Dog Adoption and Cat Adoption
Understanding Pet Adoption Practices, Policies and Adoption Fees
As you’re going through your Facebook feed, a sad but sweet face of a mixed-breed dog looking for a new home catches your eye. You read his rescue story about how he survived being hit by a car and a good Samaritan turned him into the local animal shelter, then a local dog rescue took him under their care to help him find his forever home. You are totally smitten by his story and he seems like such a great dog to add to your current home (husband, 2 kids, 7-year-old golden retriever).
You eagerly email the contact of the local rescue, explaining how you want to adopt him and make him a family member. To your surprise, the dog rescue coordinator explains that you first need to fill out an application for consideration. What? This dog needs a home, so why won’t the dog rescue group adopt him to your family? Don’t they trust that you would make a good home for him?
Does that scenario sound familiar to you? Maybe you have tried to adopt a pet, only to find out the pet went to a different adoptive home. Or maybe, like me, you are actively involved with animal rescue and you have to explain to people on a regular basis about the pet adoption process of the rescue group you are volunteering for. I’m here to help explain why some of these adoption rules, policies and adoption fees are important, and why some rescue groups may seem strict.
First, just a little background on my background for those who are new to Raising Your Pets Naturally with Tonya Wilhelm. I’ve been in the pet profession full time for two decades. My first role was working at an animal shelter caring for the dogs and cats that came into the shelter. After my stint at the animal shelter, I worked with an organization training rescued dogs to become service dogs. After five years, I transitioned to teaching pet parents how to train their dogs for both basic manners and behavioral issues. I also found myself taking a part-time role at an animal shelter for a year in the intake and euthanasia department. Some years ago, I was the Ohio coordinator for Cavalier Rescue USA for a few years. I ran the intake of Cavaliers coming into the program for Ohio, foster families and the Ohio adoptions. So, I’ve been in the thick of things for many years, and have played many roles in various aspects of pet adoption.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common rules and guidelines for adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or pet rescue.
- Application: Most, if not all, pet rescue groups require a potential adopter to fill out an adoption application. This can be as simple as contact information, to more in-depth, asking about your home, yard, other pets, activities, and work schedule. For some, this may feel like an invasion of privacy, but for me as an adoption matchmaker, it is THE key to helping make the best match possible. Maybe your home life is active and busy and you are looking for a dog or cat that would be a good fit and accompany you on your various vacations and outings. The dog you are looking at is quiet, reserved, or maybe even fearful. You feel you can “make it work” and you may be able to, but in my heart and head, this is not the perfect match. It certainly isn’t that you would make a bad dog parent, but this particular dog may not be the one for your family. When matching pets and families, I personally shoot for both the pet and adoptive family to think they have a match made in heaven. I think all parties involved deserve that feeling.
- Fence: Now, this is actually one that I do not always agree with. I personally don’t feel a blanket rule that potential adopters “must have a fenced yard” is appropriate for all dogs. I do feel there are some dogs that must have a fence, but this should be case by case. Here is my thought process on why I don’t feel a fence requirement should be mandatory for all dog adoptions, as long as the adopters are committed to walking the dog and not letting him run at large. I don’t have a fence. I’ve only had a fence for one year out of my dog-owning life. My dogs get at least one walk in the neighborhood every day. This is a minimum, and in addition to all their outside leash sniffing and potty breaks throughout the day. This means that I am with my dog outside and paying attention to them. They are not running in the yard alone, possibly eating something they shouldn’t, barking, or even escaping. My dogs have always had more than enough exercise on our walks, indoor ball fetching, and outdoor 50′ leash running. I have never owned a fat dog or a dog who gets so fired up seeing a leash that they race around the house like a nut. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think physical fences are a wonderful thing, and I look forward to the day I can fence my yard. But, when that day comes, I will still accompany my dog outside 100% of the time—he will never be unsupervised outside. A fence in itself is not ensuring a dog receives exercise; the dog guardian is the one to ensure the dog receives quality exercise. There may be a particular dog that needs a fence for a particular reason, but again, I feel that is a case by case situation.
- Apartment Living: Here is another blanket rule for some rescue groups. Some pet rescue groups will not adopt a dog or cat to a person if they live in an apartment. I understand their theory, that these people may be in flux and may decide to move to an apartment that does not allow pets, but once again, I feel this should not be a rule, but a consideration. Yes, I lived the majority of my golden retriever’s life in an apartment. As a matter of fact, we moved from Ohio to North Carolina and back to Ohio, and lived in four apartments during that time. Do you think it ever occurred to me to move to an apartment that didn’t allow large dogs? Never. That was not an option or even a consideration. I move with my family.
- Landlord Approval: Along the lines of adopting to someone who lives in an apartment or rental home, comes the landlord approval. I am 100% in agreement with this. If you do not have permission to have a pet, or a particular pet, then you should not be adopting. If you truly want to adopt, then the first step would be to find a home where this is acceptable. Then, work on finding the perfect pet to bring into your family.
- In-Home Visit: Some rescue groups require an in-home visit. The purpose of this visit is not to discriminate against a person or their way of life, but to help make the best matches and to point out any concerns. If I am looking to adopt an adolescent dog who still has a lot of puppy habits like chewing and getting into mischief, a home that is cluttered or full of expensive antiques may be challenging for both the puppy and the owners. On the other hand, an older dog that is not looking for trouble may be a better fit. It may be an opportunity for educating the potential owners on how to properly puppy-proof the home for a successful transition.
- Veterinary Reference: The veterinary care you provided to your past pets is an indicator of the care you can and will provide for future pets. This is not to be confused with yearly vaccinations, but at least a yearly examination with your veterinarian shows that your current or past pets were under the regular care of a professional. Your pet’s vet records will also show if your veterinarian recommended any treatments and if you followed up on those recommendations. A pet’s health care is essential to their longevity.
- Adoption Fees: I’m surprised people think they should be able to adopt a pet for a little fee or no fee at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if running a good animal shelter or pet rescue was free? Or if all the pets in rescue were vetted for free? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Sure, rescue groups and shelters receive donations and tax breaks, but this usually does not come even close to meeting their expenses. I know when I was the coordinator for the Ohio chapter of Cavalier Rescue USA, it was not uncommon for a dog to incur $600 or more of veterinary care. The dogs that came into our program were usually in poor health; extreme dental or skin conditions were common, and dogs often needed to see a heart specialist (MVD is common in the breed).
The bottom line is that most pet adoption centers only want to make the best matches for both the pet AND the new family. Sure, there are some groups or people that take advantage of the guidelines or seem holier than others, but this is not the norm, nor is this the intention of the adoption guidelines. Everyone involved keeps in mind the best interests of both the pets and the potential adopters. The goal is to find the perfect home and make the best match possible. Please remember that rescue groups and shelters see the worst of the worst, and only want to make good choices. The lives of these pets are in their hands and they are doing the best that they can with the tools they are given. If you’ve had a bad experience with a pet rescue group or animal shelter, please give them or another one a second chance. Don’t we all deserve second chances?
Have you adopted a pet? Tell me in the comments.
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