Adopting a shelter pet that needs a home benefits everyone — the pet, the pet owner and the community.

If you’ve ever been in an animal shelter, then you know the feeling of every dog and cat looking at you eagerly as if to say, “Pick me!” Each animal is unique in its own cute way, but I have always been a sucker for the animal that looks the most pitiful or the one that no one else wants.

I have two rescue dogs, and both are success stories. My oldest rescue, Roxy, is an 11-year-old female purebred Chihuahua that was taken away from her previous owner after neighbors reported a small dog in a raccoon cage on the back porch. I was told the original owner was an older lady who had purchased Roxy from a breeder for the sole purpose to entice and entertain her grandchildren when they came over. She was only 4 months old when animal services intervened, and she had never been around outsiders or fully stood upright on her own.

adopted pets in Brunswick County NC

Roxy was confiscated from the original owner, taken to the shelter and deemed unadoptable because she continually snapped at the workers and volunteers. When I first saw her I thought to myself, “That is one bizarre-looking Chihuahua.” Her joints had developed strangely due to no exercise and the constraints of the raccoon cage, causing her to look bow-legged, and she had all-over spots, which I had never seen on a Chihuahua. She was scheduled to be euthanized the following week, and I knew she was meant to be mine, or should I say, I was meant to be hers.

I was fortunate to learn the details of Roxy’s past, as not every adoption facility is aware of the history of each animal. In Roxy’s case, it was relevant to her rehabilitation. She required months of vitamins and special food and needed someone to work with her on socialization. I’m happy to say that Roxy is doing well and has not exhibited any negative effects of her younger years. She is still shy around strangers and frequently barks as a sign of protection, but I attribute that to her breed in general.

Hoochie is my second and youngest rescued fur baby. She is a 2-year-old Shar-Pei/Boxer mix that was found when a friend, Matt, was about to tear down a barn on his land and discovered a litter of puppies huddled in the corner. Matt had a male boxer and the neighbor had a female Shar-Pei and well … you know the rest (which is why it is so important to spay/neuter your animals).

adopted pets in Brunswick County NC

Matt told me he was going to take the litter to the pound, which prompted me to frantically search for people to adopt them and subsequently volunteer to take one myself. Many of the people that I talked to who would have made great pet parents said they lived in apartments that didn’t allow pets or that their landlord didn’t permit them. The American Humane Association confirms that the number one reason animals are relinquished to shelters is because the owner’s current housing situation doesn’t allow them. In the end, we found forever homes for all six puppies and none of them had to go to the pound.

Hoochie was literally born in a barn and needed some socialization, training and love, but with a little work she has grown into the sweetest, most obedient dog I have ever owned. She has never met a person or dog that didn’t become her best friend. I attribute her now-friendly demeanor to putting her in doggy day care at least once a month, and it has really helped socialize her with strange dogs as well as strange people.

I’m telling you about my dogs to illustrate that good pets come in all shapes and sizes and from all types of places. Sometimes it’s hard to look past the dirty paws and mangled hair of a shelter dog, but under that coat is an animal desperate to become your pet.

A survey released in 2014 by Hartz Mountain Corporation revealed that the top three attributes that make a good pet are personality, loyalty and obedience. Notice that looks and breed are not listed in the top three qualities. And while it is true that the majority of animals in shelters are mutts or cross breeds, according to the Humane Society for Shelter Pets, 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds.

Adopting a pet of your own
Adopting a pet can be intimidating, but as a mother of two rescued fur babies, I can honestly say that adopting an animal is a very rewarding endeavor. Know the right questions to ask when you have found a pet that think you might want to adopt. Ask about the animal’s history and if they are good with children or other pets. It is important to know the animal’s medical information and how to properly care for it. Inquire about the animal’s behavioral personality and exercise requirements to ensure it will fit your lifestyle.

Most times a facilitated adoption center will deny your adoption if you do not provide certain necessities. For example they will want to make sure you have a fenced in yard for the dog or that you are keeping the cat indoors. Do not be offended or discouraged from adopting if you do not meet these certain requirements. The prerequisite for adopting are different for every group and the safety and health of the animal is always considered.

Pets are not cheap, but if you can find it in your heart and budget it is worth every penny. The average vet visit costs me around $120 per pet not including prescriptions. My pets go to the vet once a year to get up-to-date vaccinations, overall check-ups and prescription renewals. It is important to keep your dog on a flea/tick medication as well as a heartworm medication. Most pets adopted form shelters are already taking prevention medications and have already had their vaccinations. Some younger pets may not have all the rounds of shots, so it is important that you complete any rounds not yet administered. Shelters require that the pet be spayed or neutered before it is adopted, and often there are low-cost options for this if the pet is not already spayed or neutered.

Many shelters offer a trial period that allows you to take the pet home to determine how he or she does in the new environment. This is particularly important if there are already pets or children in a household. Occasionally a behavioral or medical problem may be discovered that was not noticed in the shelter. Some shelters offer post-adoption assistance with minor behavioral or adjustment problems.

Animal Shelters
Just like the animals, shelters come in many different shapes and sizes also. Some are large, some are small. Some care for only dogs and/or cats, while others open their doors to all types of animals. Some have physical locations, whereas others house their animals only in foster homes.

The traditional humane society usually takes in animals directly from the community and then adopts the animals to new families. They are privately funded through donations, grants and adoption fees. Oftentimes traditional shelters offer services to society such as education programs and natural disaster assistance. It is at these types of facilities that low cost spay/neuter clinics are offered in effort to further combat the pet overpopulation.

Animal sanctuaries serve as a relief for animals that may be deemed unadoptable. Sanctuaries get their animals from other shelters, directly from the public, pet stores, farms, puppy mill raids, etc. In some limited situations animals may be adopted from a sanctuary, but most often they live out their lives with the organization. Sanctuaries are privately funded and rely on donations and support from the public. Like a rescue organization, sanctuaries may have paid staff, but mainly rely on volunteer participation for daily operations.

Control organizations serve as a homeless shelter as well as the enforcement division of the local municipal animal laws. Stray animals will most often find themselves at a control facility. Control facilities are funded by the local government and therefore are staffed by paid employees.

Rescue organizations regularly focus on certain breeds or groups of animals. Most often, these organizations obtain their animal populations by receiving them from traditional shelters or control facilities. More often than not, these organizations are volunteer-based and may have one or two paid staff members. What makes the rescue group different from other types of animal shelters is that they usually do not have a physical location where the animals are housed in one location. Rather, they rely on social-media promotion and a foster home network and/or boarding facilities to house their animals. Rescue groups are privately funded through donations, grants and adoption fees.

There are different means of adopting a pet. Not always do you walk in a building and select an animal from a cage that is prepped and ready to go home with you. According to the ASPCA, the majority of pets are acquired through acquaintances and family members. Twenty-eight percent of dogs are purchased from breeders, and 29 percent of cats and dogs are adopted through shelters and rescues. With outlets like Craigslist, Facebook and newspaper classified ads, pets can come from anywhere.

Adopting Pets in Brunswick County
Brunswick County offers numerous pet shelters and facilities, such as Brunswick County Animal Services in Supply, Fix a Friend Spay & Neuter in Winnabow, Paws-Ability in Ocean Isle Beach, Furever Friends Animal Rescue in Leland, SOAR (Southport/Oak Island Animal Rescue), Cat Tails in Ocean Isle Beach, and Paws Place in Winnabow.

These facilities are the ones our society relies on to take in, take care of and take responsibility for animals that are unwanted or come to them needing special care. Most of these groups have websites and Facebook pages and they are constantly holding fundraisers to aid in the care of these animals.

Most of the shelters in Brunswick County have information about their specific adoption process on their websites so you can prepare in advance. Although this process may seem extensive, it is beneficial to all parties involved — you will have a relationship with your pet for many years so it is worth the time and effort to insure the best match possible.

Remember, just like no human is perfect, no pet is perfect either. It will be a learning process for both you and your adopted pet, so practice patience and your pet will love you forever.

Where to go

Brunswick County Animal Services
429 Green Swamp Rd NW, Supply
(910) 754-8204

Cat Tails
6622 Beach Dr. SW, Ocean Isle Beach
(910) 253-1375

Fix a Friend Spay & Neuter
6033 Ocean Hwy. E, Winnabow
(910) 253-8161

Furever Friends Animal Rescue in Leland

Paws-Ability in Ocean Isle Beach

Paws Place
3701 E Boiling Spring Rd., Winnabow
(910) 845-7297

SOAR (Southport /Oak Island Animal Rescue)
3376 St Charles Pl. SE, Southport
(910) 457-6340

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Growing up in a small town in the foothills of North Carolina, Sandi always dreamed of living on the coast. In her youth, she was always by the water; she was raised tending a big garden and stomping around in the creek. She spent her adolescent days on a Jet Ski or fishing on Lake James, N.C., and she and her friends would camp and hike the Linville Gorge. Attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte she felt like she was getting out of my small-town box and living the city life; at the same time, she was getting a little closer to the ocean. Moving to Wilmington has been a dream come true, and the life she has created has been a blessing. She enjoys kayaking the Cape Fear, fishing the shores of Carolina Beach, and picking up seashells and shark’s teeth wherever she is. At home, she loves to cook and play with her dogs in the backyard. She also enjoys DIY home improvement endeavors. No outdoor shower, fire pit or flower bed is too big of a job! Being a part of the North Brunswick Magazine and South Brunswick Magazine team has taught Sandi that you really can enjoy your career.