As pet parents to two rescue dogs and four rescue cats (all from shelters except Coco, who was a stray), we get a lot of questions about pet adoption. Whether from friends and family members or from readers, we always try to explain to potential adopters just why certain shelters do things the way they do. Some of the most common questions we’re asked include:
Why do I have to fill out a lengthy adoption application?
Shelters and rescues do extensive checks to ensure the safety of adopted animals. They don’t want to adopt dogs that will wind up chained in the back yard, just as they don’t want to see a previously declawed cat turned loose outside with no defenses. Shelters want to make sure that your living situation—whether that’s a home you own or rent—is a good fit for the animal in terms of the dwelling itself, the members of your family, and your other animals.
Why does everyone in the household have to be present for adoption?
The whole family will be living with your new pet, right? Shelters want to make sure that everyone in the home is in agreement on this new arrival. Besides, the joy of selecting a new family member is a special event that you’ll want everyone to attend!
Can my dog meet the dog I’m considering adopting?
In many cases, shelters will encourage—if not require—you to bring your dog to visit a new dog you’re considering adopting. It’s a great idea, allowing the dogs to meet in a neutral territory rather than on your dog’s turf. It’s only fair to your dog to ensure that a new addition to your family meets his approval, too!
Why do I have to pay for the adoption?
Several people have asked us why municipal shelters charge fees of about $100 and sometimes more. Although $100 may seem like a big expenditure when compared with that “free” puppy you saw in an ad or the “free” kitten from your neighbor’s new litter, you are actually receiving several hundred dollars worth of services with the adoption fee. It often includes a veterinary exam, shots appropriate for the pet’s age, FIV/FLV feline testing, deworming, microchipping, and, in most cases, spay and neuter services. Purchased separately, you’d be looking at about $380-$480 in services, depending on where you live and the gender of the animal.
Why are puppies more expensive than older dogs?
It’s generally a matter of supply and demand. Puppies are cute; no one can deny it. That cuteness leads to increased demand which, in turn, can mean diminished demand for older pets, even ones just six months and older.
Do they really know each dog’s breed?
No. Shelters do their best to guess at breeds but, unless a purebred dog is surrendered by an owner (and that happens), the dog is taken from a puppy mill situation, or the dog is DNA tested, it’s a guess. Some dogs will show characteristics of a particular breed; many mixes (our personal favorite) are just about impossible to guess. They’re one-of-a-kind dogs!
Why are these pets in a shelter? Do most have behavior problems?
The reasons that dogs and cats find themselves in shelters are as varied as the animals themselves. Reasons range from lost pets that are never reclaimed to deceased owners that died without a caregiver for their pets. Divorce, new babies, new boyfriends, a change in living situation (including foreclosed homes), and other reasons all come into play as well. Many, many animals in shelters are there through no fault of their own.
Every shelter does things a little bit differently. Don’t feel that you have to adopt on the first visit; feel free to go there and just check out the facility then return with the whole family when you have plenty of time to look around and get to know the animals as individuals. You’re planning for many years together so it pays to take your time with this very special decision.