It seems that people want pets now more than ever and, with hashtags #AdoptDontShop and #RescueIsMyFavouriteBreed trending on social media, unwanted animals in need of adoption are getting some much needed attention. A few lucky pets have even been welcomed into the homes of celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Meghan Markle. So, could you offer a rescued animal a loving new home?
With homeworking looking set to be part of more people’s lives post pandemic, pet ownership continues to rise – along with the cost of purchasing a new furry friend. Perhaps the option of animal adoption would work for you?
Research published by Direct Line’s pet insurance arm and reported in The Guardian claimed that 5.7m new pets were bought between the beginning of lockdown, with the average amount paid for a dog being £801. However, many have paid much more for their ‘pandemic puppy’ or ‘COVID companion’.
In-demand breeds are changing hands for much more than before the first lockdown began, with the charity Dogs Trust reporting an 89% leap in the price paid for some in the space of only three months, stating: “Prices for Pugs, Dachshunds and Chow Chows have never been higher, whilst English and French Bulldogs have also seen significant price hikes. The most expensive of the breeds, English Bulldogs, advertised for as much as £2,140 on average in June compared to an average of £1,637 in March – although some listings reached as high as £9,000.”
Finding the perfect pet
So, why not adopt a pet instead? Rehoming a dog or adopting a cat can be really rewarding. Loving homes are also needed for all manner of small pets – from rabbits to hamsters, guinea pigs to degus (lonely degu Greg was recently adopted as a new partner for Sophie following a Valentine’s appeal by Blue Cross). What’s more, good rehoming centres carefully match their pets to the adopter’s lifestyle and circumstances to create a great partnership. And, while a donation to the charity is normally required, it’s nowhere near as expensive as buying from a breeder.
If you decide to become an adoptive pet parent, you’ll be in good company – rescue pets have been given loving new homes by presidents, prime ministers, Hollywood stars and even royalty.
The first rescue pet at the White House
When President Joe Biden moved into the White House bringing his two German Shepherds Champ and Major with him, he restarted a long-held tradition of having pets there. In fact, Donald Trump was the first US president in more than 100 years not to have a pet. However, history was made as Major is thought to be the first rescue pet to call 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC, home.
Mr Biden got Champ as a puppy after being elected vice-president in 2008. Major was fostered and then adopted in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association and the dogs already have a big fan base on social media. Shortly after moving in, a statement from the White House read: “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.”
Other famous faces to adopt pets include:
- Jennifer Aniston recently adopted rescue puppy Lord Chesterfield from Wagmore Pets Adoption
- Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall adopted her Jack Russell Terriers Beth and Bluebell from Battersea
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds adopted Dilyn, a Jack Russell Cross from Friends of Animals Wales
- Meghan Markle adopted unwanted beagle Guy after meeting him at an adoption event in Ontario, Canada
- And of course, Paul O’Grady has famously adopted several dogs from Battersea over the years, including Conchita, Olga, Daisy, Boycie, Eddie, Arfur and, most recently, new puppy Nancy.
Is a rescue pet right for me?
There are all sorts of pets of different ages, sizes and personalities, at rescue centres around the country, patiently waiting for a second chance to live in a loving home. Good rehoming centres have rigorous adoption procedures, including home checks, and carefully match their animals to the adopter’s lifestyle and circumstances. They’ll also offer plenty of helpful advice on caring for your new animal chum and provide you with post-adoption support, which is essential for pet owner newbies.
However, some people are put off at the thought of adopting a rescue pet, which is something that animal charities are keen to address.
Pet veterinary and rehoming charity Blue Cross says: “When you rehome a rescue pet, you’ll give an abandoned or unwanted animal the chance of a happy future – but there are so many benefits to you, too. Many people are put off getting a pet from a rehoming centre because they think they will come home with a whole host of problems or behaviour issues. Actually, the most common reason for dogs needing our help to find them a new home is that their previous owner no longer had the time to care for a pet. They’re far from ‘broken’, but much-loved pets that, through no fault of their own, need a new home. We take time to fully understand the personalities of all of our pets, and each one is fully assessed to find out what type of home they need to lead a happy and fulfilled life.”
“You’ll know more about an adult pet in a rehoming centre compared to a young animal as their personalities are already formed. When you meet a pet at a rehoming centre you can make sure they’re the right fit for your lifestyle.”
Also, some prospective pet owners worry that they don’t know what they’re getting with a rescue pet, which could lead to problems. Blue Cross states: “This is not true. In fact, you’ll know more about an adult pet in a rehoming centre compared to a young animal as their personalities are already formed. When you meet a pet at a rehoming centre you can make sure they’re the right fit for your lifestyle. Pets that we rehome will be vaccinated, neutered where needed and dogs and cats will also be microchipped, offering great value compared to the cost involved in buying from a breeder. Plus, any pet rehomed from Blue Cross will be given its own tailor-made training plan depending on their needs and have behavioural support for life, so if do need help with your pet, all you need to do is call us.”
Read a real-life adoption story
Anyone who’s adopted a pet will tell you that time and patience are required, along with reward-based training and lots of praise when they get things right. Giving them time to settle in with their new family will help to build their trust in you. There will be challenges, but the rewards are worth it.
Digital editor-at-large Kayleigh Dray shared her recent experience of adopting an energetic young rescue dog, Dennis, in Stylist magazine:
She confides: “Because I was mega-keen to do things properly, I signed us up with Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Someone from the animal shelter picked up my application within days, gave me a call, and asked a series of questions to make sure they matched me with the ideal dog. Did I have a garden, they asked? Did I already own any other pets? Did I have children? Was I pregnant, planning to move house, or due to go on holiday in the not-so-distant future? Had I owned a dog before? What size dog was I looking for? How much exercise could I give a dog on a daily basis? How many hours did I intend to leave a dog alone each day? And were there any dog breeds or behavioural issues I was unwilling to consider?
The list was seemingly exhaustive but reassured me 100% that Battersea has the best interests of its dogs at heart.”
All alone in the woods
After waiting several weeks for a potential match to come up, Kayleigh got a call from Battersea’s Brands Hatch branch: “The woman on the phone informed me that they had a two-year-old Lurcher there in need of a home. He’d been found wandering in the woods, and they had no idea if he’d ever lived in a house before. All the while she spoke to me, though, I stared at the photo of a skinny black dog with soulful eyes, and felt my heart positively melt. ‘He’s a very sweet boy,’ she told me. ‘He plays nicely with other dogs, and all he wants to do is cuddle up with people. We really think he’d be a good first-time dog for you both.’”
After filling in all the forms, going through his medical history and paying the £150 adoption fee, Dennis had found his new home, in the midst of a Covid lockdown.
Kayleigh recalls: “The Battersea staff accompanying Dennis handed over several weeks’ worth of food, a dog bed, a stash of toys and tennis balls, a lead, and not just one, but two collars. They’d even had a nametag inscribed for him, with our name and address on it. ‘We knew you probably wouldn’t have had time to get much in,’ they said, by way of explanation. All I could do was thank them over and over again. Then, they bid goodbye to the skinny little dog that had been in their care, promised me that they’d be available to call if I needed any advice whatsoever, and drove off as we gently coaxed our new dog into the house.”
Unsurprisingly, having taken on a rescue dog without much information about where they’ve come from or what experiences they’ve been through can be challenging, as Kayleigh freely admits: “Confession time? Those first few days were absolute hell. Dennis peed all over our living room floor almost immediately, and then proceeded to do so every couple of hours until we’d finally managed to teach him that the garden was his toilet. He cried when we went upstairs to bed that night, as he was unsure of his surroundings, and so we sleepily came back down and sat alongside him until the wee hours.”
However, over the following months, Dennis blossomed.
Kayleigh says: “He loves me unconditionally, leaning against my legs while I cook, snuggling up alongside me on the sofa, or just turning around to gaze at me while we’re out walking. He sometimes joins me for Zoom meetings, boosting everyone’s spirits with his antics. And he’s charmed pretty much everyone with his gentle temperament and friendly demeanour. Yes, he comes with a lot of baggage. Yes, he’s already cost me a small fortune in pet insurance and vets bills. Yes, he will never be ‘trained’ (I’ve come to terms with the fact that a well-trained dog is always a work in progress). All that being said, though, I love Dennis to bits. He’s filled my life with so much love and laughter. He’s helped me make loads more friends. He’s got me out the house every single day. He’s encouraged me to take lunchbreaks and finish work on time. And he’s 100% transformed my life for the better.”
Pets needing loving new homes
If you’re interested in finding out more about adopting a pet, there are lots of animals waiting patiently, hoping to be lucky enough to be chosen. Here are some rehoming charities to check out:
Is your pet a Burgess pet? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.
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