Animal instinct

PETS ISSUE: Need a buddy? Adopt, foster, or volunteer with the pet of your dreams

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PETS A pet-free existence — who needs it? Creature comfort can't be underestimated, whether you're ready for a one-time volunteer session, a casual relationship, or some long-term lovin'.

 

ADOPT AWAY

In this country of serious pet overpopulation, there's no need to buy your next animal companion from a pet store. Whatever you're looking for — cats, dogs, parakeets, rabbits, mice, rats, chickens, snakes, lizards, even chinchillas — the odds are good that some local shelter or rescue group will have one waiting to be adopted.

Animal advocates (and even some pet stores) urge seekers of furry, scaly, or feathered companions to think adoption first. "That's been our message for years," said Jennifer Scarlett, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA.

In most cases adopted pets work out better for the animal and the human, notes Deb Campbell, spokesperson for the city's Animal Control Commission. "People who impulsively buy pets tend to have more problems," she said.

In this city alone, there are too many unwanted dogs and cats — many the result of backyard breeders and owners who fail to get their animals spayed or neutered. And with the recession, more people have been forced to give up their pets. So adoptable creatures abound.

If dogs are your thing, the SPCA (www.sfspca.org) and the city shelter (www.animalshelter.sfgov.org) have dozens waiting for the right home. So do several local rescue groups. Wonder Dog Rescue (www.wonderdogrescue.org), Rocket Dog Rescue (www.rocketdogrescue.org), Family Dog Rescue (www.norcalfamilydogrescue.org), and Grateful Dogs Rescue (www.gratefuldogsrescue.org) all offer large and small pups of all ages and breeds for adoption— you can even snag a ex-racer from Golden State Greyhound Rescue (www.goldengreyhounds.com).

Many adoption programs are able to give you the lowdown on your prospective pet's personality. "Our dogs all live in foster homes, so we have a real sense of what they're like and how they interact," says Wonder Dog's Linda Beenau.

Muttville (www.muttville.org) specializes in placing older dogs. "With a senior dog, you know exactly what you're going to get," said Sherri Franklin, the group's founder. "We evaluate the people who are looking to adopt, evaluate the dogs, and try to fill everyone's need. We're matchmakers."

Shelters and rescue groups spend a lot of money making sure the animals they adopt out are in good medical condition (and won't reproduce).

Cats are the most popular pets in the city, and the SPCA and the city shelter both offer cat adoptions. "We adopt out about 4,000 animals a year, and two-thirds are cats," said Scarlett. There's even a working-cat program for feral cats that may not be cuddly but can offer businesses an organic solution to rodent problems.

But the list doesn't stop there. The city shelter "adopts out small exotic animals, fish, birds, poultry — you name it," Campbell said. "It's illegal to buy a rabbit in San Francisco, but you can adopt one from us."

"Chickens are very popular pets these days," she added. "They can give you breakfast." (Tim Redmond)

 

FOSTER BLISS

We don't know about you, but seeing precious pets cooped up in cramped shelter cages — well, it makes us knock over garbage cans, spray urine on an expensive sofa, and caterwaul at the moon. And this is a country that euthanizes between 50 percent and 70 percent of its shelter animals. Sorry to be a bummer. But you can help, even if you're not ready for a 10-year commitment. Really — you can!

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