Pros & Cons of Adopting a Shelter Pet in Washington, DC

There are plenty of pet parents in the DC Metro area, with some looking to expand their current packs at home and some who are new to the joys of adopting a pet and bringing home their new forever companion. Regardless of which category you fall into, there are quite a few things to consider when bringing home a new friend from the shelter compared to simply adopting from a breeder—some good and some that can make things a bit more difficult at times. Here’s what you need to know.

Pros & Cons of Adopting a Shelter Cat in Washington, DC

The Pros of Adopting a Shelter Pet

When it comes to adopting a pet from a shelter rather than seeking out a cat or dog from a breeder, there are quite a few pros on the list that should help you decide when it comes time to adopt a new companion for your home.

One of the best positives of adopting from a shelter is that you’ll save a life when you do so. Millions of animals in shelters are euthanized each year due to being unable to find forever homes and the shelters being unable to maintain feeding any housing so many animals for the long term. By adopting a shelter pet, you’re making a difference both in the heartbreaking statistics surrounding shelter euthanasia and in that individual pet’s life.

By providing a shelter pet with a loving home, you’re making such a massive difference in an animal’s life when they otherwise would be waiting for weeks, months, or longer to have a place they can call home and a person or family to love them. Some of these cats and dogs (and even other species!) are simply strays that have been taken in, neutered or spayed, and given the care they needed to be healthy and ready to find a home. However, some of these animals have had rough pasts and have experienced horrible conditions, and providing a loving home for these heartbroken animals that have known nothing but neglect or abuse is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Another huge positive of adopting an animal from a shelter is how loving and loyal these potential companions can be. After waiting so long for their forever homes, many of these cats and dogs go above and beyond to show their pet parents how much they love and appreciate being given a place to call home and being surrounded by people who love them. Adopting a pet in need nearly guarantees you’ll be making a best friend who is loyal for life.

Pros & Cons of Adopting a Shelter Dog in Washington, DC

The Cons of Adopting a Shelter Pet

Despite the positives of adopting a shelter pet, bringing home a new forever companion is a big commitment, and bringing home a shelter pet adds another layer of complications in some cases. Some of the things you may be dealing with when adopting from a shelter include:

  • The animal has an unknown history.
  • They may have behavioral issues.
  • They may have serious medical problems.

Many pets found in rescues are those found as strays, those who were surrendered at the shelter, or those rescued from unsafe situations. In some cases, the shelter may have some information about where the animal came from, who or what it had been exposed to and is familiar with, and other such information. However, in most cases, there is very little background information on the pets brought into these shelters for adoption.

Behavioral issues can be a serious concern, and an animal that’s been residing in a shelter for a while may have some issues noted by the staff observing them and noticing things. Still, due to the unknown backgrounds of these potential pets, there is always a risk of reactivity. Animals that have been neglected may struggle with serious anxiety and abandonment issues and may act out or experience health issues when left alone for too long or even for short periods, depending on how much they can cope or not cope with their past experiences. Additionally, those who have experienced abuse may behave and respond to things in various ways, ranging from skittish and nervous behavior to unexpected aggression, which can be incredibly serious.

When adopting a pet with a history of abuse or neglect—especially one that either hasn’t been observed long enough to detect any concerning behaviors or that has a confirmed rough past—it’s a great idea to enlist the help of a behavioral therapist to help you pinpoint possible triggers and learn how to best manage your shelter pet’s mood and reactions to various situations and stimuli.

Lastly, health issues are also something to keep in mind when adopting a pet from the shelter. Although most of these animals receive a checkup shortly after arrival, not knowing their history means you’ll be pretty much in the dark when it comes to whether they have a family history of certain conditions, especially some genetic ones that may not be able to be tested for. Animals that have experienced abuse or neglect also come with their own sorts of health issues, whether it’s organ or joint conditions related to malnourishment and mistreatment or long-term injuries due to physical abuse. Although providing a loving and supportive home for these animals is wonderful for all involved, it’s still important to remember that some of these pets may come with significant long-term vet bills to keep them as healthy and comfortable as possible. 


While adopting a shelter pet comes with a number of positives on a pros and cons list, it’s still important to make note of the potential risks and other aspects associated with committing to housing and caring for one of these animals for the rest of their life. For those living in Washington, DC, we here at Metro Mutts are available to help make your pet’s transition into their new home as comfortable and as easy as possible when you have other things to attend to, providing AM/PM walks for pups as well as house visits for cats and kittens! Whatever your new housemate may need, feel free to contact us today to see how we can help!



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