Healthy Pets, Happy Owners

December 18, 2013

For more information, contact: Michele Walsh, State Veterinarian at (207) 287-7615

Helpful tips from the State Veterinarian

AUGUSTA - The holiday season is a popular time for Maine families to consider the addition of a new pet to the brood. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Animal and Plant Health urges Mainers to take the time and care worthy of this significant and potentially joyful step when considering obtaining a new dog or cat.

“Healthy pets make happy owners. We want all Mainers to have a positive experience adopting a new family member,” noted Maine State Veterinarian, Dr. Michele Walsh. “Obtaining a pet is a significant emotional and economic commitment. Taking a few additional steps up front will help ensure that a new pet is healthy and well-adjusted, and can prevent disappointment down the road.”

By doing some important but basic research ahead of time, Mainers can help ensure the animal they are adopting is healthy and the animal organization with which they are working is compliant with Maine laws designed to protect consumers. Paying close attention to these details can increase the likelihood that new pets will bring many years of enjoyment to Maine families.

Cautionary Tale:

At the end of September, a stray puppy brokered by an out-of-state rescue organization was adopted by a Vermont family. Shortly after the adoption, the puppy began exhibiting signs consistent with rabies and was ultimately euthanized and tested for the disease. The pup tested positive for rabies, and more than 15 people exposed to her received rabies post-exposure treatment. This situation, while unusual, underscores the importance of exercising due diligence and dealing with reputable sources when obtaining a new pet.

Fortunately, many groups – including local humane societies, shelters, rescue organizations and breeders - do wonderful work with animals and provide excellent opportunities to meet and learn about potential new pets prior to taking them home. Interacting with animals on-site prior to adoption gives families a chance to learn about any special behavioral or health requirements the animal might have, and obtain a copy of the animal’s vaccination and health records. Reputable groups work closely with licensed veterinarians who assess the health of the animals in the facility, treat any medical issues, and may spay or neuter new arrivals before they are made available for adoption.

Dr. Walsh recommends the following tips when adopting a new pet:

  1. Work with a reputable local humane society whenever possible
  2. Meet with the pet prior to adopting to ensure that its behavior and demeanor are a good match for your family
  3. Obtain a copy of the animal’s medical record, vaccination history, and Certificate of Veterinary Inspection
  4. Ensure that the dog or cat is vaccinated for rabies if it is three months of age or older
  5. If working with a rescue organization, ensure that it is properly registered and licensed in the state of Maine and in the state where the business is based, and/or with USDA Animal Care.

Mainers can contact the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Animal Health office at (207)287-3701 for more information on which animal rescue and breeding organizations are appropriately registered or visit the Animal Health section of the DACF website for more information on this topic.

For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to: