“Petfinder” Helps Viewers Put A Little Love In Their Lives

Pets give unconditional loyalty, companionship and love in exchange for food and beds (often those of their owners). They teach children responsibility and encourage adults to get exercise (just try saying “no” to a retriever once it hears the word “walk”). Their presence can help alleviate depression and, researchers have found, even the simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure.

The trick to getting all these benefits is finding the right pet. This is sometimes instinctive, but even viewers with a houseful of pets will want to tune in to the new Animal Planet series Petfinder, premiering Feb. 9, for some interesting tips on breed, temperament, the habits of more exotic pets, and the joys of adopting a rescued animal.

Petfinder‘s hosts, Dina Zaphiris and Jarod Miller, have impeccable pedigrees that make them ideal for the series. Dog trainer to the stars Zaphiris is an admitted “dog person” with a pack of five pooches at her home, including a certified search-and-rescue dog. She and the dog are on-call volunteers with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. Miller’s home menagerie is something of a wild kingdom with lemurs, monkeys, crocodiles and aardwolves. “These are not pets,” he quickly reminds me during our interview, noting that as a zoologist, he rescues wild animals. “There is no situation where wild animals make good pets.”

The animals featured on Petfinder are also rescued animals, mostly dogs and cats (since they comprise the largest percentage of the thousands of animals in shelters) though more exotic pets such as macaws, snakes and potbellied pigs occasionally appear. The show uses “Teacher’s Pets” — animals that already have been placed in homes — to give families a day to experience how they interact with different animals before they commit to an adoption. This is particularly important in situations where families are considering pets they have never owned before or when family members can’t agree on the type of animal to adopt.

The families find their perfect pet, but what will viewers find from watching the series? “That the type of pet matters,” Zaphiris says. “Whether a dog or a cat or even a reptile, you need to know what’s right for you.”

“This show not only educates them on the process of [choosing the right pet] but really targets the importance of rescuing animals rather than just going out and buying them,” Miller adds.

“The goal of the show is to help people understand how many pets need homes, how many pets are out there in shelters who have never seen a bed and are on cement floors and who will die in the shelter,” Zaphiris says. “I think it’s going to be really good for animals and for people. It’s kind of what my mission in life is about.”

Choosing The Right Pet

Zaphiris and Miller both seem to be “dog persons” when it comes to suggesting pets, but did offer some other interesting pet ideas:

  • For small children: “Families with kids under the age of 7 really should think twice before getting a dog,” Zaphiris says. But if you are going to get a family dog, she suggests the giant breeds, such as Great Danes and Newfoundlands, because they will not see a small child as a threat the way a small dog might.
  • For a kid’s first pet: For a kid under age 10 who will be responsible for pet care, consider a rabbit, a reptile, a rat, a hamster or a guinea pig. “These don’t need a lot of care, but can teach responsibility,” Zaphiris says.
  • For people with little time to devote to a pet: Miller recommends cats, but also notes that for those who work long hours “something like a tarantula or a lizard, that doesn’t require so much interaction” is also a good choice.
  • For older people: Zaphiris recommends cats, but also says, “What I love is older people rescuing an older dog. … There are some 8-, 9- or 10-year-old greyhounds that pretty much like to lie down all day and just curl up at your feet. It’s nice to give them those last few years in a real home.”

For more information on rescued pets, as well as tips on pet training and pet care, visit petfinder.com