If your heart's in the right place, you understand the value of adopting rather than buying a pet. But what if that same heart is set on a particular breed?
"People are surprised to hear 25 percent of pets in shelters are purebred," says Betsy Saul, founder of Petfinder.com.
It may seem like the odds of finding a particular breed in a shelter are low, but most breeds have groups devoted to their rescue. In fact, shelters often transfer purebreds to such groups to free up space in their facilities.
On Petfinder.com, you can search shelters and rescue groups for 241 breeds of pet — for the most popular dog breeds, generally thousands are available nationwide. The American Kennel Club site lists rescue contacts for all but seven of their 161 recognized breeds.
Amy Lane, rescue chairwoman of Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue, says the problems that land pets in shelters are generally with the owners, not the animals.
Still, no dog is perfect, or perfect for every owner. The trick is to make the right match. That's why rescue groups have substantial forms to fill out, require personal and vet references, and conduct interviews.
The first step for the rescue group is to educate potential adopters about the breed. Because rescue groups see so many dogs surrendered, they know what causes problems and what makes a good match. And since most groups foster dogs in their homes, someone has lived with your prospective pet and knows his habits and personality.
One advantage of adopting an adult dog is that their personalities are more fully developed than a puppy's, so you have a clearer idea what you're getting.
But expect a process of getting used to a new home; after six to eight weeks, you should be able to see what the chemistry between dogs and family members will be for the long term, says Lane. For dogs who have been neglected or had other troubles, there may be more changes for the better over time.