You have decided to bring a new furry companion into your home. But, you did not select just any furry friend but one that has been abused—emotionally, physically, or both. You want to give this animal a loving home environment. This is an admirable decision. Many animals are just laying around the shelters, hoping more people like you come along to save them. However, you need more than lots of love; you also need to understand and be fully prepared for the commitment you are about to make.

How Often Does Animal Abuse Occur?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that animal abuse happens every 10 seconds in the United States. Keep in mind that not all cases of animal cruelty are reported. People are more likely to report abuse of dogs, cats, and horses than other types of animals.

What are some recommendations for you to consider when adopting an abused animal?

First, make sure you want to take this step. Talk it over with any family or friends who will be a part of the pet’s life. You all have to be onboard to accept the challenges and provide a smooth transition for your new loved one. Additionally, once you meet your pet in the shelter and decide to take your new friend home, you should keep to that decision. Changing your mind during the car ride home or a week later only adds more trauma to the suffering animal’s life.

Help your pet get adjusted to your home, both the physical space and the people who inhabit it. Given the abusive background, your pet may have trouble interacting with other animals and people for a while. Your pet could have anxiety and other emotional troubles that prevent comfortable social interactions. Provide a hiding space for the animal, perhaps a cardboard box and a blanket; your pet can spend time in this space, as needed. The natural reaction is to celebrate your new pet upon arrival with boisterous displays of affection and welcoming. For an abused animal this is usually too much, too soon. Make sure your pet has time alone to explore the new surroundings. Allow your pet to interact with other animals and people quietly, slowly, and individually.

Training your pet requires patience and positive rewards, such as treats. You can never have too many treats! Negative approaches, even when the punishment seems to fit the crime, can only further traumatize your pet. Plus, studies show that positive reinforcement of an animal, with a history of abuse or not, provides much stronger results than harsh punishments. If hiring a professional trainer with experience in abused animals is financially viable, consider doing so. A group training program might be a challenge unless you feel your pet’s interactions with other animals have improved. You can always obtain a second opinion from your veterinarian.

Work as a team with your veterinarian and your pet to make sure your animal’s emotional and physical ailments receive the most effective treatment. Maybe your pet has an old wound that is still healing, or perhaps your pet’s emotional trauma warrants medication. Staying on top of check-ups keeps your pet on the right track to recovery. If you observe any behavior that strays from what you have come to expect from your pet, please tell the veterinarian right away.

Model loving behaviors, so your pet can be in the presence of stability. This includes showing kindness to your family members and other animals in the house. Make sure your home environment is as peaceful and structured as possible. Over time, your pet can learn to adapt to the loving situation you provide and, finally, thrive rather than merely survive.