Video by Tom Compagnoni
The summer holidays is a great time to get a new pet -- you have time off to bond with the animal and help it settle into its new home. Though before you search for a breeder or look on Gumtree for kittens and puppies, it's wise to educate yourself on exactly where these pets are coming from and the lives their parents have likely led.
You just have to search the 'adopt dont shop' hashtag on Instagram to see that close to 3.5 million people are joining the conversation about taking in a rescue animal as opposed to supporting the pet shop trade, which doesn't always have the animal's best interests at heart.
"There’s a misconception that rescue pets are just the old dogs and cats that 'no one wanted'," Claire Garth from the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Many people don’t realise that we get all breeds and all ages, including oodles of puppies who, through no fault of their own have landed in our shelter needing a second-chance home. With a rescue pet you're giving a pet a second chance at life, and as anyone who has a rescue pet can attest you will feel that animals gratitude for years to come."
"Unfortunately, many pets found in pet shops have come from backyard breeders or puppy mills. It’s our experience that no reputable breeder would ever sell their animals to a pet store, so you never really know just what you’re getting," Garth said.
Understandably some people follow the line of thinking that if the puppy or kitten is already alive, then it needs a home anyway. While this is true, supporting backyard breeders only perpetuates the issue.
"If the demand is there, then the cycle will continue. Unregulated breeders continuously produce animals, often in poor conditions and without providing the necessary breed education or post purchase support. Animals can be bought and sold on the internet with little recourse," Garth said.
"There is definitely a need for more education in the community on responsible pet ownership, ethical purchasing and adoption."
Another misconception around rescue or adoption pets is that you won't be able to take in a particular breed of cat or dog.
"We find people head to breeders as they think they just won't get a breed they like in a rescue, but that's not true. We like to advocate that people should always think adoption first. You’d be surprised at the cross section of breeds you can rescue from a shelter. We get everything from labradors, kelpies, border collies, staffies, jack russells, golden retrievers, cavalier king charles, poodles, greyhounds, Japanese spitz, Maltese terriers, pomeranians, German shepherds, great danes -- the list goes on!," Garth said.
Though summer holidays is a great time to look into adopting, you should never get a dog or cat as a surprise gift for someone.
"At Sydney Dogs and Cats Home we believe that an animal is never something that should be gifted as a surprise at Christmas or any other time of year, but for families that have been thinking of getting a new pet, Christmas is a great time to adopt -- as the holiday period gives them lots of time help their new pet settle in," Garth said.
"Families are able to spend lots of time helping their new furry member learn the house rules, and it’s also a great time get routines bedded down before the new working year kicks in. It also makes for a great way to play the days away out in the fresh air!"
As for the fear that the animal you adopt might be sick or carrying disease, all reputable rescue centres thoroughly check surrenders and offer desexing and vaccinations for puppies and kittens.
"Our rescue pets all come desexed, microchipped, registered, vaccinated and temperament assessed -- so we know the right animal to match your lifestyle, and vice versa," Garth said.
While the industry has come along way in educating the public on the benefits of adoption and the truth behind 'puppy mills', sadly the sobering truth is that there are many hundreds of cats and dogs that are euthanised weekly for no other reason than there is not being enough space and resources in the shelters to care for them.
"At Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, we don’t ever place time limits on our animals -- they have as long as they need to find new homes, and new families. Sadly, we are Sydney’s only charity pound to do this," Garth said.
"We hate that many animals in other facilities don’t get a second chance, and we also dislike the idea that sometimes these animals do get adopted in the nick of time but for the wrong reasons, usually because people feel guilty that their time is almost up. This can sometimes lead to people adopting the wrong dog for their lifestyle, and invariably that animal ends up back in the pound system again, through no fault of their own. It’s a terrible cycle."
If you're already a pet owner, you may have seen some animals in your local pet supply store. These animals, mostly cats, are an extension of some rescue centres.
"We currently have some great agreements in place with pet supply stores across Sydney who act as Sydney Dogs and Cats Home Adoption Partners -- caring for, and helping to rehome cats and kittens through their stores. It’s a great way to help spread the word of rescue and adoption far and wide," Garth said.
Just think -- giving a beautiful cat or dog a second chance will literally change their whole life, and enrich yours, too. Some of the animals from the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home have gone on the do very commendable things.
"Our rescue pets 'work' by helping with our community programs, assisting people in aged care facilities, people with disabilities, students grappling with mental health issues and also students with special needs. We also have kittens and dogs that attend corporate offices to help alleviate office stress. It’s our version of CSR (Corporate Snuggling Rescues). Some of our rescue pets have taken jobs with the Australian Army and Australian Border Security, and we have rescue dogs and cats that now live in L.A, Ireland, England, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Asia," Garth said.
Adopt, don’t shop. Always.