Shelter Pets May Come With Defects

Our regional humane shelterhas an unofficial agreement with most of the veterinary practices in our area to perform physical examinations at no charge for both dogs and cats within the first seven days after adoption. We do so willingly, as a free service to both the pet owner and the shelter, receiving no remuneration.

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Pets from humane shelters may be missing a little hair, have ear infections or other "deficiencies." That's no reason to reject them.

These are usually happy visits, with the new family excited about their new family member. Often kids tag along, adding to the delight.

Not surprisingly, occasional defects are found during the examination.

I say “not surprisingly” because many of these pets came from disadvantaged beginnings. Some have lived on the street, surviving totally on instinct. Some were dumped in a rural area, on the chance that a kind soul would find them, take them in and feed them.. Recently a puppy mill in a county adjoining ours was shut down and dozens of neglected dogs and puppies flooded the two shelters that volunteered to take them into their already-overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed facilities.

Sometimes, though, an odd thing happens on these visits: people complain.

During a thorough examination we may discover a defect as minor as an ear infection or as major as heartworms, heart murmur or a problem that requires surgery.

“What’s with that?” I sometimes hear people say. “They told me at the humane society that he had already been vet-checked. Why didn’t they find that when they looked at him?”

“Maybe because they are overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed?” is my usual reply.

I wish that every shelter could be fully-funded, staffed with caring people who volunteered their services out of love in their hearts, and were so successful with educational programs that eventually no shelters would be needed.

But.

That’s not where we are today.

I know of no shelters that are rolling in money.

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Our Humane Society of South Mississippi staff is well-trained and devoted.

Even though our humane society is bright, clean and staffed with several veterinarians as well as caring lay staff and volunteers, they still have more work to do than can reasonably be done and not enough money to hire more help.

Here is what I think is a suitable analogy: If you went to an appliance store and purchased a stainless steel Bosch washing machine for $2000.00, you would have every right to expect it to be perfect in function and appearance.

If you go to a Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store and buy a 10-year-old washing machine for $15.00, you would have no right to complain about some scratches, rust and maybe a little noise.

If you want a puppy with a guarantee of no imperfections you should be looking at a $1500.00 purebred with a no-questions-asked 7-day warranty. (But, please don’t. There are way too many shelter pets in need of homes.)

When you adopt a pet from a humane shelter, have the mindset that you are saving a life. For $50.00 or so you’ve gotten a dog or cat that has had its first vaccinations, usually spayed or neutered (a several-hundred-dollar value all by itself) and often with the first dose of heartworm preventive begun.

How can you complain about that? Shelter workers, managers and doctors are doing the very best they can with what they have.

See you next week, Dr. Randolph.

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