Tips to Improve Your Dog Adoption Application

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:

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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!

*If you would like to receive our down-to-earth, weekly dog training tips, Click Here

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?

15 thoughts on “Tips to Improve Your Dog Adoption Application”

  1. Lindsay Stordahl

    I also processed/approved applications for a rescue group and did a lot of reference checks and home visits. Thankfully I only had to reject one application and I did so after numerous references honestly said they didn’t think that person should have a dog. All the others I was able to approve and sometimes that meant working with them a bit to get some more information to pass the the rescue.

    As a volunteer, I did not get to choose the rescue’s policies but that particular rescue was pretty lenient. I never liked calling vets to get records because I feel that’s a violation of privacy but I did my job and vets always eagerly gave out any info I asked for (perhaps another topic for another post).

    I’ve also been on the other side and have been rejected from adopting and fostering more times than I can count. In my case, the reason was always because my senior, indoor cats were not up to date on vaccinations (my choice) or because we’re in an apartment with no fenced yard. I used to be pretty bitter towards rescue groups but now I understand they are their own independent groups and they can make their own decisions. There are always ways to adopt a dog if someone wants to adopt a dog. It just might not be with the first group you approach.

  2. Thanks for running my article, Lindsay!

    With respect to the vet disclosures, an increasing number of vet clinics are insisting on getting the owners’ permission before they release information to us. It’s an extra step for me, but it’s something I’ve come to appreciate when thinking of how my vet might be sharing my information. There’s nothing in there of which I could reasonably be ashamed – years of animals current on well pet visits and vaccines – but privacy is increasingly important, and it’s nice that vets are aware of that too.

      1. Re: Vet Care– In some states, like Texas, vets aren’t permitted to release client/pet information without written permission from the owners.

  3. Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes perspective. I appreciate the tip to investigate a rescue’s policies. We were fortunate in our rescue experience. While we were initially rejected for our plan to use an outdoor run, our rescue was open to a conversation and believed us when we said we would not use the run. I respect that policies are helpful and everyone is looking out for the best interest of the animals. I’m also very appreciative when there can be flexibility and reconsideration.

  4. sandy weinstein

    there was a note on CBS this am, Bark Box has a new app that matches people with pets, swipe left or right, like the dating apps. many rescues/shelters are adding dogs to this app. very cute.
    I have never adopted a dog/pet. I know when I was first interested in getting a dog, i was looking at breed specific rescues. I guess what deterred me, was the high fees. for a few hundred more I could have gotten the puppy I wanted for a breeder, perhaps even a non-show dog. some rescues have very high standards, that is okay, but some are really outrageous. I can understand some of the rules, but some of the fees were over 500.00 or more.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t like seeing such high fees either, but I also know there is a demand for rescue dogs, especially purebred. Some of the southern CA rescues charge more than $500 adoption fees. Enough people can afford it and pay without batting an eye. I’ve seen $800 fees for rescued weims and rescued golden retrievers. Of course, rescues spend a lot of money to help some of these dogs, too. Vet bills, training, boarding, etc.

  5. This is a really interesting article- thank you KL!

    I am astonished by how strict the rescues seem to be in terms of new homes in the USA- especially the references and vetting elements.

    I am in the UK and have had three rescued dogs from two different organisations, and have not had to provide references or my vet histories, and haven’t heard of anyone else here having to provide that here either.

    It seems strange to me that they are so strict (having to provide proof of flea and worm prophylactics etc) when from what I’ve seen there are so many dogs getting put down purely because they do not have a home?

    Anyway, I was really interested to read this. I’m a huge advocate for rescued dogs but I can actually see why people may get puppies instead after reading this- seems like a pretty intense process.

    I was also astonished to read the comments about the cost of rescue dogs. My JRT mix cost £135, my OES cost £220, and my BC cost I think about £150-200- I can’t remember exactly. Not sure of what that’d be in dollars though. Do you know the reasoning behind $500 plus adoption fees- seems really excessive.

    Thanks for providing this perspective 🙂

    1. The adoption fee includes testing for illnesses and treatment if necessary,all immunizations, spay or neuter and microchip. Some have transport expenses such as private rescues. Pure breed rescues charge more also. You can buy from a breeder for more but rarely do they have complete vetting included. It’s a complete package to adopt!!❤️

  6. Good article, thank you!
    I agree with the “high” cost of adopting from a rescue or shelter, if you add in all the expenses the shelter/rescue pays for the animal it often barely covers their cost. Check out the cost from a pet shop or quality responsible breeder- unless its a dog that has been returned to them the cost is MUCH higher than a shelter/rescue.
    The shelter in this area requires a fenced in yard and someone home 27/7 with the animal. Which I don’t agree with.They also will not allow anyone who uses training tools like prong collars and electric collars to adopt- yes they ask in the application. Both prong collars and electric collars (quality ones) are very humane tools used responsibly , and give owners more communication with their dogs- allowing dogs to go more places and do more with their owners.

  7. I found it very frustrating when trying to adopt a second dog to keep my first dog company during the day while I was at work. The whole point was because I didn’t think it was fair on my dog to be alone all day and he seemed ready to have a friend. He was very anxious when we first got him and was suited to being an only dog. As soon as I started putting in applications, I found that I was being rejected because I wasn’t at home for a significant amount of the day. Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m looking for a second dog. Finally got one, but only because I was prepared to take on another dog with significant issues.

  8. A friend of mine was denied her adoption request of a dog because when the rescue called her Vet to confirm the information the Vet clinic denied giving the information. Apparently the Vet clinic must be notified that you are trying to adopt a dog, and with who, in that case they will release the information. By the time it was realized someone else had been given the dog by the rescue.

  9. I’ve been applying to rescues for months for a dog. After the application goes in I never hear from them again. I send follow-up emails asking about the progress and I get no response. I send an email asking questions about the dog and I get no response. I never get a response. I have to find out the dog has been adopted by seeing it on Petfinder. They don’t care about anyone. They always say “remember, fosters are like everyone else. They all have jobs and work fulltime. They are very busy and can’t get to your emails right away”. Excuse me, but if I said I worked full time they would deny me immediately. I filled out an application to be a foster and it had less questions than an adoptee had to answer. There are so many animals in need of a home but they deny you for the stupidest reasons. I don’t want to adopt from any other source bc I believe that a dog who has been rescued from a group is healthier and you will at least have some info on their behavior and whether they are housebroken. I finally got approved by one rescue but they didn’t let me adopt the dog I wanted. Their website only has two dogs and neither one is what I’m looking for. I check everyday bc they say they get new ones all the time but so far no luck. I will keep looking.

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