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What to Consider When Adopting a Pet in New York

What to Consider When Adopting a Pet in New York

Here's everything you need to know before considering adopting a pet in New York

Adopting a pet is a life-changing decision. It’s also full of teachable moments. Katherine Reeves, Community Kids Coordinator for Animal Care Centers of NYC, notes that “learning together about how to care for a pet is a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids not only about responsibility, but about respect and empathy as well.” If you’re looking to add a fur baby to your family, read on for tips about New York pet adoption.

What Type of Pet Is Right For Your Family?

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? However, you need to think carefully about what kind of animal makes the most sense for your family and situation. Do you travel a lot? Work nights? Plan on having a baby soon? Do you have energy for a fur baby, or would a more mature animal be more appropriate? Do you have a backyard or are you close to green space or dog parks in NYC? Do you live in a building with an elevator? Are you fond of vacuuming, or would you prefer an animal that doesn’t shed? And can you maintain this new routine for the pet’s entire life? Adopting a pet means plenty of snuggles and cute selfies, but it can also affect your lifestyle and upend your routine.   

When it comes to New York pet adoptions, we often default to dog or cat, but you might want to broaden the possibilities to include chinchillas, turtles, or parakeets. Reeves suggests a holistic approach: “Whether they are considering a dog, cat, rabbit, goldfish, or bird, it’s important [that families] understand and discuss what their potential new pet needs in order to be both healthy and happy. Learning about basic needs such as what is nutritional food, what are the space/habitat requirements, and exercise is just as important as understanding that animals also have higher needs such as emotional, social, and intellectual ones.” 

RELATED: Pet Stores in and Around NYC

Know Your Potential Pet’s Personality

The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes more than 40 types of cats, from American Curl to RagaMuffin, while the American Kennel Club describes almost 350 different kinds of dog breeds. Both sites offer searchable lists with photos and key characteristics like average weight and personality.

Still, as Reeves notes, every animal is unique: “Even though animals can’t tell us in our languages how they feel or what they like or dislike, they do use body language to express themselves. As good pet guardians, everyone in the family should learn about that type of animal’s body language and understand how important it is to respect what a pet is telling us, so that everyone in the home can be happy, healthy, and safe.” Undertaking that research before adopting a pet helps ensure a smooth transition for all.

Understand the Law

NYC bans a slew of animals as pets, among them ferrets, black widow spiders, pythons, tigers, hedgehogs, llamas, and elephants—in case you were hoping to go a little more exotic. Honeybees and horses are okay, though.   

Review Your Lease

You’ll want to review the terms of your lease or co-op paperwork before welcoming Fifi or Fido. Even pet-friendly buildings may have landlords and management companies who prohibit dogs on a breed-by-breed basis. For example, New York City Housing Authority prohibits residents from owning Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, and pit bulls. NYCHA also bans dogs weighing more than 25 pounds, and requires that all dogs be registered.

Check Your Finances

The American Kennel Association estimates that a dog will cost approximately $15,000 over the course of its life, from vet appointments to food to super-cute costumes for Halloween. Cats cost around $600 annually, according to the ASPCA. If you plan to travel with your pet, you’ll need to factor in costs like crates and flight fees; if you plan to leave your pet at home, you’ll need to factor in sitter fees. And while you may be working from home right now, when you head back to an office, dog walkers might need to be factored into your monthly pet budget.

And then come the unforeseen expenses. What happens if your pet needs emergency surgery? Or if your pet develops a persistent condition? Although no one likes to contemplate pet illness or death, you should be realistic about potential long-term costs.      

Start to Assign Responsibilities

Before undertaking a New York pet adoption, you’ll want to have a frank discussion with your family about responsibilities: dogs need walking, litter boxes and cages need cleaning, floors need to be mopped, toys need to be washed, food and fresh water need to be put out. While it’s easy to get caught up in the long scroll of cute pet photos, it’s equally vital to talk about what life will be like once the pet arrives. Only you can decide whether your family is really and truly ready for the responsibility of pet ownership.  

Make an Appointment

NYC pet shelters maintain robust websites. Once you’ve found the right friend, you’ll want to complete the paperwork and make an appointment for a virtual interview. Expect questions about your home and family members.   

Consider Fostering a Pet First

Fostering a pet gives you the opportunity to care for an animal on a temporary basis. Some animal rescue centers, such as Badass Animal Rescue, don’t have a physical location, and instead rely completely on foster families to care for dogs before they find their furever homes. Not only does fostering let you see what it might be like to have a pet in your life, but it lets the pet get a whole lot of extra love and attention.

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Jessica Allen


Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City, where she lives.

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