San Francisco Animal Care & Control evaluates the behavior of each animal that is made available for adoption and shares this information with potential adopters. ACC staff members are always ready to answer your questions and help you find the best companion.

Caring for a companion animal goes far beyond providing food, water and shelter. It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, and to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your pet. Answering the following questions will get you started.

Why do I want to adopt a pet?
Are you looking for the loyal and steady companionship that an animal can offer? Are you hoping to fill the empty place left after a pet has passed? Knowing why you’re preparing to bring a pet home helps you to determine the species and breed that will fit your lifestyle. Adopting a pet because your children have been asking for a puppy or a kitten can be a mistake. Problem free, responsible pet ownership requires children who are mature enough to properly handle and care for your new pet.
Do I have time for a pet?
Pets need attention (food, water, care, and companionship) even if you are too tired or too busy. Puppies are especially time consuming, requiring time for training. Older pets take less time but are still a responsibility.
Can I afford a pet?
In addition to adoption or purchase fees, consider annual expenses for veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, food, pet supplies, flea control, etc. Depending upon the size, breed, diet, etc., the average cost of owning a household pet is approximately $1,000 a year.
Am I able to have a pet where I currently live and am I planning to move?
Many rental communities either don’t allow pets or have restrictions as to the type of pets they allow. Many landlords require an additional deposit if you own a pet. If you move, your choice of housing may be restricted.
Is my living space adequate for an animal companion?
Be sure to choose an animal who will thrive in your home. If you’re attracted to energetic large-breed dogs, but live in a small apartment, will your pooch have enough room? If you live on a noisy street, will it disturb your cat? Also consider that many landlords don’t allow pets or place restrictions on having them, like weight limits. Be sure to check out your “house rules” before adopting.
Am I ready to make a long-term commitment?
A pet is a lifelong commitment. Many cats and dogs can live anywhere from 8 to 20 years of age. Animals like horses, parrots, and tortoises can live significantly longer. When choosing a pet, think about your future life plans and goals. Will you join the military, go away to college, or need to care for an elderly relative? As you go through lifestyle changes such as moves, the birth of children and new jobs, your animal will remain a permanent part of your life. We know lifestyles can change and no one can foresee the future, but it is very important to take your future plans into consideration when selecting a pet.
What is the right pet for me?
Your personality and lifestyle, along with challenges such as space restrictions and amount of time spent at home, should be explored to determine what pet is right for your household. Research different breeds and ask shelter staffers what animals they recommend—they’re experts at making perfect matches! To learn more about how to choose the right animal companion for your lifestyle, see this detailed information from the ASPCA (External Link).
Am I willing to train an animal companion?
Lack of training is one of the most common reasons that adopters return pets to shelters—are you willing to solve behavior problems? Basic training (External Link) helps dogs and their owners communicate better, strengthening the relationship overall. And taking the time to understand why your cat does what she does (External Link), especially when it involves her litter box and scratching habits, will help you avoid potential problems.
Is your family/household ready for a pet?
If your kids are still toddlers, you might consider waiting a few years before adopting, as pet ownership ideally is a team effort. Children who are mature enough can happily share pet-care duties. You may also have another pet at home who’s not yet—or may never be—ready to share his kingdom with another animal. Although many experts recommend a child be at least six years old before a pet is brought into the family, you are the best judge of your child’s maturity. At the very least, your child should exhibit self-control and understand (and obey) the word “no.” Consider introducing your child to your friends’ well-behaved pets so you can observe your child’s behavior around animals.

For many kids, the family pet is their best friend – a companion who not only provides unconditional love, but who also teaches them about friendship, responsibility, loyalty, and empathy. Don’t just consider cats and dogs: rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, small birds, and fish can make great family pets. These animals may be smaller than a cat or dog, but they require just as much attention and care.

While a family pet offers children a wonderful opportunity to learn about caring and responsibility, regular pet-care duties need to be carefully supervised by an adult. A child should never be solely responsible for a pet. Also keep in mind that your child’s life and interests will change over the next ten to 15 years. The ultimate responsibility for a pet’s care and safety is that of the adults in the household. As soon as you bring a pet into your household, set up and enforce rules regarding proper pet care. For example, tell your children not to pull the animal’s tail, ears, or other body parts, and insist that they never tease, hit, or chase the pet. Teach children how to properly pick up, hold, and pet the animal. These simple lessons are essential to helping kids become responsible caretakers. Ultimately, your children will learn how to treat animals–and people–by watching how you treat your pet.

How much time do I spend at home on an average day?
Puppies and kittens a lot of physical interaction, training, and supervision and do not react well to being alone for a significant amount of time during the day. Most adult pets can easily adjust to your schedule as long as you give them time to learn the new house rules. If all of your household or family members are away from home more than eight hours most days, a dog may not be the appropriate choice for your household.
Will this pet be a companion to another pet?
ACC requires that all adopted dogs meet any resident dogs before adoption to ensure a good match. We can provide behavior tips to help facilitate a smooth introduction for cats. You might want to consider adopting a pair of adult pets that are already accustomed to and attached to each other.
Do I want a pet that will participate with me in outdoor activities?
If you want a dog to take hiking and camping, to play ball or swim in the lake with, or to train to catch flying discs, you should consider a teenage or young adult dog. For major outdoor activities a dog should be a certain size and have natural hardiness. Dogs that are involved in these types of activities must have excellent manners, and you must be willing and able to build a strong relationship with your dog, including ongoing obedience training.
Do I want a “lap-pet” that will be physically affectionate and cuddly?
Most puppies and kittens will accept some physical affection, but they don’t all grow up to be pets that like to be cuddled. This is another good example of a specific personality trait that will be easier to find in an adult animal.
How large is “too large” for my lifestyle?
If you’re renting your home (or is you plan to move to a new rental), check the pet policies in your rental contract or lease – especially regarding size limitations. Puppies and kittens grow up, and believe it or not, thousands of puppies and kittens lose their homes each year because someone didn’t think about what their adult size might be. If you have a specific size in mind for your ideal pet, it’s not a good idea to guess. By the time cats and most dogs are six or seven months old, you can usually tell what size they’ll be when they’re fully grown.

Many large dogs are surrendered to animal shelters because they were cute, little, fluffy puppies one week and big, clumsy, enthusiastic teenagers the next. It takes time to teach any dog basic manners, like not to pull on the leash, not to jump on people and not to play too roughly, and even more time and patience with a puppy.

Does the whole family/household want a pet?
ACC strongly recommends making this decision together. Make sure that your family/household is united in this decision and not simply getting a pet because the children are asking for one. Involve everyone in selecting a pet and don’t try to surprise someone with a pet. It’s a wonderful experience to pick out your special pet or having that special pet pick you together as a family. Your pet will reward you with unconditional love for many years to come.

Special thanks to ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.


Related Links:
Shelter Me (External Link)
Adoptable Animals