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If adopting a dog has been weighing on your mind, October is a great time to follow through. Why? It’s Adopt-a-Dog Month, a month-long endeavor by the American Humane to encourage individuals to adopt a dog from a local shelter or rescue group. Being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this makes it an especially good time to adopt a pet.

“There are so many animals, young and old, who need forever loving homes during this global crisis,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “Join us in our push to get as many beautiful, loving ‘pandemic pets’ adopted as possible. You will not only save a life, you will improve your own.”

American Humane offers five ways in which people can celebrate Adopt-a-Dog Month:

1. Adopt from a shelter or rescue group

“When you’re ready to open your heart and home to a new best friend, adopt from your local animal shelter or rescue group,” officials said. “Talk with shelter staff to find the perfect dog for you and your lifestyle, and remember that older dogs make excellent pets, too.”

2. Spay or neuter your dog

“Have your dog spayed or neutered, thus preventing the possibility of unexpected, and potentially unwanted, puppies,” officials said. “Spayed and neutered animals have been shown to lead longer, healthier lives and have fewer of certain behavioral problems than animals who have not been spayed or neutered.”

3. ID your pet

“By putting identification on your dog, either in the form of a tag, a microchip or both, you will reduce the possibility that your pet will become one of the presumably ‘homeless’ dogs that end up at your local shelter,” officials added. “Only 15 percent to 20 percent of dogs who enter a shelter are reunited with their owners. Make sure your dog is one of the fortunate few by outfitting him with proper identification.”

4. Support your local shelter

“Show the pets at your local shelter or rescue group that you care by donating time, money or supplies like pet food, leashes, beds and toys,” officials said. “Call the shelter to see what supplies or services are needed most. Even the smallest effort can make a difference.”

5. Consider adopting an older dog

“There is a great need to provide safe, loving homes for the thousands of older pets who often face the highest risk in animal shelters,” officials said. “Each year, an estimated 670,000 dogs are euthanized in the nation’s shelters. Many potential pet adopters overlook older animals—but there are so many reasons why dogs over the age of six or seven make ideal furry family members and friends: They tend to be less rambunctious than younger dogs; they’re often already house-trained; they’re a great fit for people with busy lifestyles; they’re so grateful for a second chance and will give you lots of love and thanks.”

American Humane is celebrating Adopt-a-Dog Month by partnering with Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” campaign to help animals find their forever homes.

“If you’re already a dog lover, or just need an extra push to bring home a pup waiting for your love, be sure to tune in to the 2020 American Humane Hero Dog Awards on Hallmark Channel Oct. 19,” officials said in a statement. “The heartwarming stories of amazing dogs, including rescued shelter dogs like this year’s shelter dog winner MacKenzie, who improve and even save our lives will make you realize that every dog is a hero and every hero needs a home. Make this the month you bring your own hero home. Watch the Hero Dog Awards, and spread the word with the hashtag #adoptioneverafter.”

For tips on preparing your home for a new four-legged companion and other information, click here.