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By now, you have probably learned about the origins of many animals cooped up in cages at puppy mills and other equivalent overbreeding grounds. These industries perpetuate a horrible and inhumane system whereby specific males and females are forced to breed repeatedly, churning out (and physically carrying) litter after litter.

While the regulations are slowly changing as more awareness circulates, some pet stores still source their animals from these places. Almost equally troubling are disreputable and untrustworthy breeders, who follow similar practices. Before taking the plunge into pet parenthood, be sure to do some thorough research and consider all of your options.

Save them

In general, many animals end up in shelters or on the streets, discarded when their families realize they cannot manage the responsibility. Therefore, pointedly breeding new animals while so many are already waiting for homes poses a major conflict. Sadly, shelters end up taking in more and more animals waiting to be adopted—and some have to be euthanized.

Find your companion

When it comes to choosing your companion animal, rescue organizations and shelters are wonderful places to look. There is a common sentiment that rescue animals rescue back their adopters. Animals are known to recognize the difference between a distressing past and a positive current situation (including lonely feelings at a shelter) and are usually so grateful to be rescued.

Be patient

Some rescue animals may be traumatized by abuse or neglect they suffered previously, but this usually just requires some time and patience on your part, and possibly training. Continuing to show them love and affection—even when if they are misbehaving a little—will help them gradually feel more comfortable and confident in your newly shared home.

Be open-minded

Even if you have a particular breed, type or colour in mind, a shelter may just have someone waiting for you who perfectly matches your vision. Then again, when it comes to companion animals (just like people), we may have a laundry list of physical expectations, but you are more likely to fall in love with their personality over their appearance.

Think it through

There are many great organizations to check out if you are interested in adopting an animal. Start by searching local rescues and shelters in your area. And remember: Never choose one as a gift without discussing it with the recipient in advance.

Finally, before adoption, make sure you can financially afford the commitment and responsibility of an animal—including their vet bills, food, and possible medications. Visit a credible veterinarian for further advice, and contact Worldwide Animal Travel for help making safe and caring travel arrangements for your companion animals.