Pet Adoption: What To Expect

Adopting a new pet is a rewarding experience, but it can be overwhelming. Here’s what to expect throughout the whole process.

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Can you give me a loving home? Sarah Dusautoir/iStock/Thinkstock
Rachel Phelps

Have you considered adding a new pet to your family but are not sure where to start? Recently, my family went through the process of adopting a great cat named Dillon. Luckily, we had the benefit of having adopted several times, but many potential pet owners find the process overwhelming. Here’s an overview on what to expect so you can better prepare yourself and ensure a pain-free and rewarding adoption process.

First, you should do a self-assessment to determine if getting a pet really is a good idea for you and your family. And, if so, what would be the best type of pet for your lifestyle? Here are some things to consider:

  • Lifetime Commitment: Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment. Are you committed to taking care of this new animal for the next 10-plus years? These animals rely on us for their care and safety even if our living situation changes.
  • Time Required: Do you have time to devote to your new family member? If you have a job in which you are gone all day, then maybe a cat would be a better choice than a puppy.
  • Your Lifestyle: Things like whether you are a first-time pet owner, if you have young kids, if you love outdoor sports or whether you live in a small apartment or a big farm can make a big difference on what type of pet is right for you.
  • Financial Resources: Do you have disposable income you can set aside for your pet’s needs? Typically, the annual cost for a cat can be $670 and for a dog it can be $875. These costs include food, grooming and health care. Also, some breeds are more prone to certain types of health problems. For example, my three dogs are West Highland White Terriers, which is a breed that typically has bad allergies. To make sure my dogs are happy and healthy, we have to budget for daily allergy pills.

So you’ve determined you are ready to adopt. Now what? Here are the main steps involved:

  1. Figure out where to adopt.
    You have many options. Most areas have shelters that house homeless animals in one location. These are usually operated by local governments or non-profits. Some shelters are considered “open intake,” which means they can’t turn away any animal that comes through the door. Other shelters are called “limited intake,” which means they will not accept an animal unless an open spot is available. There are also rescues that do not have a physical building, so their animals stay in volunteers’ homes until they are adopted. Some of these rescues are breed-specific.
  1. Complete the adoption application: A shelter or rescue will usually ask you to complete an adoption application. The application will ask questions about you, who lives in your home, previous pets and your home environment. These questions are not intended to be nosy, but rather are the organization’s attempt to learn as much as it can about you so it can help pair you up with the best pet for your lifestyle, family and home.Once you turn in your application, the rescue or shelter will evaluate your answers, check your references, and if you rent, it may verify that you are allowed to have pets. Johndra Sanders, an adoption coordinator with Westie Rescue Indiana, says that when she reviews adoption applications she looks for “someone who is knowledgeable about dogs in general or is open to learning about the special personalities of the Westie breed.”“I also look into their previous animals, how they took care of them, and how long they kept the pet,” she adds. “If I see a history of adopting and surrendering a few months later, this could show a lack of commitment to taking care of the dog long term. I also call their veterinarian to make sure their pets are current on their shots and have annual regular exams.”
  1. Open your home for a visit. Some rescues and shelters require a home visit. These are short visits to your house by a qualified volunteer to assess the readiness of your home for a pet. This can be especially important if you are a first-time pet owner, as it can help you puppy- or cat-proof your home for potential safety issues.
  1. Select your pet. After you are approved, the shelter or rescue will play matchmaker. You’ll meet several available animals until you and the organization both feel confident this is the perfect pet for you.
  1. Sign and pay. The adoption contract will usually state that you promise to take good care of your new cat or dog. Also, if for some unforeseen reason you can no longer take care of the pet, you’re usually asked to contact the rescue or shelter so it can find the cat or dog a new home.
  1. Take your pet home. Finally, you get to take your new pet home!

Pet adoption is a rewarding experience both for you and your new family member. Enjoy!

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