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Popular Shelter Animals

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2010

If you're thinking about adopting a pet from a shelter, there are some breeds, ages, and pairings that are more common than others. It can be very helpful to know what to expect to determine what works best for you and your family, says animal expert and Daily Wag contributor Dr. Pia Salk.

Pets in Pairs
Shelters and rescue groups are seeing a large increase in the amount of family pets that have grown up together being relinquished due to financial hardship. These animal pairs can be two dogs, two cats, or a mixture of dogs and cats together.

Dr. Salk highly recommends adopting a bonded pair of animals -- this way, each pet is less inclined to feel lonely; you're effectively allowing them to keep a companion that would be highly traumatic for them to lose. Plus, studies have shown that animals that are bonded to one another live longer and healthier lives.

Though you may think having two pets is double the work, in many cases that is simply not the case. A built-in playmate can prevent boredom and separation anxiety, leading to a decrease in destructive behaviors such as chewing. Adopting a bonding pair can also provide a natural way for families to discuss sibling relationships, or to address an only child's concern about a new sibling.

Greyhounds
Due to changes in the economy and a growing public understanding of the ills of racing, many dog tracks are shutting down; subsequently, many beautiful greyhounds are now available for adoption at a young age.

While some adopters may avoid greyhounds for fear of the exercise these animals require, the dogs actually love to curl up and nap for most of the day, and are often referred to as the "45-mile-an-hour couch potato." Devoted family pets, these elegant dogs are a good choice for apartment living because they are used to crates and smaller spaces. They do not bark much, are unlikely to trigger allergies, are gentle with children, and respond best to a calm, even-tempered owner.

Pit Bulls
Although the media has often represented the pit bull as a violent animal, they are actually extremely affectionate and devoted family pets. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that this somewhat controversial breed was affectionately referred to as "America's Nanny Dog" in the 1940s and '50s, when their stability, natural affinity for humans, and good nature had many families using them to watch over infants and young children.

Adopting a pit bull can be a wonderful way to teach children about the pitfalls of prejudice -- due to race, gender, or in this case, breed -- and it can provide an organic opportunity to convey the importance of social responsibility to a teenager.

Bunnies
Bunnies often appear in shelters because they tend to be impulse buys, and if not spayed or neutered, they can multiply very quickly. A great pet for children, bunnies are smart, cuddly, and low-maintenance, as they do not need to be walked.

With wonderfully distinct personalities, bunnies do best when kept in pairs. They live an average of eight to 12 years, are unlikely to trigger allergies, and eat a simple, herbivore diet.

Full-Grown Dogs
Adult dogs are plentiful in shelters because, quite simply, they are no longer puppies. However, adopting a dog that has passed the puppy phase can be quite the perk: They are "known quantities," meaning, you know what you will be getting when it comes to size and temperament. Full-grown dogs are also often already trained, or easily trainable, as they have outgrown the chewing, potty-laden puppy stage.

Resources
For more information on Dimples the dog, Oreo the pit bull, Caboose the hound mix, or June the greyhound, plus more pets in need of good homes, visit MarthaStewart.com/pet-adoption.