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Tips to Improve Your Dog Adoption Application

Note: “KL” is a volunteer with a rescue group, and one of her jobs is to process adoption applications. These are her tips on how to improve your dog adoption application.

Processing dog 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 not able to adopt from you.

They may be angry or sad because they feel judged or lied to.

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 dog adopters can do to help improve their dog adoption application.

Tips to improve your dog adoption application

1. Do research on the rescue group’s adoption process and policies.

Look up rescue groups and shelters in which you have an interest. 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. First, 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. Get 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

Second, 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 – are you willing to meet the rescue group’s adoption requirements or not?

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 on how you feel about our adoption requirements.

The same applicant 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 with the rescue.

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 about the adoption application, 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:

Gary Thames

Monday 28th of June 2021

I’m looking for a Rottweiler puppy

Cindy Siebrecht

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

After the mini dachshund we “inherited” and loved for many years passed on, we started watching rescue sites for a young, small dog, preferably a mini dachshund. Our application was approved by several rescues, but only one had a current candidate; small, but not very young and not a dachshund, and 4 hours away. Still, we arranged to attend a ‘meet and greet’ the rescue would be holding in a couple weeks. Then, two days later, we received a call from that same rescue saying they just rescued an 11-month-old dachshund/chihuahua mix that they thought might interest us. They called us before they even listed the dog. We headed right out and met our new little family member at her foster home and brought her back with us. That was over two years ago and I am so grateful that the rescue reached out to us. Freeda is a perfect match for our family.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Great story!

Brenda Christian

Friday 25th of September 2020

I have applied to several rescues . Thank you for the information you have posted here. I wish I would of read it first. I have had my home visits done, and I have been approved , but I’m still waiting to hear about various dogs . It is very frustrating . I have had 3 dogs over the past 16 years . All lived to be around 14. I have gone to various vets . I only put one vets name down . My dogs were always on flea meds , I purchased them they Costco . All of my dogs vaccinations were up to date, but given thru a clinic . ( I took these results to my vets to show them , but they weren’t interested . I wonder if after speaking with my vet , they thought I never did any of these things . I had to have each dog euthanasised , due to old age and their quality of life had deteriorated. One with Cancer , one long term kidney disease, my last girl , the vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong . She was constantly vomiting and loosing weight . I did use laps of Love. They euthanize at home. Maybe my choices aren’t what they want . In my heart , I did what I thought was best . I loved my dogs with all of my heart . I’m hoping to give another dog , a rescue a good home. We will see . Thank you .

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 27th of September 2020

Best of luck finding your next lucky dog.

Shawn R Fields

Monday 6th of April 2020

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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 6th of April 2020

I'm sorry to hear it's been difficult. Unfortunately, I do understand.

Kim Chappell

Saturday 19th of October 2019

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.