Note: I hope you enjoy this essay from one of That Mutt’s readers. “KL” is a volunteer with a rescue group, and one of her jobs is to process adoption applications.

Processing adoption applications can be incredibly rewarding. There’s no better feeling than seeing joyful photographs of “your” applicant with their new dog or puppy and knowing you played a part in those matching human and canine smiles.

On the other hand, it can be discouraging to evaluate a long string of applications that just aren’t eligible for approval. The worst is when the person seems generally careful and everything checks out except for one requirement, and it’s one you can’t overlook. You deny the application, you’re left feeling frustrated, and the applicant, who may have thought they were doing everything right, is now not able to adopt from you. They may be angry or sad because they feel judged or even lied to.

Tips to improve your dog adoption application

The truth is that in most cases, we don’t want to be gatekeepers. We want to see happy adopters and happy dogs matched up. We also understand that nobody is perfect, but there are a lot of really good human beings out there. And hey – you cared enough to fill out the application in the first place. That counts for something. When I get an application, I don’t go looking for what’s wrong with it; I look for ways I can approve someone that week.

So with that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some proactive things potential adopters can do to help the process go smoothly.

Tips to improve your dog adoption application

1. Do a little policy research.

Look up rescue groups in which you have an interest. Many, if not most groups, have websites. Not all of them will put their adoption policies and requirements on their websites, but many will and it’s worth a look. Note the requirements for vetting especially; close to 100% of the applications I deny are for vetting. Which brings me to the next point:

2. Get your vetting ducks in a row.

This one is twofold. Firstly, back to those vetting requirements: Your current dogs and cats will likely need to be altered and current on certain vaccines. Some groups may require additional preventative care.

Know what you will need to document and start building that history; how much you need will vary, with some groups just wanting to know your pets are current now and others requiring a 2-5 year track record. Check with your vet and see if there are any gaps in required care. Bring your pets current as soon as possible and keep them that way.

If you buy flea/tick or heartworm prevention or vaccines from sources other than your vet, start saving receipts. Take photos of the receipts and packaging. If your vet can’t confirm that you purchased those items from them, you will at least be able to demonstrate that they were purchased, and that may be sufficient.

How to improve your dog adoption application

Secondly, it helps us immensely if you can gather accurate contact information for all of your vets going back 3-5 years, including clinic name, city, and phone number. Many people use multiple vets, or they move, and the records all exist but they reside in different places. That’s okay! Just tell us about it so we can call each of those vet clinics and piece together the history of care we need. If you can give us a summary of when or for which pet each clinic was used, that’s even better!

3. Be honest with yourself.

Decide what you are willing to do to meet the rescue’s requirements…and what you are not.

For instance, I had one applicant who had a young giant breed dog. She did plan to alter the dog, but not before the dog was two years old; her vet and breeder both advised against it. She was free to make the decision but decided that it was really important to her to stick with the guidance she was given, and she owned that choice.

4. Be honest with us.

The same applicant as above disclosed her situation and decision to us, and I was able to defer her application until her dog is old enough to alter. She is more than welcome to reactivate her application if she chooses, when she is ready.

Without that information, I would have denied her application, but because she was candid, I could find a compromise.

Even if we can’t work with someone in a specific situation, it really matters to us if they are honest. I would not blame any group who decided that in the future, they were not open to working with someone who lied to them.

5. Help us out with your personal references.

Provide accurate contact information for the requested number of references. Give your references a heads up that we might be calling, and ask them to call us back if we don’t catch them. Be prepared to provide others if we just can’t connect with the ones you initially gave – it happens.

6. Feel free to keep in touch.

A friendly note or text to ask me how things are going is always welcome! I’ll tell you what I know. It’s also a chance for you to let me know if any details you’ve given me have changed. I will note this and use that information to identify a dog we have that might be right for you once we are through the process. Plus, it shows you care about the process and are excited to adopt.

7. If you have a question, ask!

There really is no such thing as a stupid question. If I don’t know the answer, I will try to find out for you. If there is a home visit as part of the application process, use that opportunity to ask any questions you might have. I get excited when I see someone with a literal list of questions they’ve compiled in advance; it shows me that they have approached this thoughtfully and care about using us as a resource.

How to improve your dog adoption application

Do you have any tips to add? What were your dog adoption application experiences like?

Let us know in the comments!

Previous posts from KL:

What do good breeders and good rescues have in common?

Do you have a breed people tend to be afraid of?