What to Expect During the Pet Adoption Process

dogs playing

Have you been thinking of adding a pet to your life? At time of writing, about 70% of American households include a furry friend – and shelters are helping more pets find homes every single day. But if you’re new to the pet adoption process, what should you expect? We spoke to the team at North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, to find out.

Preparing to Adopt

Before you adopt a pet, you need to think about how that pet would fit in to your lifestyle. A pet is a big responsibility, and you need to make sure that you’ve thought everything through. Do you live in a small apartment or a house with a fenced-in yard? What do the other members of your household think about adopting? What kind of budget are you working with? Are you ready to commit to loving and caring for a new pet for the rest of its life?

“Adopting an animal is a 13-15-year commitment to caring for that pet for the rest of its life,” says the team at North Shore Animal League America. “Are you ready, willing and able to care for that animal’s needs?”

Specific animals also have specific needs – caring for a dog is different than caring for a cat. Research what your desired pet would need to make them happy, healthy and comfortable in their new home. You should also consider the age of the pet you might want. Puppies and kittens might be cute, but they’re a lot of work. Are you willing to give them the time, training and attention they need?

Once you’ve decided on the type of pet you’d like to adopt, check out your local shelter’s website and see what animals are available. North Shore Animal League America lists its pets at animalleague.org, where you can find information for potential adopters and current pet owners alike. You can also visit their campus in Port Washington, N.Y., to work with an Adoption Counselor who will help find the right animal for you.

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What Information Do You Need?

When you adopt at a shelter, you will need to fill out an application with some information about yourself. At North Shore Animal League America, you need to be 21 years of age to adopt. You’ll be asked to provide contact information, personal references, previous experiences as a pet owner and veterinary history of your past animals (if applicable).

“Our Adoption Team will review information you provide … They’ll reach out to several personal references you provide. Finally, they’ll make sure that your plans match the best future for each animal,” said the team at North Shore Animal League America.

Shelters will most likely have an adoption fee, which can vary based on the animal you’re adopting. This adoption fee usually includes things like necessary vaccines, spaying/neutering and sometimes even microchipping. Microchips make it easier for pets to be reunited with their rightful owners if they get lost.

pet adoption process

Who Gets Adopted?  

The most popular animals at shelters are “tiny and adorable,” according to the team at North Shore Animal League America. “Most of the animals we have in our care are mixed breeds, what we lovingly refer to ‘mutt-i-grees,’ but when pure breeds are available, they don’t spend much time on the adoption floor. We regularly facilitate large rescues from puppy mills and backyard breeders, taking in dogs who had been used to mass produce puppies being sold to the public in pet stores. These dogs tend to be smaller, in-demand pure breeds.”

Out of all types of animals, the team at North Shore Animal League America wishes that more people were interested in adopting senior pets. “Adopting a senior pet can have many advantages. The puppy and kitten stages are a lot of work; older animals have established personalities and are usually housebroken, somewhat trained and well-socialized.” They also said that an “unexpected silver lining” to the pandemic was that many more people were open to adopting senior animals. Pets that might have been overlooked in the past were able to find a loving home.

The Pet Adoption Process and the Pandemic

The pandemic – especially the early months of quarantine – had a huge impact on the pet adoption process. With veterinary and shelter staff considered essential workers, people were able to continue adopting animals. Like many other animal rescues and shelters, North Shore Animal League America experienced an immense surge in adoptions during the pandemic. But the ongoing crisis also hindered their abilities to rescue animals across state lines and to raise needed funds. Fortunately, interstate animal transports were eventually allowed to resume, and they were able to substitute their fundraisers for virtual events and online donations at animalleague.org/donate.

“Notably, despite recent headlines claiming shelters across the country were seeing animals being surrendered by adopters returning to pre-pandemic work situations, North Shore Animal League America never experienced this sad phenomenon,” the team noted. “We attribute this to our vigorous application and approval process, and the personalized, one-on-one interactions between our Adoption Counselors and adopters.”

If you’re thinking of adopting an animal, you should do it. As long as you make sure you’re being responsible and doing the right thing by your pet, it will enrich your life and theirs. North Shore Animal League America likes to say that when you adopt, you save two lives: You save your pet and you open up space for them to rescue more animals.

Have you ever adopted a pet? Are you thinking of adopting now? Tell us your story in the comments below!

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5 Thoughts on “What to Expect During the Pet Adoption Process

  1. Speaking as an active dog rescuer (especially Cairn Terriers and Golden Retrievers) for over 15 years, I want to applaud the AAA for a well-written and informative article about the adoption process. Also, adopters from rescues (and there is one for almost every breed of dog) should expect a thorough investigation and a home safety visit. Adopting a rescue is a wonderful way to save a life!

  2. After a period of mourning our fourth cat, we adopted Diamond from NSALA, a cat that looked like smaller version of our fourth (all black except a small white patch on her chest). As they cautioned, Diamond hid from us for a week. But with our caring, coaxing and playing with her, she realized that there was nothing to fear. Diamond has accepted us as family. Now she is underfoot, playful and craves our attention. And she was born within days of when my wife and I married! It`s a double celebration.

  3. We just adopted a retired service dog after 8 years of not having a dog in the house. Our 3 previous dogs were all adopted. The first was a golden retriever who had been surrendered by her owner. She was 2 and lived with us for 11 years before she passed away. Our 2nd was also a golden whose owner had to move to no pets allowed housing. The breeder would not take her back because she had a deformed leg and thought it would be difficult to find adopters. She spent less than a week in the shelter before we fell in love with her. She spent 8 years with us. Our 3rd dog was a very large mixed breed who was 9 years old when we adopted him. Unfortunately he passed away about a year later.

  4. My daughter and I just adopted a blind, mixed large breed puppy two months ago and we love her. We’d had an Akita who went blind from glaucoma years ago so we already had some experience with a blind dog. We also have three rescue cats from two different shelters whom we’ve had for several years now. One of those cats we adopted as a senior and he’s still with us 4.5 years later.

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