Rescue pets, from cats to dogs, rabbits to guinea pigs, have so much to offer. Kellie Brooks, the centre manager at the Blue Cross’ Hertfordshire rehoming centre, tells us everything you need to consider.
Why adopt a rescue pet?
When it comes to the benefits of adopting a rescue pet, Blue Cross manager Kellie Brooks has first-hand experience. Her own dogs, Megan the boxer dog, Noodles the poodle-cross and Thunder the horse, all had difficult starts in life, but now live a life of luxury and love.
“It’s always nice to offer a home to an animal in need – it’s such a great feeling,” says Kellie. “There are all sorts of advantages too. For one thing, you know the history of the animal – how it copes with being left alone, whether it's good with children, etc – whereas if you were buying a puppy there are lots of different needs to see to, especially socialisation.
“Then you have the on-going support of the charity too. We offer a lifetime of behavioural support, and each centre has a behaviouralist who you can always contact with any issues.
“You also know that your new pet has been neutered, vaccinated, wormed, had flea treatment and had all sorts of veterinary checks.”
Why are there so many pets in rescue centres?
Pets are left in shelters for many different reasons, and Kellie is keen to point out that many owners face a difficult decision because of a change in circumstances, from moving into rented accommodation to ending a relationship, or just lacking the money to pay for veterinary bills.
“Things can change quickly in anybody’s life, and most people are distraught to leave them,” says Kellie.
While breeds such as Staffordshire bull terriers are still a common sight in centres, there’s been a gradual increase in the number of toy breeds such as pugs and Chihuahuas left.
While black cats sometimes find it difficult to find a new home, as previously reported by animal charities, it’s usually the older animals who struggle.
“The average length of stay before rehoming is 21 days for a dog and 25 days for a cat,” says Kellie, “but older animals can take longer.”
Cleverly, the centre has also devised a new Home Direct service in addition to its traditional model, which encourages the previous owners to keep the pets at home rather than bringing them to live at the centre, until a new owner can be found. This cuts out nights in a kennel, and reduces stress for the animals, as well as meaning previous and new owners can meet one another.
How can you choose the right breed of dog?
“Before visiting a shelter you need to ask yourself some questions,” says Kellie. “Can you commit the time, resources and money required for a pet, including food, routine vet trips for vaccinations, etc, and emergency treatments?
“You also need to work out what you want in a dog, and then look for the breed that matches your requirements. So for example if you only want to take it out on two 30-minute walks per day, you wouldn’t be compatible with a beagle or a husky.
“Going home to my dogs and taking them on a walk is just the best thing – they bring so much into our lives, and they deserve to have everything they need.”
How can you help a rescue pet get settled into a new home?
“Give them time to settle in,” says Kellie, “and don’t do too much too soon. Don’t invite too many people round to meet them straight away. Try to start a routine and take the time to bond. Don’t forget you can always contact the shelter for any support or advice too.”
How can you help your local animal shelter?
There are all sorts of ways to help your local shelter, from attending events to donating old towels and toys or financial donations and legacies. Kellie recommends giving them dog treats too, which are always useful for training new dogs.
Most centres are keen to have volunteers too, and you don’t even need to be particularly mobile. “We’re always looking for cat socialisers to spend time with cats getting them used to people, or volunteers to spend quiet time cuddling the dogs, so it’s not just about taking them for walks.”