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Waterford, MI 48327

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Do's and Don'ts of Visiting an Animal Shelter

How to Be a Welcome Guest When Visiting an Animal Shelter


When you think of an animal shelter, what do you think of? A dirty, smelly place with unruly and problem dogs and cats?

Shelters are far from this image. They’re safe havens for animals and are both comfortable and sanitary. (In fact, they’re cleaner than some people’s homes!)

Visiting an Animal Shelter can be very rewarding when looking for a new pet: Dogs…cats…some shelters even house other small pets.

There are some behaviors that are safe or acceptable when you visit, and others that are not. Here are our Animal Shelter Visitor Do’s and Don’ts:

The “Do’s”

There are tons of things you can do at an animal shelter. First and foremost, be respectful to all of the animals.

  • Do let the shelter worker know your situation (children, another cat) and ask for recommendations based on your situation.
  • Do observe your potential new pet’s behavior. Is he calm and friendly, or stressed and fearful? Get these tips for choosing a shelter dog or cat.
  • Do ask questions. If your considering adopting, you’ll want to know as much about your new pet as the shelter does.
  • If you already have a dog, Do bring it with you to the shelter if possible. You’ll want to check out the chemistry between your dog and the dog you want to adopt. Cats are a bit of a different story.  
  • Do check the chemistry with humans, too. Rather than going primarily by a pet’s looks, listen to your heart and go where the attraction takes you.
  • Do listen to staff and volunteers – they know the animals best.
  • Do say “thank you” to staff and volunteers. They give their whole hearts to their jobs. And, like the animals, they can become tired and stressed too.
  • Do Volunteer – clean cages for the animals, walk, socialize, feed, and spend time with them. Read to them. And most of all – Love Them.

The “Don’ts”

Understand that some of the animals at the shelter have been neglected, abused, or lived on the street. Some have been separated from loving homes due to changes in their owners’ lives such as: illness, military deployment, living conditions, even their owner’s death. Some have behavior issues. Many are stressed, sad or afraid.

  • Don’t bring unruly or unsupervised children into the animal shelter. Dogs, cats and other animals may be upset by loud noises or fast movement.
  • If there is a sign that says “Keep Hands Off Cage,” but you want to pet the cute doggie…Don’t! You don’t want to stick your hand, foot, or nose (yes, it’s been done) inside the cage, or place a hand up against the cage.
  • When checking out a pet to determine if he is kid friendly, Don’t let your child pull on the pet’s ears or tail to see how he will react.
  • Don’t intimidate, tease, or otherwise “freak out” a dog – like staring him down, making aggressive movements, etc. It’s not funny, it’s not cool. It’s extremely stressful to the animal.
  • Don’t feed an animal in the shelter. You could make him sick, or even kill him.
  • Don’t adopt a pet as a “gift” to someone who hasn’t expressed the desire for one. He may end up back at the shelter, or worse.

Now That You’re a Good Shelter Visitor

Now you’re prepared to visit an animal shelter with good etiquette, and perhaps you will become a Volunteer, get involved from home or get your kids interested in an animal-related summer job.

Once you adopt your adorable pet, you’ll need to choose a trusted veterinarian. We hope you’ll consider Union Lake Veterinary Hospital in Waterford, MI.

We can provide your veterinary needs, as well as your pet services needs. For example, we can spiffy up your new pal with grooming. Or smooth out rough edges in your pet’s behavior with humane, reward-based training and behavior modification by certified trainers. We want you and your new family member to be happy and healthy for many years to come.