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

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Dreaming of a Happy Home

Pet Column for the week of September 22, 2008

Related information:

Services - Human-Animal Bond

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

From short and stout to long and lean, from bushy-tailed to no-tailed to blue-eyed or green, millions of dogs across the country have just one wish: someone to love. While you may not be able to make every dog's dream come true, perhaps you might be the one to put the wag in some lucky dog's tail.

October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month and for good reason. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over 6 million dogs are brought to shelters across the country each year.

Peter Smith, the interim director of the Vermillion County Animal Shelter in Danville, Ill., says, Wwe have about 3,500 dogs move through the shelter each year." Unfortunately, "our adoption rate is pretty close to the national average at around 35 percent."

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, also known as the ASPCA, sites several reasons why dogs adopted from shelters are great pets. For one, many of them are more mature and house trained, thus saving new owners a lot of time and energy from having to train a puppy. Secondly, most shelters do a thorough exam and a temperament test before allowing animals to be adopted.

Another added benefit is the free services offered. For example, those who adopt from the Champaign County Humane Society in Urbana, Ill., or the Vermillion County shelter receive a free check-up from a local veterinarian. And the biggest expense a new owner may face, the spay or neuter of their pet, is usually included in the adoption fee.

Before deciding to add a four-legged friend to your household, it is critical to take a hard look at your lifestyle and environment though. "Many people adopt on impulse," says Smith. "It doesn't do any good to have an energetic puppy in a house where the owners work all day and have no time."

But the good thing about adopting from animal shelters is that, according to the ASPCA, many have trained counselors on site that can help match the right dog with the right owner.

In the past, one downside potential dog owners voiced about adopting from a shelter is the desire for a certain pure breed dog, like a Chihuahua or Maltese. Although owners of the millions of mixed breed dogs across the country would probably mention that they love their pet no matter what his size or color (or amount of trouble it gets into), the Humane Society of the United States says statistics show that 25-30 percent of dogs in animal shelters are purebred.

If you would like more information on adopting a pet from a shelter, visit the ASPCA's Web site at, or the Humane Society's at Both have extensive information for prospective dog owners. Or, you can call or visit your local animal shelter.