Adoption usually refers to the process of taking ownership of—and responsibility for—a pet that a previous owner has abandoned, discarded, no longer wants, or can no longer keep. Common sources for adoptable animals are
- Animal shelters, also known as pounds
- Rescue groups
- Animals found wandering loose that have no identification and remain unclaimed by any owner
- Advertisements placed by individuals who are trying to find a new home for their own animals
- Animals that have been abused or neglected and have been confiscated from the offending owner
Animals adopted from shelters are often referred to as shelter animals or pound puppies; animals adopted from rescue organizations are often called rescue animals (not to be confused with search and rescue dogs).
Animals become available for adoption for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common:
- Breeders are a leading cause of overpopulation because they may produce more animals than they can sell and may that do not fit the specification they were looking for.
- Owner dies and no one in the family wants to (or can) keep the animal.
- Financial or living arrangements change drastically and people feel that they can no longer provide an appropriate home for the animal.
- Animal was purchased as a baby at a store, with little or no information provided; owners often discover that animals are much more work than expected, or require more space or exercise than they are prepared to give.
- Animals leaves home for a variety of reasons, can't find its way home, and/or owner doesn't look for the animal.
- Severe health problems make it impossible to have a animal in the house or impossible for the owner to care for the animal.
- People become tired of caring for the animal, bored with the animal, or are unprepared to spend the time and effort required to train the animal.
- People leave the country; quarantine laws in some countries can be traumatic to animals and owners, so the animals are often left behind.
- Military personnel are deployed. (Many animals were surrendered to shelters located near military bases during Operfation Freedom in Afghanistan and the Iraqi war.)
People deal with their unwanted animal in many ways. Some people have the animal euthanized (also known as putting them down or putting them to sleep), no matter how young or healthy it is, although most veterinarians do not consider this to be an ethical use of their resources. Other people simply abandon the animal by the side of a road, often in the country, with the expectation that the animal will be able to take care of itself or that a neighbor or passer-by will adopt the animal. More often, these animals succumb to hunger, weather, traffic, or common and treatable health problems. More responsibly, owners will take the animal to a shelter, or call a rescue organization, where the animal will be cared for properly until a home can be found. Homes cannot always be found, however, and euthanasia is often used for the excess animals to make room for newer animals.
The central issue facing animal adoption is whether a new owner can provide a safe, secure, permanent home for animals. Many shelters, pounds, and rescue organizations refuse to supply animals to people whom they judge cannot supply the animal with a suitable home.
A new owner might also face training challenges with a animal who has been neglected or abused, but unlink the popular myth, most animals adopted from rescue organizations are wonderful pets.