Blog Post


What Children Can Learn From Adopting A Shelter Pet 

By Jeff Ashin, CEO, Young-Williams Animal Center


Pets are great for kids and pet adoption from a shelter or rescue group teaches children important lessons that will last throughout their lives.  As a pet owner, a child learns discipline and responsibility.  Through pet adoption, a child gains insight into social responsibility, community service, compassionate care of animals and so much more.

A dog or cat is a loving companion for a child and a warm, furry friend to cuddle, hug and hold. With few exceptions, any healthy dog you get will give your child unconditional love, loyalty, great joy and plenty of laughter.  What else can a shelter pet provide that you can’t get from a pet purchased from a pet store?

From the very start, adopting a pet from an animal shelter teaches a child that bringing a new pet into the family is not like buying a new toy at the store.  Visiting the shelter to look for a pet introduces the child to the issue of pet overpopulation.  Saving a life by providing a home for a shelter pet gives the child a powerful lesson in their ability to make a difference by the choices they make.

Adding a pet to the family can help children continue growing into caring and empathetic adults, and pet adoption has many benefits.

Thoughtful decision-making

There are many dogs, cats and small mammals to choose from at the shelter. Shelter pets come in all shapes and sizes and selecting the “the one” deserves careful thought. Rabbit or hamster? Dog or cat?

Puppies and kittens win the prize for cutest every time but require much greater supervision, play time and attention.  If left alone, a bored puppy may be prone to destructive behavior, such as chewing beloved Teddy and destroying furniture.

Saving a life by providing a home for a shelter pet gives the child a powerful lesson in their ability to make a difference by the choices they make.

When the puppy grows up, will it be a good fit for our family? It is more difficult to predict the temperament of a younger pet.  If you are set on having a pet with a particular disposition, it’s probably better to adopt an older pet from the shelter that comes with a behavior profile.

Social Responsibility

Adoption introduces children to an important issue in our society—pet overpopulation. Children are curious about animals and a visit to the shelter prompts lots of questions and interest in pet homelessness.

This is a good time to talk about true love of animals and compassion. Pets need us the way that children need their parents–not just for a month or a year, but for life.

A pet is like a member of the family. Unfortunately some people treat pets more like toys. They get bored or the pet gets old. They stop playing with it and usually end up giving it away.  Many of these unwanted pets end up in shelters.

Compassionate Care of Animals  

Introducing a child to a dog that through no fault of its own has come into this world without a home can help a child develop compassion for the wellbeing of companion animals.

It also gives them an opportunity and the experience of helping to make a difference by adopting their own pet, which provides a valuable lesson for any child.

Adopting a shelter pet who needs a home is a great way to teach your child to be loving and responsible pet owners as well as advocates for a healthy community through compassionate care of animals.  Young-Williams Animal Center encourages families to visit and to adopt, not shop.

YW-Author-BioJeff Ashin is the CEO of Young-Williams Animal Center, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit animal welfare organization and the official shelter for Knoxville and Knox County. The center offers pet adoption at two locations and affordable spay/neuter solutions. For more information visit

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