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

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Open Your Heart and Home:Adopt from the Humane Society


Pet Column for the week of October 18, 1999


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

Every other week at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs and cats
from local humane societies are spayed and neutered by students in the third year of the
four-year veterinary degree program. The student surgeons typically fall in love with these
animals and frequently wind up adopting their patients. But most of the animals go back to
the humane society. If they are not adopted, they join the 6 million to 8 million dogs and
cats that are euthanized every year in this country.

Beth Hetler, a third-year student, recently adopted Henry, a big, lazy, orange and white cat
neutered by one of her classmates. "I chose Henry because he likes to be scratched and
he's such a good guy. And mainly because he's not likely to be adopted at the humane
society because he's older." Most of the other cats neutered this week at the veterinary
school were younger�about 4 to 6 months old.

Last year, I was suckered into loving a rather skinny cat who has since earned the name Fat
Alice. Having Alice around is a daily reminder that love makes a difference. The little bit of
compassion I showed when I took Alice home is nothing compared to the pleasure I get
from interacting with my sweet, now-on-a-diet-Alice every day.

We veterinary students would like your help in finding good homes for the lovable animals
that fill humane societies� kennels. But before you rush to adopt, here are a few things to
consider. Owning a pet is a long-term commitment: dogs and cats have a life span between
10 and 20 years. Dogs need to be fed, exercised, and taken outside three or more times a
day. Cats need food and clean litter boxes on a regular basis.

There is a monetary commitment for not only food but veterinary care. When you adopt
from the humane society, you must agree to have your pet neutered if it isn't already. You
will also need to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, who will administer the
necessary yearly vaccinations and help prevent parasitic infestations and other diseases in
your pet.

Look beyond age and appearance when choosing a pet. Interact with the animal to make
sure he is not fearful, aggressive, or hyperactive. Ask humane society volunteers who have
cared for the animals which ones have the sweetest temperaments and will best fit your
lifestyle.

Bring your pet into a permanent situation, not one that could unravel and leave him back
where he started � homeless. Consult with roommates, family members, and landlords
before�not after�bringing a pet home.

Humane society pets may need extra patience and love if they were not raised in a loving
home or did not receive proper training. Be patient with your new pet until he understands
the rules in your house. You and your new dog may need to attend a training class. Training
can be as important for the owner (for example, in how to react to unwanted behavior) as
for the pet.

"Although veterinary students� arms are wide open to the adoption opportunities here, our
households are often at maximum capacity," says Kim Carlson, a third-year student whose
husband jokes of divorcing her if she adds another dog or cat to the 10+ in their home.

The next time you are planning to get a new pet, try the humane society. Not only will you
receive years of love from your animal companion, but you�ll make a lot of veterinary
students pretty happy, too! 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.