Animal Adoptions Should Not Be Treated As Impulse Buys

Animal Adoptions Should Not Be Treated As Impulse Buys
Did you make the right decision this Easter?
by Jennifer LB Leese

Rabbits are a tempting gift for children during the Easter season. This article isn't meant to discourage you from getting this snuggly friend for your child; it is to merely to give you some valuable facts and to help you in your decision-making. "[The Humane Society of Washington County] strongly recommend people not adopt an animal on impulse. The family needs to think it through before bringing that animal into the home."
Rabbits are a huge symbol of Easter, as are baby chicks and ducks. And they don't come with instructions. Some people even get their children a new puppy, an adorable kitten, or a hamster or a guinea pig for Easter. The sad reality of this fact is that most people aren't aware of what they're getting into when purchasing a new friend for their child. When it comes to getting an animal, sometimes the novelty wears off and families (whether you bought one for your child or it was given as a gift) are left caring for an animal they don't really know how to take care of properly.
As for rabbits, bringing one into the home should be considered with the same forethought as any animal adoption. Rather than a fun purchase, a rabbit requires a long-term commitment and an understanding of the unique needs required to care for a rabbit.
The Humane Society of Washington County receives over 5,600 animals a year. "It is our mission to find good, loving homes for as many of those animals as possible," said Debbie Porterfield, manager of Animal Care and customer service at the Humane Society of Washington County.
"We do not promote adopting particular kinds of animals to accompany a particular time of the year, such as rabbits or chicks at Easter. Studies have shown those animals are usually of short interest to the people who brought them home and soon loose interest in the pets. Many of these pets end up at the shelter. Some owners will let pets loose to fend for themselves; the consequences of that reality is chilling," she added.
The Humane Society suggests that "Before someone brings an animal into their home, they must consider whether they are financially and emotionally committed to that animal for the life of that animal. Most animals will live 3-15 years of age depending on the species and breed. Some birds for example can live 50-80 years. No one can predict the future of course, but when choosing a pet, one needs to be committed to the life of that animal just as we would to our children."
Katherine Cooker, manager of development & public relations at the Humane Society of Washington County, said, "Bringing any animal into your home to become a part of your family is a serious decision that requires thought and consideration. When adopting an animal on impulse, it usually results in the animal becoming a burden or loosing its attractiveness to its new owners."
"The Humane Society of Washington County strongly recommends anyone considering bringing an animal into their home to understand what they need to do in order to provide a safe and happy environment for that animal to live. If a family member has allergies, say to cats, then adopting a rabbit would be an unwise choice because the dander of both animals is very similar.
"A rabbit can be a wonderful pet. They are easily housetrained to use a litter box, and most enjoy being petted and loved on. However, a rabbit has feeding and social needs that [people] need to be aware of before bringing a rabbit into your home. A great resource for this information is the House Rabbit Society. We strongly suggest to anyone interested in purchasing a rabbit, to visit their website at to learn as much as possible about the needed care for rabbits."
Rabbit Facts
* Rabbits don't like being picked up by small children. Rabbits are physically delicate animals and can be hurt by even the gentlest child. They are also easily frightened, will often resist interaction, and children may quickly become bored with their new pet.
* Many people are also surprised to learn that rabbits are not typically the best companion for young children, often the recipient of a rabbit purchase.
* A rabbit's skeleton consists of only around 8 percent of its body weight, just about half that of a cat's. Rabbits are not built to withstand the exuberant playfulness of young children, and they often end up with broken legs or backs.
* Countless numbers of rabbits are turned into animal shelters across the country when people realize that the care involved is greater than they anticipated.
* Rabbits can live up to 8-10 years and require as much care as a dog or cat.
* They should be spayed or neutered, they are house-trainable, and as a responsible rabbit-owner, you should rabbit-proof your home as they love to chew electrical cords, rugs, books, and even furniture. Rabbits, like a puppy, can be taught to use a litterbox, but many feel that older rabbits and those who are spayed or neutered are much easier to litterbox train. Rabbits instinctively use one or more places to do most of their business, most often preferring corners.
* Rabbits are not meant to be banned to an outdoor hutch.
* Indoor rabbits that aren't ready to hop free shouldn't be kept in cages with wire floors unless they are covered with a rug or a board. Proper cage size is also essential, it should be at least four times the size of the rabbit with a food area, litterbox, a soft space, and toys like cardboard tubes and cat toys.
* Indoor rabbits should have a steady diet of nutritional pellets, fresh hay, vegetables, and water. Treats should be given sparingly.
* Yes rabbits love lettuce, but you shouldn't give them iceberg lettuce, this will give them diarrhea. A piece or two won't hurt them, but remember - iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value.
Chicks and Duck Facts
* Fluffy chicks and ducklings grow up into more complicated creatures, too. The average lifespan of a chicken is seven years, while ducks live 10 to 15 years.
* According to the Cackle Hatchery in Missouri, baby poultry should have constant access to feed and water. A draft shield and a few inches of bedding should be present in the chick's cage. Although they are both birds, ducklings and chicks shouldn't be raised together.
* Salmonella bacteria can be carried in the intestinal tracts of baby poultry without causing them to be ill. Infants and young children, the elderly, and people with poor immune systems are most likely to be hospitalized if they come in contact with the bacteria.
The best places to get tips on rabbit care are at the House Rabbit Society website at and the Humane Society's winter 2006 newsletter at, in which Dr. Johnson, DVM discusses rabbits as an alternative pet.
A good resource to find out about the care of guinea pigs would be at the Humane Society of the United States website, where you will find an article adapted from Animal Sheltering Magazine.
There are also good books on the care of these animals at Petco.
Here's What You Can Do Instead
Humane Society's are always in need of additional funding and often times their resources are stretched thin caring for an influx of animals seized from unfit homes. So...
* Donate monetary funds, collect donations, and/or volunteer
* Sponsor an animal in a shelter or rescue
* Foster an animal to find out if they're the right pet for you
* Find out more. Each Saturday is Adoption Saturday at PetCo as the store hosts the Humane Society of Washington with two or more adoptable dogs and a variety of adoptable cats.
* More Adoption Day opportunities are added all the time so visit the Humane Society's website at and keep updated on the various ways you can meet the wonderful shelter pets that are available for adoption.
Help is Out There
The staff at the Humane Society of Washington County are highly trained and willing to assist families connect with the pet that will best fit into their lifestyle. They do our best to have the adoption process be as pleasant of an experience as possible.
"The availability of animals for adoption changes every day. As animals are adopted, others animals are moved onto the adoption floor," said Katherine. "We keep an updated list on our website of all the available animals. To view the animals, we suggest you tour our website at and click on the PetFinder's icon."
Event's Coming Up
* March 21-23: UNO Chicago Grill "Dough Raiser", Bring your "Dough Raiser" certificate to UNO Chicago Grill at 17734 Garland Groh Blvd in Hagerstown, MD between March 21 and 23 and a percentage of the bill will be donated to the Humane Society of Washington County. Get your coupons on our website at or call 301-733-2060 x237.
* March 29: Ladies of Harley Ride to the HSWC, The Humane Society of Washington County has been chosen by the Harley-Davidson: Buell of Williamsport Ladies of Harley as their first quarter charity. Weather permitting, the ladies will bring their donations to the shelter on Saturday, March 29 at 11am on their Harleys.
* May 3: LuHowl, a Hawaiian themed fundraiser held at Milestone Farm, the home of Don and Jone Bowman, in Williamsport, MD. The money from that event will benefit the shelter's spay and neuter assistance programs.
* July 20: Bone to Be Wild, a motorcycle ride to benefit the animals at the HSWC begins at Harley-Davidson: Buell of Williamsport, MD and will end in a picnic lunch at a yet to be determined site.
* End of Summer, Pooch Plunge at Potterfield Pool. Please check the website for the date of this annual canine cool off in Potterfield Pool.
* October: Canines on the Canal, the annual canine/human walk along the C&O Canal begins at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport, MD and ends in fun, games and prizes. The event will be held in October, date to be determined.
* New Year's Day, 2009: Polar Bear Plunge: Start the New Year right by taking a plunge into the chilly waters of the Potomac River at River Bottom Park in Williamsport, MD. All proceeds from this ever popular event benefits the Humane Society of Washington County.
Please make sure your family is willing to take on this responsibility.
If you've researched proper care for getting a new pet and are ready to give one a permanent home - then bravo.
But if you haven't taken the time to ask questions or research what it takes to take care of an animal of interest, and if you're looking for something cute but don't REALLY want a rabbit...I suggest you go for the ever-popular chocolate Easter bunny!
"It is important to do everything possible to insure the transition of bringing a new pet into the home is as smooth as possible. The introduction time is the most important step in the process. If there are other pets in the home, it is best to introduce those pets to the animal being considered for adoption to see how they get along. It is heartbreaking to bring an animal home and find that animal and the current pets are not compatible. If there are children in the house, the children also need to be introduced to that animal. Some animals do not feel comfortable around children and react in different ways.
"With all that said, if someone believes the animal they brought home was a mistake because of behavior issues, they can contact our website at and click on "Trainer Talk" and Pat Miller will answer promptly.
"We ask that individuals do all they can to find a new permanent home for a pet they can not longer care for. Due to the large volume of animals received at the shelter each year, we suggest using the shelter as a last resort," said Debbie.
The Humane Society of Washington County was established in 1920 by Ms. Daisy Derby Whipple and began with 12 animals in a one-room building. Today, the Humane Society of Washington County has a state-of-the-art shelter 12,500 square foot facility that serves all of Washington County and has an annual admission of 5,000 to 5,600 animals.
The Mission of the Humane Society of Washington County exists to improve the quality of life for all animals. Through education, legislation, action and leadership, we strive to eliminate overpopulation and to foster an environment of respect, responsibility and compassion.
The vision of the Humane Society of Washington County's vision is to be the area's leading resource for animal related issues. Through strong community partnerships, we enhance and protect the lives of all animals by advocating responsible, compassionate relationships between people and animals while providing shelter, humane education, spay/neuter
programs and adoptions.
The Humane Society of Washington County is located at 13011 Maugansville Road in Hagerstown. Visit or call 301-733-2060.
Happy Easter!