Dog Adoption Checklist: What You Need to Know

Figure out how to navigate the application and adoption process.
By: Carol Bryant
Dog waiting for adoption at shelter

Opening your heart and home to a new dog—whether a puppy, adult or senior canine—is a big but oh-so-worthwhile commitment. For those of us whose lives simply wouldn’t be the same without a dog, we raise our sparkling water bowls to you.

For those contemplating adoption, the process can be a tricky one and may involve some red tape.

In order to protect the dog and to put his or her best interests first, credible rescue groups and shelters will carefully screen the applicant. The last thing anyone wants is for a homeless dog to be brought back to the rescue or shelter. Here’s what to expect during the adoption process.

Expect an Application Process

In order to provide the best match for the dog in need, some potential dog adoption application questions may include:

  • Do you own or rent your home?

  • Describe your/your family’s lifestyle and why you want to add a new dog to the family.

  • Do you have other pets at present?

  • What is your experience with dogs?

  • Why specifically do you want this dog?

  • What would you do if this dog required medical attention and potentially expensive surgery?

  • Describe your home and yard.

  • Are there children in your home? How many and what are their ages?

The above is just a start. When I rescued my first Cocker Spaniel from a puppy mill, the process was cut and dry. With my current dog, I filled out a lengthy application and felt at ease in doing so. Getting to know one another is a two-way street.

Purebred Dog Rescues

For those pining for a purebred pooch, breed-specific rescue groups vary in terms of adoption policy. For example, some feature foster-to-adopt programs where potential adopters can provide a foster home for a dog and then choose to adopt. Many breed-specific rescue groups will require a home visit to ensure that your environment is ideal for a new dog.

Those choosing to adopt a dog from a breed-specific rescue may face more “competition” for a particular pet and adoption fees may be higher than state-run or city-run facilities. Make sure to call in advance or ask plenty of questions during a visit to find out about the rescue group’s policies and fee structure.

Dog Adoption Home Visit

The purpose of a home visit is to verify your address and make sure the home is a safe and secure environment. Rescue representatives might point out some dog dangers like exposed trash cans or a gap in a fence. The visit is not meant to be judgmental or to spy on potential adopters. Understandably, the rescue group wants both potential adopter and dog to find the best match possible.

Why So Many Dog Adoption Questions?

Many pets end up being returned to a shelter due to a misunderstanding, lack of patience, or a feeling of being overwhelmed. Some people are not ready to invest the time, money, and resources necessary to raise a dog. Sometimes, pets and families are not a good match. In order to prevent these upsetting situations, careful screening is pivotal for success. Though the questions are thorough and plentiful, they are meant to create the best match possible between parent and pet.

Dog Adoption Fees

Most rescue groups and shelters charge a fee to adopt a pet. Fees collected from the adoption are generally used for costs incurred to help get the animal a forever home. Dogs will need veterinary care, spaying/neutering, possible medical treatment depending on their situations, along with food and costs to maintain the shelter or kennel.

Right of Refusal

Refusal of adoption may occur if the group or rescue feels the fit is not right. Most groups will explain why the adoption is not a fit. You can work with the group to see if there is anything that can be done to change the situation; i.e. get a fence for the yard. If not, then perhaps a dog is not right for you at this time.

Spay and Neuter Policies

I’ve yet to work with a rescue or learn of a shelter that allows a dog to go into a new home without being spayed or neutered first. Many rescues will also insist on microchipping a dog before release to their new home. The spay or neuter procedure is usually covered in the adoption fee, but you should check with the shelter or rescue to find out the specifics about its spay and neuter policy.

Adopting Puppies Vs. Older Dogs

Last but not least, the most important question of all is: What type of dog do you want in your life? Are you ready to deal with the trials and tribulations of a new puppy or would you prefer an adult dog? For some, a golden oldie who is settled in his or her ways and needs a loving pet parent may sound right. Ask yourself what is best for your own lifestyle and if you have the means, money, patience, time and commitment available to bring a dog into your life.

Image: InBetweentheBlinks via Shutterstock