for than a large dog, but cats, in the long run, are cheaper.

“Dogs require heartworm pills, and typically eat more food than cats,” she said.

In addition, dogs — particularly large breeds — also require an enclosed outdoor space, often necessitating building a fence or kennel, whereas cats can live indoors.

However, cats require an initial upfront investment of a litter box and the continued purchase of litter, as well as flea medicine and accessories such as a scratching post.

At the SEK Humane Society, June is “Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.” One cat can be adopted for $20, or two for $30, says spokesperson Leslie Harris. Dogs also have been discounted to $40.

Aquino is planning a free adoption event, which will be first-come, first-serve, in June. It will be sponsored by Petsmart Charities, ASPCA and Pet Tango. All adoptable animals will have been spayed/neutered, implanted with a microchip, and outfitted with an ID tag.

“That was an issue after the tornado; 97 percent of the animals had no ID and we couldn’t reunite,” she said.

Behavior before beauty

Don’t just consider looks — take time to observe the behavior of an animal before adopting. Even if it means hanging out at the shelter an hour or more, you’ll be more likely to leave with a pet that matches your needs.

“When you go to a humane society, talk to the people who work there, describe your family — whether you want a cat or dog that plays a lot, or are older and more sedentary and want something that will sit a lot,” said Aquino. “Talk about your personalities and find out about theirs, spend some time with the one you’re looking at taking home.”

As an added insurance policy against making a mistake, research breeds before you head to the shelter.

“With personalities, a lot of it is inherent in the breed,” she said.

Get a vet

Just as a parent establishes a relationship with a pediatrician, it’s important to establish a relationship with a veterinarian.

“You can call them when you have questions, they get to know your animal and they can pick up subtle things you may not, like a disease or illness that’s coming on, and many will board your animal if you must be gone,” said Aquino.

Don’t panic

Don’t panic if things aren’t perfect.

“When you get the pet home, it could take up to a couple weeks to adjust. But you can always call the shelter to ask for hints or to help correct issues,” Aquino said. “The people who work at shelters have a wealth of knowledge about animals and usually are happy to share.”

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Tornado: Resources & relief