Dog Adoption Photo Goes Viral, Highlights Plight of Shelter Pets

When Ben Henderson adopted his new canine friend, Raffa, at a Melbourne, Australia, animal shelter, he had no idea that he was about to be transformed into an internet sensation. The photo of the good-looking Henderson, posted on Facebook by the Pet Haven shelter, went viral, ala Alex from Target. Soon, tongue-in-cheek offers to adopt him came pouring in, and the publicity had a happy ripple effect for the shelter's other animals. In addition to Raffa the dog, 30 other pets went home with new families in the days following the photo frenzy. Meanwhile, Henderson's fiance, Alisha Howell, has made it quite clear that he's not available.

Shelter pets need all the publicity they can get, as the ASPCA reports that 2.7 million animals are euthanized every year due to the lack of homes. Many people in petless homes don't realize that saving a cat or dog can give them plenty of benefits. In fact, many studies show that owning an animal relieves stress and has physical benefits. For example, your blood pressure and pulse rate both drop when you pet a furry friend, and research participants experienced a decrease in blood pressure just from being around a dog.

Dogs and cats are also beneficial to people suffering from certain disorders. There is growing evidence that pets may improve autistic children's social skills by facilitating interaction with others, and autism service dogs are becoming more common. Even children without any issues can benefit from developing emotional bonds to pets.

If you adopt a pet, you may not become as famous as Ben Henderson and Raffa, but you'll do yourself a favor and make a difference for a dog or cat. You can use www.petfinder.com to find loving animals waiting for new homes in your area. The site allows you to narrow your criteria by breed, age, and other characteristics to help you make the perfect match.