Inside the Adoption Process: What You Need to Know Before Adopting a Dog or Cat
Find out some important things you should know before taking home a furry friend!
You’ve decided you’re ready for a pet and you want to adopt, not shop. Good for you. There are some things you need to be aware of regarding the adoption process. No matter what shelter or rescue you go to, you will most likely be asked to fill out an application, pay a fee and may even be required to submit to a home visit.
Don’t let the process intimidate you. Many of these “recycled” animals have had a rough go of it, being shuffled from their home into foster care or rescue and the rescues just want to make sure you’re a good fit for the pet and the pet for your family.
When that match is perfect, adopters will tell you there’s no other experience like saving the life of an animal that will become your best friend and a part of your family.
Here are the things that will help you prepare for your adoption experience:
1. Consider what type of pet you are ready to adopt
This is an important first step in the adoption process and will help show the rescue you have put a lot of thought and some research into the process. Whether you’re seeking a purebred dog (approximately 40 percent of all dogs in rescues and shelters are purebreds), a cat, bunny or parrot, you can typically find them in a rescue. You may have grown up with a chocolate lab and want just that type of dog now, but labs are notorious for their energy levels. Are you in the position to provide enough opportunities for exercise? Each breed or breed mix has its’ own set of positives, which have to be weighed with what is right for you and/or your family. Are there certain breeds your homeowner’s policy will exclude, or breeds not allowed in your county or city? Does your landlord allow pets, but only certain types and weight limits? Do you travel frequently? This all needs to be explored before you choose to adopt. If you don’t know if you want a dog or cat or bunny, spend a little time volunteering in shelters, getting to know specific animals and making a mental note about how that cat or dog would fit into your lifestyle. Remember, pets are not disposable. You’re making a 10-20 year commitment.
2. The application process
Kim Clune, communications director for Dog House Adoptions in East Poestenkill, NY says many of their adopters find animals online and fill out the application online, but they eventually like the families to come and meet the pet in person, just to make sure it is a good fit.
“We like for them to come and walk them, play in the yard and sit with them,” says Clune.
Other organizations, especially if they’re national organizations, such as Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah, don’t require an in person meeting if the adopters are out of state.
Filling Out an Adoption Application
Remember, the application process is the starting point for most rescues to help assess what pet might be a good fit for you. After you fill out the application, most rescues will assign an adoption specialist to talk to you on the phone or in person.
Here are some typical items you will probably be asked to supply on the application:
1. Full name and address: Rescues sometimes will run a criminal background check just to ensure they are not adopting to anyone who has committed a violent offense against animals.
2. How many people are in the household and ages: This is to meant to open a discussion about each person’s role with the pet and also determine what pet is good for your family. A dog that hasn’t had a lot of exposure to toddlers, for example, may not be a good fit if you have a baby or are planning a family soon. If the applicant is wanting to adopt a pet as a gift, that is a no-go, says Clune. “We want to make sure everyone’s on board and ready to accept the pet into the family,” she says.
3. Living arrangements/whether you rent or are buying your home: This will open the discussion about your landlord’s pet policies (You should also be prepared to give your landlord’s name and contact info for verification) and possibly a discussion about Breed Specific Bans in your area or breeds your insurance company excludes.
4. Where your pet will sleep: Most rescues do ask that if you’re adopting a dog, that it be allowed in the house with your family at night. “We do ask that dogs be indoors at night for their own protection,” says Kristi Littrell, adoptions manager at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. “During the days they can be outdoors as long as they have shelter and water and are taken care of.” This also prevents your dog from barking and waking your neighbors while outside at night. Littrell says they also ask that their cats be adopted as indoor cats. She says that catteries, which allows the cats a safe enclosure on the outside or special installations on fences that keep cats in your backyard is also ok.
5. Do you have a fenced backyard: If you don’t have a fenced backyard, this is not a deal breaker for you to adopt a dog. Clune says they only ask this question again, to make the best possible match for you and your family. For example, she says, some Huskies have a tendency to be escape artists and are not good candidates to be left in a fenced backyard without supervision as they will jump the fence and run.
6. What other animals do you have and are they spayed and neutered: Most rescues and shelters have the mission to essentially put themselves out of a job by having no more unwanted pets. To achieve this mission, many believe firmly in spay and neutering. They want to make sure you’re committed to the mission as well and it shows you are a responsible pet owner. Most rescues and shelters don’t adopt an animal out unless it is spayed and neutered, but if it is too young or there is some other reason, they may require you to have the surgery done within a certain amount of time (at their expense). “If there’s a health reason you have an unaltered pet, it isn’t deal breaker,” says Clune.
7. How will your pet be cared for while you’re at work: Cats can be at home alone for much longer than a dog. If you regularly work 12-15 hour days, who will feed and walk your dog while you’re gone?
8. Have you thought about what happens when you move or your life changes? Two of the main reasons animals are relinquished to shelters is that a family decided to have a baby and they cannot spare the time or they’ve moved to a place that doesn’t allow pets. The rescue will ask you to think about these things and prepare long term for the care of your new family member.
After the Application…
Once you have filled out the application, you will be contacted by an adoption specialist to go over your paperwork. Remember, a rescue’s main goal is to adopt an animal to you so that they may make room and save another life.
They do not want to deny anyone, says Clune, they want to work with you for the right fit for your family. The discussion may lead you to rethink what type of animal or breed you’re considering and that could make the difference between a great adoption story or one that doesn’t turn out as you hoped.
Make sure you are honest, both with the rescue and yourself about a good fit for you and your lifestyle.
Once you’ve landed on that perfect pet, you will likely pay an adoption fee (although some rescues offer older animals for free) or they may have specials such as two cats for the price of one or other specials.
Other Adoption Advice
As with anything else, there are good and not so good rescues and shelters. Here are some tips on finding a reputable shelter/rescue:
- Make sure it is non-profit and licensed by the state (if that is a requirement)
- Ask if a veterinarian has seen the pet and if it has been quarantined to make sure it is healthy.
- Find out exactly what you will get in terms of support, veterinarian care, etc. when you adopt from them.
- Find out adoption requirements before you fill out the paperwork or fall in love with a pet from the facility. Although it is rare, some rescues have too arduous of an adoption process, you don’t want to fall in love with a pet and be denied.
- Make sure you can return the pet if there are extenuating circumstances and the pet just does not fit with your family.
If, for any reason, you don’t feel comfortable with the shelter/rescue, find another. A shelter/rescue’s mission should be to make sure the adoption process goes smoothly and that you’re happy and that their animals find a good, safe, loving home.