Reasons to Adopt from Shelters

Why on earth would anyone want to adopt an adult rescue or shelter dog? After all, aren’t they like used cars? Who wants someone else’s problems? If the dog is so wonderful, why would anyone give him away? If he was a stray, why didn’t someone try to find him? I’d rather buy a puppy so I know what I’m getting, and besides they’re so cute!

Rescue groups and shelters often hear a variation of this conversation. Many prospective dog guardians are just not convinced that owning an older (i.e, 6 mo.+) "pre-owned" dog is better than buying a puppy. But there are a number of reasons why adopting a pet from a rescue that carefully screens and evaluates its dog can provide an even better alternative.

Here are the “Top 10 Reasons You Should Consider an Adult Rescue”

10) In a Word–Housebroken. With most family members gone during the work week for 8 hours or more, housetraining a puppy and its small bladder can take awhile. Puppies need a consistent schedule with frequent opportunities to eliminate where you want them to. They can’t wait for the boss to finish his meeting or the kids to come home from after school activities. An older dog can “hold it” much more reliably for longer time periods, and usually the Rescue has him housebroken before he is adopted.

9) Intact Underwear. With a chewy puppy, you can count on at least 10 mismatched pairs of socks and a variety of unmentionables rendered to the “rag bag” before he cuts every tooth. And don’t even think about shoes! Also, you can expect holes in your carpet (along with the urine stains), pages missing from books, stuffing exposed from couches, and at least one dead remote control. No matter how well you watch them, it will happen–this is a puppy’s job! An older dog can usually have the run of the house without destroying it.

8) A Good Night’s Sleep. Forget the alarm clocks and hot water bottles, a puppy can be very demanding at 2am and 4am and 6am. He misses his littermates, and that stuffed animal will not make a puppy pile with him. If you have children, you’ve been there and done that. How about a little peace and quiet? How about an older rescue dog??

7) Finish the Newspaper. With a puppy running amok in your house, do you think you will be able to relax when you get home from work? Do you think your kids will really feed him, clean up the messes, take him for a walk in the pouring rain every hour to get him housetrained? With an adult dog, it will only be the kids running amok, because your dog will be sitting calmly next to you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers as you pet him.

6) Easier Vet Trips. Those puppies need their series of puppy shots and fecals, then their rabies shot, then a trip to be altered, maybe an emergency trip or two if they’ve chewed something dangerous. Those puppy visits can add up (on top of what you paid for the dog!). Your donation to the rescue when adopting an older pup should get you a dog with all shots current, already altered, heartworm negative and on preventative at the minimum.

5) What You See Is What You Get. How big will that puppy be? What kind of temperament will he have? Will he be easily trained? Will his personality be what you were hoping for? How active will he be? When adopting an older dog from a rescue, all of those questions are easily answered. You can pick large or small; active or couch potato; goofy or brilliant; sweet or sassy. The rescue and its foster homes can guide you to pick the right match. (Rescues are full of puppies who became the wrong match as they got older!)

4) Unscarred Children (and Adults). When the puppy isn’t teething on your possessions, he will be teething on your children and yourself. Rescues routinely get calls from panicked parents who are sure their dog is biting the children. Since biting implies hostile intent and would be a consideration whether to accept a “give-up”, Rescue Groups ask questions and usually find out the dog is being nippy. Parents are often too emotional to see the difference; but a growing puppy is going to put everything from food to clothes to hands in their mouths, and as they get older and bigger it definitely hurts (and will get worse, if they aren’tbeing corrected properly.) Most older dogs have “been there, done that, moved on.”

3) Matchmaker Make Me a Match. Puppy love is often no more than an attachment to a look or a color. It is not much of a basis on which to make a decision that will hopefully last 15+ years. While that puppy may have been the cutest of the litter; he may grow up to be superactive (when what you wanted was a couch buddy); she may be a couch princess (when what you wanted was a tireless hiking companion); he may want to spend every waking moment in the water (while you’re a landlubber); or she may want to be an only child ( while you are intending to have kids or more animals). Pet mis-matches are one of the top reasons Rescues get “give-up” phone calls. Good rescues do extensive evaluating of both their dogs and their applicants to be sure that both dog and family will be happy with each other until death do them part.

2) Instant Companion. With an older dog, you automatically have a buddy that can go everywhere and do everything with you NOW. There’s no waiting for a puppy to grow up (and then hope he will like to do what you enjoy.) You will have been able to select the most compatible dog: one that travels well; one that loves to play with your friends’ dogs; one with excellent house manners that you can take to your a long day’s work and spend your time on a relaxing walk, ride or swim with your new best friend (rather than cleaning up after a small puppy.)

1) Bond–Rescue Dog Bond. Dogs who have been uprooted from their happy homes or have not had the best start in life are more likely to bond very completely and deeply with their new people. Those who have lost their families through death, divorce or lifestyle change go through a terrible mourning process. But, once attached to a new loving family, they seem to want to please as much as possible to make sure they are never homeless again. Those dogs that are just learning about the good life and good people seem to bond even deeper. They know what life on the streets, life on the end of a chain, or worse is all about, and they revel and blossom in a nurturing, loving environment. Most rescues make exceptionally affectionate and attentive pets and extremely loyal companions.

Unfortunately, many folks think dogs that end up in rescue are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for Rescue to get $500 dogs that have either outlived their usefulness or their novelty with impulsive guardians who considered their dog a possession rather than a friend or member of the family; or simply did not really consider the time, effort and expense needed to be a dog caretaker. Not all breeders will accept “returns”, so choices for giving up dogs can be limited to animal welfare organizations, such as Rescues, or the guardians trying to place their own dogs. Good Rescues will evaluate the dog before accepting him/her (medically, behaviorally, and for breed confirmation), rehabilitate if necessary, and adopt the animal only when he/she is ready and to a home that matches and is realistic about the commitment necessary to provide the dog with the best home possible.

Choosing a rescue dog over a purchased pup will not solve the pet overpopulation problem (only responsible pet guardians and breeders can do that), but it does give many of them a chance they otherwise would not have. But, beyond doing a “good deed”, adopting a rescue dog can be the best decision and addition to the family you ever made.

Rescue a dog and get a devoted friend for life!

Written by Mary Clark at LABRADOR RETRIEVER RESCUE, INC. Permission has been granted to freely reprint and distribute this document as long as credited is given.

Finding A New Home For Your Pet

Not that long ago, you were thrilled to have a puppy of your very own. You never dreamed you’d have to give him up someday. Even if you can’t keep him any more, your dog still depends on you to do what’s best for him, just like he depended on you when he was a puppy. Now, more than ever, he needs you to make the right choices for his future.

Important things you should know about animal shelters

Finding a new home involves several steps. Before you start, there are some important things you should know about Animal Shelters.

Shelters and humane societies were created to care for stray and abused animals. They weren’t meant to be a drop-off for people who don’t want their pets anymore. Shelters, on average, take in 100 new animals or more each day. Let’s face it – there won’t be enough good homes for all of them. Even the best shelters can’t boast much more than a 50% adoption rate and most in the Atlanta area adopt only 25% – the remaining 75% are killed. Only the youngest, friendliest, cutest, and best-behaved dogs are going to be adopted.

By law, stray pets must be kept several days for their guardians to reclaim them. They may not be destroyed until that period is up. Dogs given up by their pet parents aren’t protected by these laws. They may be destroyed at any time. Shelters don’t want to kill all these animals but they don’t have a choice. There just isn’t enough room for all of them. Shelters today are so overcrowded that your dog could be killed the same day it arrives.

Being purebred won’t help your dog’s chances of adoption either – almost half of the dogs in many shelters are purebreds. Your dog may be as good as dead when it walks in the door. If your dog is old, has health problems or a poor attitude toward strangers, its chances of adoption are slim to none.

Sending your dog to a shelter in hopes that he’ll find a good home is wishful thinking. It’s more likely that you’ll be signing your dogs death warrant. A shelter is your last resort only after all your best efforts have failed.

Breed Rescue services are small, private, shelter-like groups run by volunteers dedicated to a particular breed. Most of them operate out of the volunteer’s home. Like no-kill shelters, demand for their services is high, so high that your dog may be turned away for lack of room. A breed rescue can still help you place your dog by providing referrals to persons interested in adopting your dog. You’ll have the most success if you follow the rescue service’s advice and are willing to do your share of the work to find a new home. The list of dog rescue groups in Atlanta can be found on the internet at the Atlanta Area Animal Rescue List.

Step 1. Soul Searching

Do you really have to give up your dog? There’s a big difference between being forced to give up your dog and wanting to “get rid of him”. Search your heart for the real reason why your dog can’t live with you anymore. Be honest with yourself. Your answer will probably fall into one of two categories: People Problems or Dog Problems.

The Most Common People Problems:

“We’re moving – we can’t find a landlord who’ll let us keep our dog.“……. Many landlords don’t allow children either but you’d never give up one of your kids if you couldn’t find the right apartment. Affordable rental homes that allow pets are out there if you work to find them. Most people give up too easily. Often, by offering the landlord an extra deposit, they can be swayed into letting you keep your dog. Bring references from previous landlords and bring your dog in person to let the landlord see how well behaved your dog is. Also, consider renting a duplex or small house instead of an apartment as they are more likely to allow pets. Consider moving a few miles from where you’d like to be in order to keep your pet with you.

“We don’t have enough time for the dog”.……as a puppy, your dog took far more of your time than he does now. A dog doesn’t really take that much time – are you really that busy? Can other members of your family help care for the dog? Will getting rid of your dog really make your life less stressful? When they look closely at their lives, people often discover that the dog isn’t cramping their style as much as they think.

“Divorce” …. In some divorce situations, people fight over who gets to keep the dog. Unfortunately, in far too many divorces, both adults abandon the dog. Do not abandon your dog just because you are going through a hard time!

“Having a baby” …. So many people baby their dog and treat them like a family member until they decide to have a real child of their own. Then, they decide the dog is no longer needed or too much trouble or might hurt their new baby (even though the dog has never been aggressive). Most dogs are absolutely wonderful with babies and children. Don’t give up your dog just because you are pregnant!! And for those people who want to give up their pets because they say they don’t have time for them anymore after having a baby — please realize that babies grow up fast, you will soon have more sleep and a pet is a lifetime commitment! A good book to read is “Childproofing Your Dog” by Brian Kilcommons.

“Children have lost interest” … Far too many people get a dog for their children. Most children loose interest in the dog within 6 months, because they are just children! It was you who brought home the dog and agreed to care for it for life and it should be you who takes responsibility to continue to provide for it if your children loose interest.

The Most Common Dog Problem:

Behavior problems………If you got your dog as a puppy and he now has a behavior problem you can’t live with, you must accept the fact that you are at least partly responsible for the way your dog is now.

You have 4 options:
1. You can continue to live with your dog the way he is.
2. You can get help to correct the problem.
3. You can try to give your problem to someone else.
4. You can have the dog destroyed.

Obviously the first option is out or you wouldn’t be reading this page. You’re probably most interested in Option 3 so let’s talk frankly about that for a moment. If you were looking for a dog and could select from all kinds of dogs and puppies, would you deliberately chooose one with a behavior problem? No, certainly not – and neither would anyone else. To make your dog desirable to other people, you’re going to have to take some action to fix his problems. Most behavior problems aren’t that hard to solve. A dog trainer can help you with them if you’ll give it a try. Think hard about Option 2 before deciding it won’t work for you – because the only option you have left is number 4: Having the dog destroyed. That’s the bottom line. If you, who know and love the dog best, won’t give him another chance, why should anyone else? Think about that.


If your dog is aggressive with people or has ever bitten anyone unprovoked, then don’t don’t take him to a shelter where he might be frightened and confused and put other people at risk. Don’t try to place him as a “guard dog” where he might be neglected, abused or used for dog fighting. Please contact several experts including your vet and a couple of dog trainers experienced in aggression before making a decision. Many people do not understand their pet’s behavior and an expert can better decide if you truly have an aggressive pet that can not be “cured” with training. In addition, sometimes a pet will snap or bite if it is startled while asleep, stepped on or is in pain due to an illness or injury — these types of situations do not necessarily mean that your pet is aggressive. If you have a toy breed, many of them simply won’t tolerate small children and often simply need placement in an all adult household. There are also dogs that are aggressive to other dogs but do fine in an “only dog” situation. But be sure to tell potential guardians up-front about these kinds of problems.

If it is determined by the experts that your dog is a danger to people, then please have your pet euthanized by your veterinarian instead of taking it to a shelter or trying to pass him to another pet guardian.

Step 2. Call your dog’s breeder or rescue group.

Before you do anything else, call the person you got your dog from and ask for help. Even if several years have passed, responsible breeders care about the puppies they sold and will want to help you find a new home. They may even take the dog back. At the very least, they deserve to know what you intend to do with the dog and what will happen to it. If you can’t remember the breeder’s name, look on your dog’s registration papers. If you got your dog from a rescue service, read the adoption contract you signed when you adopted him. You may be required by the contract to return the dog to that rescue group.  If the breeder had you sign a contract, you may also be required to return the dog to the breeder.

Step 3. Decide what kind of home you want for your dog.

Most dogs do best in a home where they get attention during the day, are kept mainly inside and have a fenced yard for a safe exercise area. If you have a dog that you keep as an “outside only” dog and it has developed behavior problems like barking, digging, fence jumping, etc., please realize that many of these problems are easily solved once the dog is allowed to stay inside the house with the family. Dogs are pack animals and are happiest and best behaved when they are allowed to be with their “pack” (you and your family) in the “den” (your home). So bring your dog inside the house or at least find him a home where he will be allowed to live inside.

Step 4. Get your dog ready

Your dog will be much more appealing if he’s clean, well-groomed and healthy. First, take him to the vet for a check up. He’ll need a heartworm test, a DHLP and a rabies vaccination if he hasn’t one within the last 12 months. Be sure to tell the vet about any behavior problems so he can rule out physical causes.

If your dog isn’t spayed or neutered, do it now! Don’t waste your time trying to sell your dog as “breeding stock” even if he’s AKC-registered. Frankly, no reputable breeder will want him unless he came from a well known show dog fancier in the first place. The only kind of “breeder” who’ll be interested in your dog will be a puppymill farmer or a dog broker or puppymill. Brokers seek out unaltered purebreds for resale to puppymills or research laboratories. That’s not the kind of future you want for your dog.

Set a reasonable adoption fee. The key word is “reasonable”. You can’t expect the new guardian to pay you anywhere near the same price for a “used” dog as they would for a shiny new puppy. A reasonable range might be about $75, enough to help offset your advertising and veterinary costs. You should NEVER give your dog away for free! People often pose as wonderful pet guardians simply to get free dogs and then they resell them to medical laboratories or as bait for fighting dogs. If you don’t feel comfortable keeping the adoption fee for yourself, then require the new guardians to make the check out to a charity such as SPOT or an Atlanta area animal rescue group.


Word of mouth doesn’t go very far. Don’t be afraid to use classified ads to advertise your dog. Done right, it’s the most effective way to reach the largest number of people. It’s easy to write a good ad that will weed out poor adoption prospects right away. The AJC will let you place a free 3 line ad for 7 days. Call 404-577-5772 and ask to put an ad in the Adopt-A-Pet section.

Your ad should give a short description of your dog, his needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number. The description should include his breed, color, sex, the fact that he’s neutered and an indication of his age. It should also say “refs required”. A good example of a classified ad is:

“Lab mix: beautiful, black, 18 months, male, neutered. Friendly, hsbrkn, well-behaved. Indoor home with fenced yard, refs required. 770-xxx-xxxx”

Newspapers are just one way to advertise. Take a good cute photo of your dog and make an attractive flyer on colored paper that you can have copied for a few cents each. Your flyer doesn’t have to be expensive, professional or computerized, just neat and eyecatching. Since you’re not paying for words, you can write more about your dog than you could in a newspaper ad. Be descriptive! Post your flyers at grocery stores, department stores, vets’ offices, pet supply stores, grooming shops, factories, malls, etc. – anywhere you can find a public bulletin board. If you have friends in a nearby city, mail them a supply of flyers and ask them to post them for you.

Step 6. Interviewing Callers.

“First come, first served” does not apply here. You are under no obligation to give your dog to the first person who says he wants it. You have every right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new family. Don’t let anyone rush you or intimidate you. Here are some questions you should ask:

  • First of all, get your caller’s name and phone number. Deceitful people may call you from a phone booth or refuse to give you a phone number.
  • Does the caller’s family know about and approve of their plans to get a dog? If not, suggest they talk it over with their spouse and call you back. The same applies to people living with a companion or roommate. When one person adopts a dog without the full approval of the rest of the family, the adoption often fails.
  • Do they own or rent their home? If renting, does their landlord approve? You’d be surprised how many people haven’t checked with their landlord before calling you. If you have doubts, ask for the landlord’s name and number, then call him yourself. Be cautious about renters – they’re quicker to move than people who own their homes and movers often leave their pets behind. Remember, you’re looking for a permanent home for your dog.
  • Does the caller have children? How many and how old are they? If your dog isn’t good with kids, say so up front. How many children can make a difference depending on your dog’s personality. A shy dog may not be able to cope with several children and their friends. Very young children may not be old enough to treat the dog properly. If the callers don’t have children, ask them if they’re thinking of having any in the near future. Many people get rid of their dogs as soon as they have a baby, regardless of the behavior of the dog.
  • Have they had dogs? If yes, what happened to them?

These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they’ve had in the past will tell you how they might treat your dog. The following answers should raise a red flag and make you suspicious:

  • “We gave him away when we moved.” Unless they had to because of unavoidable problems, moving is a poor excuse for giving up a pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there’s a good chance they’ll give yours up someday, too.
  • “We gave him away because he had behavior problems.” Most behavior problems – poor housebreaking, chewing, barking, digging, running away – result from a lack of training and attention. If the caller wasn’t willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he probably won’t try very hard with your dog either.
  • “Oh, we’ve had lots of dogs!” Watch out for people who’ve had several different dogs in just a few years’ time. They may never kept any of them for very long.
  • “He got himself run over. So did the one before him”. That one should speak for itself. This will not be a responsible pet caretaker.

Do they have pets now? What kinds? Obviously, if your dog isn’t good with cats or other animals and your caller has them, the adoption’s not going to work out. Be up front. Better to turn people away now than have to take the dog back later.

Do they have a yard? Is it fenced? Your dog will need daily exercise. Without a yard, how will he get it? Can the caller provide it with regular walks? If the yard isn’t fenced, ask how he plans to keep the dog from leaving his property? Did the caller’s last dog wander off or get hit by a car? If so, how will he keep this from happening to his next dog? Does he know that keeping a dog tied up can have a bad effect on the dog’s temperament?

Where will the dog spend most of its time? Dogs are pack animals and almost always prefer to spend time with their pack (people) in their den (your house). Do not adopt to someone who will always leave your dog outside or who will make your dog sleep outside or in a garage or unfinished basement. Dogs always kept outside are usually neglected, lonely and often develop behavior problems like problem barking, digging, fence jumping and chewing simply because they aren’t spending enough time in the house with their family.

References: Get the phone number of their vet (if they’ve had pets before) and two other personal references. Call those references! Explain that John Doe is interested in adopting your dog and you want to make sure he’ll give it a good home. Ask the vet whether former pets were given regular medical care, annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were they in good condition and well-groomed? How long have they known this person? If they were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person?

Step 7: The In-Person Interview

Once you’ve chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, make an appointment for them to see the dog. Your first appointment can be at your house, at their house or at a set meeting point. However, before you ever give your dog to anyone you should ALWAYS VISIT THEIR HOUSE FIRST TO SEE WHERE YOUR DOG WILL LIVE. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there. You will be amazed at how many people say that they have a fenced yard when in reality it is only fenced on 2 sides or the fencing has completely fallen down or there isn’t any fence at all. You may also be amazed or appalled at the condition of a person’s house or yard. Visiting a person’s home will give you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back home with you if things aren’t as represented, if you think there’ll be problems or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing. Remember that you can always say you are having second thoughts about giving your dog up if you don’t feel comfortable discussing the real reason you don’t want to give a family your dog.

If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview. You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the dog. Some allowance should be made for kids’ natural enthusiasm but if these children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by their parents, your dog could be mistreated in its new home and someone could get bitten.

Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don’t give them your dog. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn’t seem quite right, even if you can’t explain what it is, don’t take a chance on your dog’s future. Wait for another family!

Step 8: Going to a new home

There are some things you need to explain to the new family before they take your dog home: The dog will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new people, learns new rules and mourns the loss of his old family. Most dogs adjust within a 2 weeks, but others may take longer. During this time, they should avoid forcing the dog to do anything stressful – taking a bath, obedience training classes, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. – until he’s had a chance to settle in. Tell them take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them. The dog might not eat for the first day or two. Not to worry – he’ll eat when he’s ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken dog may have an accident during the first day in his new home. This isn’t unusual and rarely happens more than once.

Step 9: Paperwork

Have the new guardian sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. We’ve included a sample contract you can modify to fit your needs. Keep a copy for your records. A contract will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don’t have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember – a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the dog to his new guardians. Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn’t work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the dog back home if things don’t work out the way you both expected.


Adopter’s Name:________________________________
Phone: ________________________________
Address: ________________________________
Former Guardian’s Name: _____________________________
Phone: _________________________________
Address: _________________________________________
Dog’s Name: ________________ Breed: _____________ Age:________ Sex:____ Color:______
Date of last Vet Check-up_________ DHLP_______ Rabies______ Heartworm check________
Next vaccinations and Heartworm medication will be needed:_____________

To the best of my (former pet guardian) knowledge, this dog has no defects that would make it unsuitable as a family pet. I certify that this dog has never bitten or injured anyone.

I (adopter) understand and agree to the following terms of this contract and understand that non- compliance with the terms of this agreement gives the adopting agent/former guardian the right to reclaim this dog without refund of adoption fee.

An adoption fee of $_________ will be collected at the time of adoption.

This dog shall be kept and cared for as a family pet in a humane manner and given appropriate shelter and medical care for the duration of its life. This dog will be kept on heartworm prevention medication for the duration of its life. I agree to abide by all state and local animal control and leash laws. I understand it is my responsibility to become familiar with these laws.

I understand that ________(former pet guardian/agent) ______makes no guarantees or warranties regarding the health or temperament of this dog. I agree to adopt this dog and to be solely responsible for this animal and any damages that may result from its actions. ___________ (former pet guardian/agent) _____ shall not be held liable for the behavior of this dog or any damages it may cause. I understand that this a binding contract enforceable by civil law.
Date of adoption: _____________________
Adoptor’s signature
Former Pet guardian’s Signature

Adapted from ‘How to Find A Home For Your Chow Chow’ by the Chow Chow Club, Inc.’s Welfare Committee, used with permission.

Considering Declawing Your Cat?

Written by Dr. Christianne Schelling, DVM

If you are considering declawing your cat, please read this. It will only take a moment, and it will give you valuable information to help you in your decision.

First, you should know that declawing is pretty much an American thing, it’s something people do for their own convenience without realizing what actually happens to their beloved cat. In England declawing is termed “inhumane” and “unnecessary mutilation.” I agree. In many European countries it is illegal. I applaud their attitude.

Before you make the decision to declaw your cat, there are some important facts you should know. Declawing is not like a manicure. It is serious surgery. Your cat’s claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat’s claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s “toes”. When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing. Wheelchairs and bedpans are not an option for a cat.

No cat lover would doubt that cats–whose senses are much keener than ours–suffer pain. They may, however, hide it better. Not only are they proud, they instinctively know that they are at risk when in a weakened position, and by nature will attempt to hide it. But make no mistake. This is not a surgery to be taken lightly.

Your cat’s body is perfectly designed to give it the grace, agility and beauty that is unique to felines. Its claws are an important part of this design. Amputating the important part of their anatomy that contains the claws drastically alters the conformation of their feet. The cat is also deprived of its primary means of defense, leaving it prey to predators if it ever escapes to the outdoors.

I have also had people tell me that their cat’s personality changed after being declawed. Although, the medical community does not recognize this as potential side effect.

Okay, so now you realize that declawing is too drastic a solution, but you’re still concerned about keeping your household furnishings intact. Is there an acceptable solution? Happily, the answer is yes. A big, joyful, humane YES! Actually there are several. The following website “Cat Scratching Solutions” provides many solutions as well as and insight into the psychology of why cats scratch. You can teach your cat to use a scratching post (sisal posts are by far the best). You can trim the front claws. You can also employ aversion methods. One of the best solutions I’ve found is Soft Paws®.

Soft Paws are lightweight vinyl nail caps that you glue on the cat’s front claws. They’re great for households with small children and are extremely useful for people who are away from home all day and can’t exercise the watchfulness necessary to train a cat to use a scratching post. Soft Paws® are easy to apply and last about four to six weeks. They come in clear or colors–which are really fun. Now that’s a kitty manicure! The colored caps look spiffy on Tabby or Tom and have the added advantage of being more visible when one finally comes off. Then you simply replace it. You can find Soft Paws® on the web by clicking here or call 1-800-989-2542.

You need to remember, though, that the caps and nail trimming should only be used on indoor cats who will not be vunerable to the dangers of the outdoors.

For a list of countries in which declawing is either illegal, or considered extremely inhumane and only performed only under extreme circumstances, or for medical reasons, CLICK HERE.

Not yet convinced? Click Here for “The Truth about Declawing – Technical Facts.”

Questions or Comments? Like to add to this website? Please feel free to email me:

Dr. Christianne Schelling  
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Kids and Small Dogs

Some rescues have a policy of not adopting out very small (under 15 pounds) dogs to families with younger children. Some rescues take it on a case by case basis. Here is some information from Atlanta Pet Rescue about why they do not:


Always remember that a dog perceives a child as another dog. When a child starts to irritate the dog (Fido) with relentless efforts to have contact when Fido wants to be left alone, Fido will react as he would if another dog were bothering him. He’ll try to ignore or walk away.  When the child keeps pursuing he’ll finally snap and then eventually bite. If you watch a litter of pups they often bite each other to communicate “leave me alone” or simply because they feel grouchy. Fido would never treat you this way. However, a child is only another dog to the dog. It’s their language – it’s all they have to communicate when all else fails. It’s usually a little scratch or bite – it would mean nothing to another dog, but a lot to a child. If the dog you are interested in is the type to bite another dog then he will bite your child if he feels it is necessary.

Tiny dogs tend to be high strung, and kids set a tone in the household that is NOT calming to them, thus sometimes bringing out the worst in their personalities. Kids like to run, scream, play, tumble and so forth. These things tend to make a small dog nervous and sometimes snappy. Or the dog may play rough the first year or two and then as he matures he may want only to be held – then he may not like the company of the kids. The dog may become so nervous that he may bite or just be hyper vigilant and barky, or he may take to hiding under the bed or in his crate. Also, he may love and hate the kids alternately according to their behavior. He may not bite YOUR kids but become so nervous that he will bite their friends. Then who pays for this mistake? FIDO DOES! He may lose his home and go to rescue if he’s lucky, OR to the pound or killed if not so lucky. All too frequently parents and the vet will decide it’s all Fido’s fault and not realize that the home was causing him too much stimulation. Countless times we have taken small dogs into the program who were extremely overstimulated. These dogs tend to want attention and then back up when you reach for them. They may show wild uncontrolled behavior or barking or may just be very distrusting and avoid touch. The reason is often because kids handled them roughly and then confused them with inappropriate yelling or hitting to control them.


Another problem with kids and tiny dogs is that they are small enough for the kids to carry around. Tiny dogs usually love being carried by adults/hate being carried by younger kids. They sense danger in the way they are handled by the child – they know instinctively that they may be dropped or hurt by the unsteady way a child carries them. Often when they see the child coming they equate it with a loss of their freedom and being handled against their will – perhaps in an uncomfortable manner. We all know how kids want to control the behavior of something smaller than them. Toddlers cannot discern the difference between a dog and a toy. They are not old enough to say to themselves “It wouldn’t feel very good to be toted around in such an uncomfortable position, so I won’t do it to my dog.” All too often, the parent thinks it’s adorable while the dog is losing patience and wanting Mom to save him from this torment. These small dogs will almost always try to be with the adults and avoid the kids. They may eventually growl when the kids approach and want to haul them around again. A dog with more weight will not be easy for the kids to carry around so much and he won’t be so intimidated by them. 15 lbs or more = more respect because the child cannot easily carry him around. We look for a dog for families that is going to enjoy everybody and not be afraid or uncomfortable in his own home. The family dog should eagerly approach the kids (a tiny dog may do it temporarily, but then hide from the kids). The family dog should be willing to play as long as the kids play. He should not be snappy with their friends. You shouldn’t have to put him away when kids come over – and you may indeed have to do that with a very small dog.


Even though your kids may love their dog, the tiny dog is at risk with kids. All kids tend to play carelessly sometimes. We have had toy poodles undergo painful broken bones and surgery to fix them resulting from children engaged in inappropriate activity. That certainly means additional veterinary expense for you. You cannot watch the kids all the time. There are many cases where kids rocked a chair back on him or closed a lazy boy chair on him or simply tumbled on him in play. Why risk it?