National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day: What to know before visiting an animal shelter

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Are you looking to add a new (four-legged) member to the family? This just might be the month to do it.

April 30 is National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, but before running down to the local animal shelter to pick out a new furry friend, here are a few things to consider.

“We always recommend that you be prepared with everything before bringing your pet home,” Roxie Randal, Public information officer for Indianapolis Animal Care Services, said. “If you know roughly what size of dog that you are planning to adopt, you can get a collar, leash, harness, crate, those kinds of things. Or you can always visit the shelter, kind of take a look around, see who you’re interested in, and then after that, you can get a better idea of maybe size and then you go purchase those items.”

Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS), which is a city/county run animal shelter and enforcement office for Marion County, takes in surrendered, lost and stray animals as well as supporting adopting out and fostering pets, Randall said. 

When it comes to the do’s and don’ts of pet adoption, Randall said it is important to be prepared for the type of pet you are looking to bring home and do a little research, have a veterinarian pick it out and designate someone to feed, walk and clean up after the pet.

Make time to assess your living environment and make appropriate space for your potential pet, Michael Futch, IndyHumane’s chief development officer, said. Each pet is different and will require different things to thrive, such as a big backyard or a quiet space to relax. Once you understand the living environment for the animal you desire, Futch said it is time to visit a shelter and decide who would be a good fit to foster or adopt.

“Because you don’t have to just dive in,” Futch said. “Sometimes people think they have to just dive in and be an adoptive parent, [but] you could do a foster or foster to adopt. That allows you to maybe test the situation before you go in headfirst.”

At IACS, adopters must be at least 18 years old to adopt and fill out a pre-application, which only takes about 10-15 minutes, Randall said. Adoptions are free and the shelter does offer kennel walkthroughs every day from noon to 5 p.m. for dogs or visitation in the cat room. Adopters can also look through Pet Finder online to browse each of the pet profiles, Randall said.

Michael Futch with one of IndyHumane’s adoptable puppies. Adoption fees are being waived on April 30 for National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. (Photo provided/Michael Futch)

IndyHumane, which is the largest animal shelter service in the state, operates primarily in Marion County and will ask guests whether they are looking to visit, foster or adopt a pet during a short questionnaire before letting them meet or select an animal.

Although IndyHumane typically has an adoption fee based on size and breed of each animal, Futch said they are partnering with 317 Plumber to cover adoption fees for six furry friends on April 30 for National Adopt a Shelter Pet day.

All pets are also spayed, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before they leave both IACS and IndyHumane shelters. 

“We try to limit any kind of restriction barriers to make it impossible for people to adopt because we really want it to be a situation where anyone [who] wants to adopt, they can,” Futch said. “We try not to do that because we really just want to open up; there’s a lot more dignity attached to you knowing what’s best for your animal.”

Depending on the age of a pet, Futch and Randall said the only vaccine adopters may need to worry about is the rabies vaccine. Some animals may be too young to receive it at the shelter, but adopters can return to both shelters to receive it for free, although they should also set up a vet appointment within the first 30 days of bringing a new pet home, Randall said.

Adopting a shelter pet really could be the best way to find a new best friend, as local shelters are “bursting at the seams” with a variety of rescue dogs and cats in need of a forever home, Futch said.

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“There’s not a lack of animals we have here,” Futch said. “You’re gonna find a vast variety of animals from small to large, old to young. So, looking elsewhere, it’s probably not the best option right now, especially when you have such a robust Animal Shelter writing in the backyard.”

IACS and IndyHumane believe all animals deserve a chance at happiness and finding their forever home, regardless of where they came from. However, Randall said those looking for breed-specific dogs or cats may be surprised by how often dog breeds such as huskies, German shepherds, Great danes and Saint Bernards end up at shelters.

However, for new pet owners, Futch and Randall’s advice is the same: Give animals time and give yourself some grace. Getting used to a new home can be scary and pets will need time to adjust and feel safe.

“One of the things we talked about a lot with our adopters is trying to abide by the rules of three,” Randall said. “At three days, we’re just starting to adjust to being in a house with a new person because you are a stranger to them until they get to know you. At the three-week mark, they’re doing a pretty good job of learning your routine, and at three months, they’re closer to being fully settled in the home.”

IndyHumane hosts fundraising events each year and is always looking for volunteers for Putts for Paws in June, Mutt Strut in the fall and those who want to take a dog out for a date, Futch said. For more information about pet adoption, fostering or volunteering, visit indyhumane.org and indy.gov/agency/animal-care-services.

Contact Arts & Culture Reporter Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.