Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Go Ahead, Make a Homeless Pet's Day: Adopt from the Humane Society

Pet Column for the week of January 22, 2001

Related information:

Services - Human-Animal Bond

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Carrie Gustavson
Information Specialist

In the third year of the four-year veterinary doctoral program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, students examine and then spay or neuter homeless animals from the Vermilion County and Champaign County humane societies.

These animals receive the royal treatment: a thorough exam, bath, nail trim, and lots of love. Dogs are screened for internal parasites and cats are tested for deadly viruses. Animals with tricky health problems even get the attention of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital's specialists. The program builds veterinary students' skills and assures healthy animals for adoption.

For many of the veterinary students, finding their surgery dog or cat a home is almost as important a task as the surgery. "Humane society animals probably have a good chance of getting adopted if they come to the vet school because so many students end up adopting them," says Kerri Hert, a third-year veterinary student. Hert didn't plan on adopting a dog, much less a 3-month-old black Labrador mix puppy. "I just fell in love with Nick, so I brought him home," she says. "You kind of want to give them all homes. It breaks your heart to see them go back."

"It is very satisfying knowing I saved an animal," says Laura Riordan, a student who adopted a Jack Russell terrier mix named Cherry from the Champaign County Humane Society. "I think it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to help find homes for pets, especially since human carelessness has brought about the tremendous number of homeless pets."

Lori Decker adopted Heineken, a golden retriever-shepherd mix. "Heineken knew how to sit, shake, and walk on a leash and was in great condition. I can't imagine how he ended up in the shelter, but I can't imagine my life without him either," says this veterinary student.

But many veterinary students' homes are already overflowing with critters. Last month, I adopted Paddington, a 2-year-old golden retriever from Vermilion County Humane Society. I took one look at him and knew he was coming home with me to be a part of my -- now -- three-dog family. Other veterinary students have opened their homes to many more than three pets!

Veterinary students would love your help in finding good homes for the many lovable animals filling the kennels at humane societies. But before you decide to adopt a pet, make sure it is a lifetime partnership, not one that might land the pet right back where he started � homeless. Consider the financial and time commitment a pet will require, and be sure that all roommates, family members, and your landlord agree to a new pet.

Research the traits of breeds that interest you. Dogs were originally bred to do certain jobs: huskies pulled sleds, Dalmatians kept horses company while running with carriages, and Labradors helped hunt. If you are a couch potato, make sure you don't adopt a sled dog!

Also, don't overlook an older animal. They are often easygoing and mellow animals that still have years of love to provide. Ask the humane society volunteers about the temperament of the animals and decide which ones best suit your lifestyle.

Finally, if a dog wins your heart, enroll in a training class no matter how old the dog is. It is a great way to bond with your dog and to learn how to make the most of the relationship.

When you open your heart and home to one of the many homeless pets in a humane society, you not only save an animal from uncertain fate, but you gain a lifelong friend. You can contact the Champaign County Humane Society in Urbana at 217-344-7297 or the Vermilion County Humane Society in Danville at 217-431-2660.