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Owning a pet isn't about flirting at the dog run. That comes later. It's a serious, sometimes decades-long commitment. But if you want to join the ranks of happy pet owners throughout the city, read on.
First buy the food and bowls, the leashes and litter boxes, for whatever you intend to adopt. Talk to vets about vaccinations, spaying, and neutering. Someone to look after Bootsie and Clyde? Do your homework, says Sandra DeFeo, co-executive director of THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF NEW YORK (306 East 59th Street, 212-752-4842, humanesocietyny.org).
"A pet's not something you can put on the shelf when you're too busy," DeFeo says. "You're taking in an animal that's going to give you unconditional love. Well, that's a two-way street. And when you go to an adoption center, get to know the animal, so when you go home, the animal knows you. You really want to make a love match."
To create that connection, requirements vary shelter to shelter. Minimally, most need photo I.D., references, and proof of employment and residence. Donations also differ but should set you back about $75 a dog or a cat, $125 for a kitten or a puppy, according to the AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS(424 East 92nd Street, 212-876-7700, aspca.org).
"I would steer clear of shelters or other facilities that will not accept the pet back if things don't work out at home," cautions Gail S. Buchwald, vice president of the ASPCA Cares Program. "A reputable organization will extend a 'lifelong return policy,' " as does hers.
"At the ASPCA shelter, adoption fees range from $75 to $200 and above, depending on the animals," Buchwald says. "Generally, adult cats and dogs are $75, $125 for kittens, $150 for two kittens together. Puppies are $125 unless they are purebreds, in which case the fee may be higher."
Shelters often have more specific conditions. The BROOKLYN ANIMAL RESOURCE COALITION (253 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-486-7489, barcshelter.org) insists on documentation from renters that prove pets are permitted. Others in the Bronx (PAWS TO LOVE ADOPTIONS INC., 718-294-8058, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Staten Island (ASSOCIATION FOR THE RESCUE & ADOPTION OF STRAY ANIMALS, 917-841-7804) have their own stipulations.
Want to stay in? Visit PETFINDER.COM to choose from 132,881 creatures in the following categories: Bird, Cat, Dog, Horse, Pig, Rabbit, Reptile, or "Small & Furry." The website includes a directory of 6,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across North America.
Sandra Conway has volunteered with such groups, including the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR ANIMAL RESCUE, INC. (89-10 Eliot Avenue, Rego Park, Queens, 718-205-0200). She says the quantity of unclaimed animals far outnumbers that of pet-seeking humans. DeFeo agrees, estimating 40,000 cats and dogs are euthanized annually.
"It's been a terrible year," adds Conway, "but there are a lot of people who do wonderful rescue work. If there's an abandoned bird out there, they'll find a home for it."