ADOPT, DON'T SHOP!

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."- Anatole France

There are many reasons adopting an animal can benefit society and your own self while simultaneously saving the life of a neglected, abused, or stray animal.

Why Adopt?

By adopting an animal from a shelter, you will be saving its life! According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Out of these animals, 1.5 million are euthanized. Along with saving the lives of innocent animals, you will also be reducing taxes. Over $2 billion is spent annually by local governments to shelter, and eventually kill 8-10 million adoptable animals because of the shortage of space to keep them and homes for them.

The next very important factor in adopting from shelters is not supporting puppy mills. A puppy mill is a place where female dogs are constantly bred until they either cannot become pregnant anymore or die. Often, if the female dog cannot reproduce any longer, she is neglected or killed. Also, the puppies who are produced in a puppy mill have to live in small cages and in very unclean conditions. Hence, the dogs catch many diseases and become ill. According to SPCAI, puppy mills operate solely for profit with little concern for the health and well-being of the dogs. Many people shop for puppies from puppy mills to get a young, pure bred dog. But, these types of dogs can be found in shelters as well!

Another benefit of adopting animals from shelters is often times, you will be able to skip the process of training the animals. Many shelter animals are already house trained and know how to interact well with humans and other animals.

Physical Benefits

Never mind a treadmill; get a pet. Being a pet owner can make you more of an exerciser, not only are you likely to take more walks or hikes as a pet owner but research has shown children and adults with pets are more active overall. Further, another study found pet owners to be better influence on their human exercise partners; they never make an excuse not to exercise.

Take a dog for example. Dog owners are not only getting more exercise, they are getting a better quality of exercise. They are walking faster and possibly even covering more mileage than people who simply walk or run on their own. Dog walkers are also more likely to stick to their fitness plans than those who walk with other humans or alone. “Dog owning families often promote physical activity within the household,” shows a study from the University of Virginia, which found that teens from dog-owning families are more physically active than teens whose families don’t own a pet dog. With rising rates of childhood obesity, owning a pet might give kids incentive to get out of the house and spend more time outside, leading to lowering the incidence of disease later in life.

Here are a few ways that pets can help you get more exercise:

• Walking – studies have shown that pet owners walk nearly twice as much every week as people without pets. That’s a lot of calories burned just because you had to take Trevor out of the house. The more you walk, the less time you spend on your couch and the faster your metabolism burns those calories you ate.

• Running/Jogging – when you set your own running or jogging pace, you burn a steady number of calories. But if you have to run to keep up with your animal when it races ahead, you’ll burn a lot more.

• Cycling – most animals will love to run alongside you as you cycle, and you can help your pet get it’s energy out by taking it for a bike ride.

• Hiking – pets aren’t just great when you go walking, but they can make hiking whole lot more fun. Plus, they can carry supplies like food and water. And, they’ll even come in handy in case of an emergency.

• Skateboarding/Rollerblading – skating or rollerblading around town is a great way to commute, but it’s also a wonder cardio workout. Taking your pet with you can actually make getting around easier. After all, the pet can pull you when you’re feeling tired.

Even if you don’t work out with your pet, the truth is that you are naturally going to get more exercise just because you own one. Most pets are going to be eternally begging to get out of the house, to go on a walk, and to play. Pet owners that want to have happy pets will make an effort to play with their pets or take them out, and that gets you off the couch.

Responsibilities

Owning a pet is a very important job that is both challenging and rewarding. Let’s say you just adopted a puppy from the animal shelter, the first task that needs to be taken care of is training it so that the dog will listen and know who is in charge. Things like telling the dog to sit, to stay, and to come are some of the basic commands the dog should respond to. This process is the most difficult aspect in owning the dog simply because the amount of work and repetition that is needed for the dog to understand what you are saying. The best way to go about training a dog is by using a reward system so the animal knows when it has done something right and it will eventually learn what is good and what is bad.

Before getting a pet you need to be sure that you have enough money to properly take care of it. There should be a significant amount of money saved away just in case something happens to your pet and you need to cover medical expenses. Owning an animal can help you budget because you have to think about their needs and not only yours.

Pets are a huge responsibility for the owner because they completely depend on them for survival. Pet owners can’t just do what they want, they have a duty to the pet to be there for them and take care of them. As a kid, as a college student, or as an adult this is the biggest challenge is always being there for the animal.

Pets, dogs especially, get used to a schedule for everything like using the bathroom, eating and sleeping. This means that you have to be there every single day to take care of them even when you do not want to. You can’t spend the night at a friend’s house or go for a weekend vacation because no one will be able to take care of your pet. Owning a pet is like a practice run for being a parent; the animal is so dependent on you that you are obligated to take care of it. It is not easy to properly take care of a dog because they need so much attention. Every single day the dog needs to eat two to three times, to be taken out to use the bathroom frequently, to have fresh water, to go on a walk, and to just be played with. It is a lot of work but owning a dog can be very gratifying. Some people need the structure of a constant routine in their life to help it seem less hectic. Older people with grown children tend to get dogs to give them a sense of responsibility that they crave after their kids are independent and it is an effective way to see if you are ready to have real child if you are questioning parenthood. Life can be lonely so having someone or some pet that is always there for you is extremely beneficial because everyone needs some sort of companionship in their life.

Mental Benefits

The following are ways that pets help their owners with everyday life, as well as general and specific mental illnesses:

To begin, pets can help much with depression and anxiety. Pets can help their owners with these general mental illnesses because they present them with a calming environment. By petting, sitting close to, or playing with a pet, someone’s mind can instantly be cleared and/or calmed. When the connection with your pet is made, stress is released because oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is the hormone related to stress relief. It helps to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels. Also, pets give a sense of achievement and allow one to feel as though they are valued and needed.

Pets can also help when it comes to socializing. Walking a pet within a neighborhood or close community can lead to conversations with other pet owners. Whether or not this leads to simple acquaintances or lifelong friendships, it can help to give one less feelings of withdrawal and isolation. This is especially helpful if someone is struggling when moving to a new neighborhood or town. Not only do pets help an owner feel less lonely outside, they also help to provide company and a sense of security within the home.

For children, an ever present pet can ease separation anxiety if parents are not home. The love and friendship that is given by a pet can help to increase a child’s self-image. Also, it has been found that children who are emotionally attached to their pets are better able to form strong relationships in the future. Children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies. Studies have shown that babies exposed to pets are half as likely to develop allergies including dust, grass, ragweed, and pet allergies. They are also at lower risk for the development of asthma.

Pets are also helpful to children with ADHD. By taking care of a pet and following a set schedule, these children are able to learn responsibility. Also, they can burn of a lot of their excess energy by playing with a pet. This makes the child more relaxed at night when it is time for them to go to bed. Playing outside with a pet also provides fresh air and good circulation, which increased the oxygen-filled blood flow to the brain. This in turn will increase the child’s ability to concentrate. Pets can also aid the self-confidence of these children because they are always used to being reprimanded for their excess energy, but a pet will listen to them and love them unconditionally.

Not only can pets help children with ADHD, but they can also help children who suffer from autism. In children with autism, sensory issues are common. Pets are helpful to these children because they are able to help them get used to the way things feel against their skin and how certain things smell and sound. It is also often found calming by these children to work with animals and it has been claimed that pets can reduce stereotyped autistic behavior. Pets can also increase the desire and ability of these children to connect socially with others.

Furthermore, animals are able to provide emotional security to those who have endured trauma. Specifically regarding PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, patients usually see a reduction in their depression, reduced symptom severity, better sleep quality, and increased satisfaction with life. They also tend to have a decreased reliance on medication that aids with sleep, mental disorders, nightmares, and pain.

Pets are also a major help when it comes to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Research at the University of California at Davis said that Alzheimer’s patients will suffer less stress and have less anxious outburst if there is a dog or cat in the home. Also, aggressive behavior that stems from this disease can be decreased because of a playful interaction with a pet or the gentle touch of a well-trained dog. Often times, a patient’s behavior problems will stem from a reaction to their stressed caregiver who becomes frustrated. A pet can serve to help ease the stress of the caregivers to avoid this problem.

Lastly, pets can help with health problems that tend to come with age. The American Heart Association has liked the ownership of pets to a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity. Those who own pets usually tend to have lower blood pressure in stressful situations, and people who have borderline hypertension who adopted dogs witnessed a decrease in blood pressure in just five months. Pet owners over 65 make 30% fewer visits to the doctor, and they tend to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are both indicators of heart attacks if too high.

How do we know that these benefits are real? Below are descriptions of a few studies conducted to evaluate the relationship between pets and their owners.

The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom carried out the Cats Protection study in 2011. 600 cat and non-cat owning people were involved, and half were described to currently have a mental health problem. The survey found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their well-being, and 76% went on to say that they could cope with everyday life better because of the company of their cats. Half of the cat owners said that their cat’s presence and companionship was very helpful. One third said that stroking a cat was a calming and helpful activity.

Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted three experiments to look at pets in relation to their owners. They published their results in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In the first study, 217 people were given surveys. In the second study, 56 dog owners were examined. In the third study, 97 undergraduates with an average age of 19 were questioned. All of these studies found the following:

• Pet owners had greater self-esteem

• Pet owners were less lonely and more extraverted

• Pet owners were less fearful

• Pet owners were less preoccupied

• Pet owners were better able to handle feelings of rejection

"Most of all, when your confidence is at its lowest, when you feel battered – by life, death and (especially) other humans – a dog will shove her nose in your hand and tell you, with conviction and feeling, what a really good person you are." -Julie Myerson

Sources

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Created with images by philhearing - "'see I am a mad dog' 30 Days of Rosemary (8 of 30)" • sonstroem - "Tennis Ball Chase" • Emery_Way - "untitled image" • Pexels - "adorable animal canine"

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