A pet can bring joy into your home but it can also bring hardship if you are not acutely aware of the issues of owning a pet in Vietnam. While it’s financially cheaper to own a cat or dog in Vietnam compared to the West, the real problems for both new and experienced pet owners are the unique and somewhat dangerous daily situations that can occur: the threat of dog/cat-napping, munching on grass sprayed with rat poison in public areas without notices, extreme heat and humidity creating constant parasite problems, projectiles thrown at your dog for ‘kicks’ and other abuse from neighbors that just seem to hate dogs and cats, the lack of quality pet care products and veterinary services, and the list goes on.

There are a few issues to consider before bringing a pet home. Evaluate the security of both inside and outside your residence, including the neighborhood. Is your house adequately ventilated from the extremes of heat and humidity if you’re getting a long-haired pet? Who will be home with them during the day if you work? Separation anxiety is a big problem. Do you have a housekeeper/ babysitter that is dog-friendly? If you are considering a small dog, do you have children? Small dogs and children can be lethal unsupervised.

After giving the idea considerable thought with your family or spouse, there are a few options available. you can buy from a local, reputable breeder, adopt a rescue from a shelter or consider fostering a dog or cat.

Buy
People usually buy because they want a specific breed. For a dog, it is best to buy locally from members of the Vietnam Kennel Association. They breed their dogs in Vietnam and can provide documentation of the purity and health of the animal. Caution: Do not buy dogs from street vendors, no matter how cute. Avoid the pet shop area around Le Hong Phong in District 10. From street sellers to these shops, the pets they sell are sick and may die soon. However, there are good home breeders that can be found through friends or family, so look around and do your research. And never buy a dog without a proper ‘health passport’ that records vital vaccinations complete with times, dates, labels (notable brands from Merial, Vibrac and Bayer) and the signatures of the veterinarians.

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Adopt
Adopting a rescue is one of the most unselfish acts in becoming a pet owner. Especially in Vietnam where dogs and cats experience all types of cruelty and are abandoned regularly. Caution: If you’re a first time pet owner, a rescued animal may have behavioral and medical problems. They need a stable period of adjustment in their new home with constant supervision and some might require special care.

You will be briefed on the vaccinations and medicines received. There are fees to pay, including the cost of medicine, vaccinations and food. Before making a commitment, visit the rescue a few times, make introductions and observe their behavior. In Saigon, there several adoption organizations: ARC Vietnam, YDV, ALC Group (alc.leader@gmail.com) and Vietnam Animal Cruelty. They all also offer fostering options.

Foster
There are assumptions made that bringing in a foster cat or dog into your home is like renting a pet. This isn’t true. A foster pet is a rescued dog/cat that cannot stay in an animal shelter due to lack of space or they require special needs. It is a short- term homing arrangement where the goal is to re-home the pet into a permanent forever-home. If you do take a foster home and have other pets, slowly introduce the foster and arrange their own room or space for somewhere to hide or stay if they feel intimated. The best part of fostering is that sometimes foster parents become smitten with their new four-legged friend and make them part of the family, and that is a very happy ending for both the foster and the owner. If you are interested in caring for a foster animal contact any of the animal shelters previously mentioned.