It’s romanticized, but in truth, the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” ideal really does save animal lives. Animals of all kinds find their way to shelters like Whitman County Humane Society for many reasons. The kittens are often offspring of feral farm cats, dogs are picked up from backyard sellers or taken in from owners who cannot handle high-energy herding breeds, and the rats … well that’s a new one for WCHS staff.
If you are looking for a pet, whether it is your first or a new addition to your pet family, adoption from a rescue is an incredible option. The adopt don’t shop trend is a popular one among shelter staff.
“I love this trend! I always recommend adopting over purchasing,” Annie Lindsey, WCHS foster program director, wrote in an email.
Adopting a pet is often an intimidating move, but in small towns like Pullman, first-time pet owners are able to build a relationship with their local rescue and can rely on them for tips and advice as their pets grow.
“[These new pet owners] get to have a supportive, trained staff to teach them and counsel them on pet ownership and give them all the tools to succeed at it,” Ashley Phelps, WCHS director of shelter operations, wrote in an email.
This support system is imperative, especially for the first month with a new animal. This period of time is typically the toughest because both adopters and adoptees are settling into a new routine. This is the time span in which most pets are returned to the shelters often because the new owner was not fully prepared for a new pet or because there are behavior issues they did not foresee.
“When we get calls [from people wanting to return their pet], we recommend services around and give tips or tricks that can help the animal and their person,” Shelby Vasquez, WCHS assistant director of shelter operations, wrote in an email. “We really appreciate it when people take those things to heart and do the best that they can for their pet.”
Phelps’ biggest piece of advice is to stick it out. This period of getting to know each other and growing into the responsibility is tough for everyone. Ultimately, saving your pet from another day in a stressful environment is worth the work.
Though bigger, municipal humane societies often have more reliable monetary support from the community and more resources, the Pullman community is notably supportive of their local humane society.
Though it’s small size sometimes limits the number of animals they want to take in, its intimacy with the community and success with adoptions allows WCHS to take in more pets than you might expect. Though this may come as a surprise, being in a college town is actually viewed as a benefit by WCHS.
“We partner with WSU and their Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) so in non-COVID times, we regularly have volunteers through CCE to help us with daily tasks around the shelter like scrubbing kennels,” Lindsey wrote.
These volunteers are not only helping the humane society staff by spending time there. When asked if so many people coming to visit the animals at the shelter was truly beneficial for the animals, I was met with a resounding “yes” from staff.
“We have animals that come from all kinds of situations and they all benefit from our volunteers differently,” Lindsey wrote. “One of my favorite things is seeing an under-socialized cat turn into the biggest snuggle bug all because of extra attention from staff and volunteers!”
And shelters like WCHS have so many opportunities for community members to come and see this for themselves.
“We have an enrichment program, but truthfully very few people volunteer in it,” Phelps wrote. “It is amazing for the animals’ mental health, we just need more willing hands!”
Thos interested can follow WCHS on Instagram at @whitmanpets, and they’re always looking for volunteers.
The community’s efforts to socialize the animals at the shelter often leads to that animal being adopted later because they were more open to human interaction or were comfortable enough to show off their personality.
This is also an important opportunity for prospective pet owners to meet animals and bond with them before they jump at the chance to adopt. Though it is often a romanticized gesture, some animals have had traumatic experiences that brought them to the shelter. Volunteering can give you an up-front interaction with that reality.
When looking for a new pet, adoption is the perfect opportunity to help an animal in need. If you can, adopt. Each adoption made means another animal has a space to stay and be taken care of. It will open your heart to how much love these animals need and how much you are capable of loving them.