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Adopting a Shelter Pet

Catherine Forman

Adopting a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group isn't as easy as going into the food store and picking out a new flavor of ice cream. Things are a little more complicated than that!


The first step is to make a visit to your shelter of choice. Plan on going just to look. Many shelters will not let you take an animal home the same day. There is often a waiting period while the staff checks vet references and even conducts a home visit to see if you have the appropriate space for a pet.

If there is a particular animal you like, you can have a little one-on-one time with them. For dogs, you'll often go outside to a play yard; for cats, you will probably get to meet them in a private room. Keep in mind that you are BOTH nervous. The dog or cat will be very excited to have the chance to stretch their legs a little, and may ignore you completely at first. They also may leap into your lap and slobber all over your face. I've had both initial reactions from dogs who eventually became members of the family.

If, after you meet the dog or cat, you decide that you would like to add them to the family, you have to fill out an application. Name, address, phone number -- all the basics. You may also be asked for a veterinarian reference, or even personal references! The questionnaire may ask about your daily routine -- who is home when, what hours would the animal be alone, when will it eat, where will it sleep.

When my family adopted our first dog, we waited three days after putting in the application. We were on pins and needles, waiting for a call. Finally, we called the shelter to check on the status of our application. Because it had been so long since we had owned a dog (almost fifteen years!), we had no vet references. The shelter was planning to turn us down, but changed their minds when our hopeful phone call showed them how dedicated we were to giving this dog a good home. My little fur sister came home to us the next day, and has been queen of the house for the last nine years!

Most shelters do ask for an adoption fee. Most shelters will require that you get your new pet spayed or neutered (if they aren't already fixed). And most shelters are overjoyed to see another resident have a second chance at a good home.

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March 23, 20061 found this helpful
Top Comment

I always check and have adopted from there.

Not only do they have the pets listed at the shelters and rescue groups, they also have classified ads. The classifieds in the newspapers usually have preowned pets as well. Sometimes due to circumstances, like moving or a new baby or other reasons people have to get rid of their pet and have already gotten the beginning shots, neutering, etc.


Sometimes they are just happy to have their pet going to a good home and there is no charge. Also, rescue groups and animal shelters will work with you on pets that will have to be destroyed soon if they are not adopted.

I think the adoption fees are more for you to prove to them that you can provide for the pet and also to help support the shelter or rescue group.

In any case, please don't adopt an animal if you are not able to make the commitment to provide it food, medical care, training and companionship. Many of the shelter animals were once "cute" little puppies that when they chewed on something or when they were no longer little and cute, ate too much, were too much trouble, didn't mind, etc. were disposable to the owners.

Susan from ThriftyFun

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 23, 20060 found this helpful

Our family too has made many adoptions from our local animal shelter. Matter of fact, my "newest" kitty came from there right before the Christmas holidays. Our dog (Peebles) will be with us for 15 years this year and she too came from the shelter. I agree with you that this is one of the best places to get a pet that needs a family to love much as the family needs a pet to love. Thanks for the insight.

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March 23, 20060 found this helpful

I will always open my home and heart to a shelter dog or cat. They have been wonderful companion pets and so appreciative of a home and family.


Northern Virginia

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 23, 20060 found this helpful

I agree with everything you have said but find some thing very upsetting. Why would a shelter turn you down because you have not had a pet in 15 years. This does not make you a bad pet owner.

I have been turned down before myself because I have had dogs in my life before and had to find good homes for them due to very serious circumstances. I was told that since "I got rid" of other pets, I wasn't a good pet owner. I know am the proud owner of a lab. I got him from a family friend who had a serious circumstance herself and he is just the greatest. Plus, I know where he came from and what he likes versus getting an animal that may have been abused. I just can't understand how the pound can be so picky but yet the animals have less than 50% chance of living. Just wish things were different in Indiana

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 24, 20060 found this helpful

I have adopted our last three dogs by searching online ( I know that rescue groups and shelters place many other types of animals besides dogs on this site.

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March 26, 20060 found this helpful

I would recommend anyone adopting from a shelter to immediately take the dog or cat to your vet. We just adopted a puppy and, within a day, he showed full blown parvo symptoms and died under vet care 5 days later. Just two days ago, we adopted a one year old cocker/basset mix who is very healthy but came from a different shelter that gave him shots and a vet checkup before he could be adopted. The previous shelter did not do either of these things due to finances. I will always adopt from a shelter because the dogs and cats from there do make great friends for you for life, but it is a commitment.

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By guest (Guest Post)
October 21, 20080 found this helpful

I have 2 dogs and they are just adorable.

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