Pet Adoption Process 101

You’re ready to adopt a great pet but aren’t sure where to start. If you’re new to the process, read these tips to learn what to expect.

Every shelter or rescue has its own rules for adoption.

So you’ve decided to add a new member to your family and want to adopt your furry (or perhaps feathery or scaly) addition. Congrats on making an excellent decision!

Adoption is the perfect way to find an amazing best friend, make a positive impact on the pet overpopulation crisis and save a life! But the whole process can be overwhelming. Here are some tips.

Know the Difference: Shelter or Rescue?

Although animal shelter and animal rescue are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different types of animal sanctuary organizations.

Animal shelters, like humane societies or municipal pounds, operate out of a building (shelter) where animals are housed. These shelters may be no-kill or they may practice euthanasia. They may have only adoptable animals or they may keep stray pets, quarantined animals and/or owned animals being seen by staff veterinarians.

  • Shelters are nonprofit organizations that may receive government funding.
  • Shelters are a good option if… you want to walk through to see the different animals who need new homes.

Rescues, on the other hand, often make up a network of foster homes for the animals they care for, instead of having a single physical location. They most often are no-kill and may specialize in a particular breed or species.

  • Rescues are usually nonprofit and may have higher adoption fees and a more thorough application process.
  • Rescues are a good option if… there is a specific breed or type of animal you’re looking to adopt.
By: JennuineCaptures
Get pre-approved first, then fall in love. By: JennuineCaptures

How to Get Pre-Approved

It may seem like overkill to get pre-approved as an adopter before choosing your new pet, but it’s worth the initial hassle to avoid any delays when you meet Mr. Perfect Whiskers.

So how do you get pre-approved?

First, try to narrow down which shelter or rescue you want to adopt from.

Each will have its own approval process, which may include:

Every process is slightly different, so it’s easiest to contact the shelter and rescue individually, and explain that you want to adopt and complete the application process.

If there are any hiccups in the process, work with the organization to figure out a solution. Nothing is as frustrating as meeting the four-pawed love of your life and then missing your chance to take her home because another adopter was pre-approved and also fell in love.

Wow Them With Your Research

Want to wow the adoption counselor? Do research on the pet you’re trying to adopt.

Having knowledge about the health concerns, behaviors and needs of your new companion proves that you’re not making a compulsive decision and that you’re a responsible caregiver.

Doing research can also prevent potential disappointment. Shelters and rescues are committed to matching their pets with compatible people. For example:

  • If you want to adopt a cat and you already have 2 dogs, you will want to find a cat who has already lived with dogs.
  • If you want to take home a 180-pound Saint Bernard who has never lived with children and you have a toddler at home, don’t be disappointed if you aren’t approved.

The video below highlights some steps for integrating your adopted pet into your home:

YouTube player

What to Expect When You Adopt

You will be signing an adoption contract with the animal shelter or rescue, and you might pay a tax-deductible adoption fee.

If you plan to take your pet home the same day, be sure you have basic supplies and that you’ve prepared your home for her arrival. See our dog-proofing tips and cat-proofing tips.

If you have to wait a few days, take time to set up and familiarize yourself with everything you’re going to need. One thing’s for sure — the next few months will be a learning experience and a time for bonding.