Adopting From Animal Shelters vs. Animal Control

Learn the differences between the two before you adopt.

Animal control facilities generally don’t screen for health or temperament problems. By: paradisecoastie

Want to adopt a pet? Great — you have a lot of options.

From animal shelters to rescues and animal control, your new best friend might be waiting just down the road.

If you’ve ever spent time looking into all of the options, browsing on sites like Petfinder, you’ve probably noticed that each adoption organization runs a little differently. If you’re interested in visiting the kenneling facilities, you’ll probably want to choose between an animal shelter or animal control facility.

The Differences

Animal control generally refers to a government-run agency that includes an animal sheltering facility (commonly referred to as a “pound”). The facility is operated via municipal funds and employs government workers.

Animal control facilities primarily keep stray pets that are collected by animal control officers and are being held for a predetermined length of time while they wait for their families to claim them. Most facilities have limited space and do not accept pets being signed over by their families.

After their “stray hold” period has ended, pets at the pound will:

  • Become available for adoption if the facility is open to the public
  • Be transferred to a shelter where they will be assessed for adoption
  • Be humanely euthanized

Animal shelters, on the other hand, may be private organizations that are funded through donations. They may or may not take stray animals, depending on each shelter’s policies. They primarily accept pets from families that can no longer care for their animals.

Compared to animal control facilities, animal shelters usually have larger kenneling capacity, which allows them to keep more pets for a longer time while looking for adopters.

When adopting, it’s never a bad idea to ask about the facility’s policy on returning the animal, in case it just doesn’t work out. By: kjarrett

What About the Adoption Fee?

Generally speaking, animal control has lower adoption fees than what shelters ask.

Adoption fees can vary greatly depending on the adoption facility, its level of funding, care provided and expenses. Even 2 shelters located in the same neighborhood can have different adoption fees, so keep this in mind when choosing where you adopt.

Health and Temperament Screening

If you’ve ever adopted a pet from a rescue or shelter, you’ve probably received health records and maybe even a temperament evaluation. It’s routine for animal shelters to give their pets vaccinations, assess their behaviors and spay or neuter them. That’s part of a typical screening and preparation process.

Since animal control facilities generally manage the stray pet population, they aren’t always equipped with the resources to provide their animals with the same health and behavior screenings. If your local animal control facility is open to the public and adopts out its animals, PetRescue reminds adopters, “Be aware that they usually haven’t been screened for health or temperament issues.”

This may not be the case in your town. The first step is to ask. It’s better to be informed before making the decision to adopt.

Just try not tearing up over this video of a very special adoption that happened in Greece:

If the Adoption Doesn’t Work Out

Not every adoption ends happily ever after. Whatever the reason, it’s important, as an adopter, to be prepared if you’re returning your new pet.

No new adopter wants to sound wishy-washy when they’re signing the contract and making a mental list of supplies to pick up at the pet store, but it’s not irresponsible to ask the adoption counselor what the policies are on returned adoptions — especially if you’re adopting from a facility that accepts large numbers of strays and rarely has an open cage for incoming pets, or if you’re adopting from a place that doesn’t accept pets signed over by their families.

If you adopt your new furry friend from animal control, find out what you should do if the adoption isn’t a success. Will they take the pet back, or will you be signing Fluffy over to the local shelter instead?

A failed adoption isn’t something anyone should anticipate, but it’s better to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Wherever you choose to adopt your new pet, keep in mind that you’re making a wonderful decision that will positively affect the homeless pet population in your area. That’s what matters the most.

Allison Gray

View posts by Allison Gray
Allison Gray gained a wealth of knowledge about animal welfare issues and responsible pet care during her nearly 5 years of work for an animal shelter. She is a writer, photographer, artist, runner and tattooed remedial knitter. Allison also has been researching, testing out and perfecting nutritious pet treat recipes in her kitchen for Petful since spring 2017.

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