Everything you need to know to adopt your own rescue pet

Possible ban on pet-shop puppies

Banning the sale of puppies in pet shops is a policy the Victorian government is exploring in order to halt the industry around puppy mills. Vision courtesy ABC News 24

There are many things you and your family need to consider if you want to adopt your own rescue pet. We spoke to Dr Katrina Warren, who has firsthand experience with her own rescue dog Riley, about exactly what's involved in the process.

First and foremost, Dr Warren highlights that adopting a pet is a long-term commitment and not a decision to be taken lightly. "All pets need to be treated with love and respect and there are lots of responsibilities that come with it," she says.

Potential adopters need to be mindful of the financial implications, including food, vet bills, medication and grooming costs. In addition, if you have your heart set on a dog, families also need to consider whether they have the time required for exercising and training them. Dr Warren says, "You need to be certain that all family members are on board with the decision."

Reasons to adopt a rescue pet for your family.
Reasons to adopt a rescue pet for your family. Photo: Animal Welfare Shelter

When it comes to adopting a rescue pet, Dr Warren notes that just like us, all cats and dogs have their own personalities. As such, she says, staff at shelters such as the Animal Welfare Shelter (AWL) work closely with rescue animals, and families looking to adopt, to achieve the right fit.

"It's important for both human and pet that the best match is made to ensure healthy and happy cohabitation," she says.

To complete this process, Dr Warren explains that potential adopters are taken through an adoption questionnaire, which gathers information about their lifestyle. From the responses, staff will then discuss which pets are best suited. And from there, she says, you'll have the chance to meet potential adoptees.

Lifestyle factors, Dr Warren reiterates, are key in the decision-making process.

"If you're apartment bound," she says, "you shouldn't be adopting a pet that requires a lot of exercise throughout the day." Families with small children also need to choose a pet that is comfortable and gentle around kids.

"This is why," Dr Warren says, "It's so important that you talk to the staff and be as truthful as possible when it comes to your lifestyle."


She also advises families to take their time getting to know the dog or cat they're thinking of adopting.

"If the first pet you meet is not suitable, that's okay," she says, noting that shelters understand how important it is to get the match right.

Apart from welcoming a gorgeous new family member into your home, what are some of the other benefits and rewards of adopting a rescue pet?

  • "You save a life," says Dr Warren. "All the animals at the AWL shelter are in search of a loving home," she adds, noting that they're the pets that have been lost, given up or abandoned. By adopting from shelters, she says, "you're giving these pets a new lease on life.
  • You are helping to stop cruelty in mass breeding facilities. These outlets, Dr Warren explains, produce animals for sale in pet stores and through newspaper ads. Some of these facilities repeatedly impregnate female dogs that spend their entire lives in cages without human companionship, she says. "Often the females are euthanized after they become unprofitable and are unable to produce any more litters," Dr Warren adds. "By adopting a shelter animal, you are demonstrating that you don't support this practice."
  • Adult pets from shelters are often already housetrained – able to respond to basic commands such as "sit" or "stay."
  • You're assisting a not-for-profit organisation doing valuable work for thousands of abandoned pets all over Australia.
  • Rescue adoptions have low adoptions fees and cost far less than buying a purebred dog or cat.

Dr. Warren has her own rescue pet – the gorgeous Riley. Still grieving the loss of her beloved dog Toby, Dr Warren wasn't yet ready for a new puppy. Instead, she fostered Riley from Golden Retriever Rescue - an organisation she'd been working with. 

"When I first picked up Riley," Dr Warren says, "he was emaciated, flea ridden, and couldn't walk properly because of a horrible infection in his foot. Riley was the worst case of neglect that the Golden Retriever Rescue had ever seen. "

Describing that Riley didn't leave her side for 24 hours after arriving home with her, Dr. Warren adds, "He would sit with his head on my lap, wag his tail slightly and almost whimper with gratitude when I pat him." And, building up his confidence was a long process.

In addition, Dr Warren explained it was essential to ensure Riley was following a nutritious diet and "getting plenty of TLC so he would grow strong and healthy."

Falling head over heels, Dr Warren decided to give Riley a furever home.

"He is an absolute credit to the canine species," she says.

Ready to take the next step? Visit:

Dr Katrina Warren is the PAW by Blackmores ambassador, you can read more of Riley's story, along with other "canine tales" in this eBook.