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About every 11 seconds a healthy dog or cat is put down in the United States, which adds up to 2.7 million animals each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Shelters and rescue groups try to take in and find new homes for as many animals as they can. Sadly, many unwanted animals are still put down. By adopting a pet, you can help solve this problem.

So why adopt a pet rather than buy that cute little face in the pet store window or from a breeder found in the classified ads? There are many reasons.

First, there are already so many homeless, unwanted pets.

Peggy Kelley-Albers, of Open Arms Rescue in Akron, said, “It’s good to get a dog from a shelter because many pet store puppies come from puppy mills or irresponsible breeders.”

Pets land in shelters and rescue groups through no fault of their own. They are dumped, abused, get too expensive, too big, take too much time or just aren’t that cute little puppy any more.

Something else potential pet owners should consider is that animals from most shelters come spayed/neutered, immunized and checked by a veterinarian for any medical issues. Some shelters charge a small adoption fee to help cover these costs.

Dogs have a special place in my heart. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood had to do with my family’s dogs, our “pound puppies” as we fondly refer to them. From the time when I was very young I would “read” books to my dog Kessler and feed him Cheerios. He would sit with me for hours. Kessler came from the Erie County SPCA. My parents took a chance on a senior dog and we were always amazed at his calm, laid-back nature. My dog Abby was with me for most of my life. We got her when I was 3. She was with me from my first day of kindergarten to my first day of high school. We played in the sprinkler, played zoo and house. We were devastated when she suddenly became ill. It was heartbreaking to have to say goodbye to my lifelong pal. It was a long time before we could even begin to look for another dog. Our newest addition to the family is Maddie, who came from Open Arms Rescue. She is always there to brighten even the worst days. People stop me to tell me what a happy dog she is when we take walks. When her tail wags, her whole backside turns in circles. It is hard to believe anyone could give up such a kind-hearted, sweet dog.

If you are looking to add a new member to your family, you’ve recently lost a pet or are trying to fill an empty hole in your life, consider the adoption option.

“For every animal we save, there are just as many that we can’t save,” said Kelley-Albers.

Remember, you can also find more than dogs and cats to adopt. There are rescue organizations the can help you adopt barnyard animals like sheep and pigs, small house pets like gerbils and guinea pigs, and reptiles like snakes, turtles/tortoises and even iguanas. Visit www.petfinder.com or call some of the area shelters.

Can’t adopt a pet? There are many other ways to help.

• Donate to a local animal shelter; monetary donations are always needed, but they take food, toys, crates, collars, leashes, bowls and blankets. These donations can be new or gently used.

• Volunteer to provide a foster home. “The more fosters we have, the more dogs we can take out of shelters and find homes for,” Kelley-Albers said.

• Volunteer to help at one of the many of adoption events in your area. These events can get busy, and the organizers need as much help as they can get.

• Following Open Arms Rescue on Facebook and sharing its posts can help spread information about adoptable pets, lost pets and events, and can help educate others.

To contact Open Arms Rescue, email oarwny@gmail or visit www.oarwny.org.

Emma Retzlaff is a freshman at Alden High School.