Adopting that cute puppy at the animal shelter may take a little more thought than just purchasing a dog license.
According to William Fortney, veterinarian and clinical instructor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, there are a few factors that you should take into consideration when you adopt a pet from an animal shelter.
"It is sometimes very difficult to predict how big a puppy is going to get by looking at it," Fortney said. "That's surprising to say, but on a mixed-breed animal you really don't have a clue how big it's going to be.
"And unfortunately, there's a lot of unhappy owners once they find out that this animal is two to three times the size that they had expected," he added. "Ultimately, these animals end up back at the animal shelter because they grew up and don't fit in the household anymore."
Fortney says that shelter employees make a guess at how old the animals are, but they're not really sure if it's a six-week-old puppy or a 10-week-old puppy.
"If the animal looks like it's probably a Great Dane, you could make a better guess, but with many of the mixed breeds you don't know the heritage," Fortney said.
Fortney says some animals are placed in shelters by owners because the pets may exhibit behavior problems. However, there are behaviors that may not be easily detected by just looking at the animal.
"Many times the animals are in the shelters because they had some behavioral problem that was either unacceptable to the owners or the apartment manager," Fortney said. "For example, housetraining. There are probably several animals out there that owners were unable to housetrain or housebreak properly.
"And instead of continuing to have the animal ruin the carpet, the owner took the pet to the animal shelter," he added. "Others are strays picked up, and so you have no idea of why they were loose or why they were a stray. It's a buyer-beware situation: you have to try out the pet and see."
Fortney says people who are looking for a particular breed should also be prepared for the care and maintenance of the animal.
"Long-haired cats or dogs are going to take a lot more maintenance," Fortney said. "For example, the old English sheepdogs are really neat looking when they're groomed, but they take a lot of work."
According to Fortney, the animals at the shelter have had a good physical examination by shelter employees to make potential owners aware of obvious defects. But he advises to still take the animal to a veterinarian.
"I think the first thing an owner should do with any animal, wherever they acquired it, is take it to the veterinarian to again make sure that it is healthy, and that it does not have any obvious medical conditions that need to be addressed immediately," Fortney said.
He also adds that you should look at preventative health procedures such as de-worming and vaccinations if you adopt a new pet.
"I think the goal of the veterinarian and the goal of the animal shelter is to unite people with acceptable pets," Fortney said. "We want this to have a happy ending, and I think the first step is to make sure you take it to the veterinarian to know if this is a healthy animal."