How the adoption process works

Adopting a dog is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Here’s everything you need to know about the process.

by Good Dog

Every shelter and rescue organization is different, so you may come across many different processes while searching for your new friend. Remember: their goal is to make sure dogs go into loving homes that will provide the right environment for each pup. That’s why they may require you to fill out an application, provide references or participate in an in-home visit. Here’s an overview of the most common steps in the process:

Filling out an adoption application

Shelters and rescues normally ask you to start by filling out an adoption questionnaire. You’ll be asked to provide information like your name, living situation, age, and address. This allows the staff to check their records and do some initial screening.

These can be commonly found online but are often handed out at adoption events or at the shelter’s main location.

Interview and in-person visit

After your application has been reviewed, you will usually be called by a shelter or rescue staff member to determine whether you’d be a fit for one of their animals. The interview may also be combined with an in-person visit to the shelter or foster home, which gives you a chance to meet and get to know the dog(s). Don’t feel nervous about being perfect — shelters are thrilled to have your interest in their animals. They may, however, end up deciding that they don’t have the right dog for you at that time. That’s okay because it’s better for you in the long run to find the right match.

When visiting a shelter or foster home yourself, remember to respect the instructions of the staff as dogs may be anxious when interacting with strangers. Don’t be disappointed if the pups are not very forward and engaged. Think about how you would feel meeting and being handled by so many new people!

Additionally, you may want to work with an organization that is not local to you and able to transport their dogs. Some notable examples of this are rescues in Texas and Puerto Rico who save animals after hurricanes, as well as breed-specific rescues that may be based across the country. There are lots of great (and very regularly used) transportation methods that can safely facilitate this process and they tend to be similar to how breeders transport their dogs.

When speaking with the shelter or rescue staff, feel free to ask lots of questions throughout the process so you can make an informed decision. Here are a few that might be helpful to you:

  • How would you describe the dog’s personality and energy level?
  • Do they have any issues interacting with other animals or types of people?
  • Would you classify their age as young/puppy, adult, or senior?
  • Do they have any known health issues?
  • How receptive are they to training? Are they already house-trained?

Once you go through the initial application and interview processes, some shelters or rescues may then require you to complete a few extra steps. These might include a background check, provide references or allow them to visit your home environment. It may feel like you’re jumping through a lot of hoops, but it will all be worth it in the end.

We’d be absolutely thrilled for you if you find the right fit on your first visit, but it’s completely fine to leave the shelter without a pup if you don’t find the dog for you. You’re making the right decision for both you and the animals in the long run.

Paperwork, fees, and coming home

Once you’ve found the right dog for you (congratulations! yay!), it’s time to finalize the adoption and bring home your new best friend.

You’ll work with the organization to determine your pick-up date in case you need a little time to prepare. To seal the deal, you’ll sign paperwork and pay the required fees. Fees typically range between $20 to $500 depending on the organization and individual dog. Remember that these fees go directly to help pay for veterinary care, food and the many other things that were required to care for your dog in the shelter. If you’re worried that the cost of a rescue dog is too much or too little, here are some red flags you can look for to make sure the organization is doing everything right.

After preparing your home for a new dog, it’s time to get your pup! Now’s your chance to invest time and energy in your relationship and their training — no dog is perfect right away. You’ll be making memories before you know it!