Although it is obvious to veterinarians that a Border collie and a 96-year-old woman likely make a poor pet-owner match, it
may not be obvious to a potential owner who has never been around Border collies. Indeed, one reason healthy animals wind
up in shelters, says Gail Golab, PhD, DVM, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) interim director for animal welfare,
is because people "acquire a pet with an expectation the pet doesn't fulfill."
All too often, says John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB, people do not carefully consider their choice of pets. They do not think about
how much attention, exercise, and grooming a dog will need and whether they are willing to devote that much time to the dog's
care. "Adding a dog is no different from adding a baby to the household," he says. "They're talking about adding a life to
HELPING YOUR CLIENTS
If a client tells you he or she is thinking about getting a new pet, ask lots of questions to get more background information,
says Dr. Ciribassi. "For example, I strongly advise clients against getting a dog when there are children under 6 in the home,"he
explains. "Managing young children and a dog at the same time is difficult, especially because of the potential fearful response
to active children and their friends in the home. Cats can be ideal in such situations because most cats will learn to avoid
young, active children, while dogs may become aggressive."
A preadoption checklist
In addition, make sure owners assess whether they have enough room and money to provide for another pet. And owners should
consider whether their old pet will get along with a new one (see "A preadoption checklist" for a list of questions that Dr. Ciribassi asks potential owners).
Your time in the examination room is limited, so consider training staff members as preadoption counselors (see "What works for Dr. Denise Porte"). Then clients can set up appointments with these counselors to further discuss pet selection.
Advice from the Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board
And don't wait for clients to ask you about adopting pets; be proactive. Advertise your preadoption counseling services in
the clinic lobby or examination room, and when appropriate, mention that you are available to discuss it.
What Works for Dr. Denise Porte
Of course, not all potential owners are clients. So how do you reach these potential owners before they make a decision on
which pet to adopt?