Shelters have the animals' best interests at heart. They want to see their pets go to loving, permanent homes where they will be properly cared for. The process of adopting a pet from a shelter can be extensive and take some time. To help ensure that their pets are matched with responsible, appropriate owners, shelters often have a screening process in place.
The screening process benefits both the pet and the potential adopter; it helps to increase the likelihood that you will go home with a pet that's right for your family, and one that fits your lifestyle.
The process varies from shelter to shelter. Here is generally what you can expect.
The questionnaire addresses questions like:
- How much time do you spend at home?
- How active are you?
- Have you had pets in the past, and if so, what happened to them?
- Do you currently have any other pets?
- What size of pet are you looking for?
- How much time do you have to spend on grooming, training, and other such tasks?
- Do you have a fenced yard?
- Are there children in the household, and if so, what age?
- How would you describe the activity level of your household?
The purpose of questions like these is to determine the type of pet that would fit your lifestyle. Shelters want both you and the pet to go home happy. For example, an elderly person that likes to spend quiet time indoors is not likely to be happy with a border collie puppy. Instead, they may suggest an older, calmer dog that has few exercise needs.
Shelter staff will chat with you about the information on your questionnaire. Occasionally you may hear people who are upset with the process, feeling as if they were being too harshly interviewed or judged; although it might feel like you're being singled out, you're not -- the process is there to try to make the best possible match between a pet and a home.
Sometimes this may mean that you won't go home with the pet you had originally picked out. Shelter staff may feel that the pet isn't a good fit with your home or family, but that doesn't mean that they don't think you can provide a good home! It just means that the one specific pet may not be the best match. In this case, there are still many lovely animals waiting for their chance at a home. The shelter staff may even be able to suggest another animal for you.
You should also be prepared to bring several documents with you to the shelter so that the adoption process goes faster and more smoothly.
If you are adopting a dog and already have dogs at home as well, you may be asked to bring your dogs into the shelter for a meet-and-greet with the potential new canine family member. This helps to ensure that the dogs will get along once inside the home (although there may be an adjustment period). Sometimes it doesn't work out; the dogs may demonstrate a dislike for one another in which case the adoption for that particular dog would fall through.
If the other members of your household haven't yet met the shelter dog, they will also be asked to come in and do so.
Some shelters will also go through this process with other species such as rabbits (that is, if you'd like to adopt a rabbit and also have one at home). Cats are generally not to come for a meet-and-greet.
The Adoption Contract
Assuming all of the previous steps have gone well, then it's time to do the paperwork. The adoption contract will outline the expectations of the shelter for the care of your new pet.
Once the paperwork is complete you may be able to take the pet home immediately. However, if the pet isn't yet spayed or neutered, there may be a delay until the pet can have the procedure done.
The process of adopting a pet from a shelter is time-consuming, but it's a worthwhile task. In the end, you adopt a pet that's right for you, and the pet gets a loving, permanent home.