Category: Pet Welfare

Strategies for Successful Pet Adoptions

In the recent post When A Pet Must Go, we discussed resources and alternatives to shelters that are available to pet parents who are struggling with their pets. Today, we will look at ways to make sure pet adoptions match the right pets to the best homes.  Two very different adoptions demonstrate what works and what to avoid when you are looking for a new pet.


Last year a friend of mine rescued a shelter dog. Like many potential adopters, he scouted local shelter dogs online.  He fell in love with Seamus, a dog who looked like the perfect friend.  He and his partner went to the shelter, met Seamus, and took him home the same day.  Sadly, within two months of his adoption this boisterous, large-breed dog had to be rehomed. What went wrong?  How did a conscientious and exuberant adopter end up with a dog he couldn’t keep?  I spoke with my friend last week about his experience and the lessons he learned.

In December of 2016, my friend and his partner had just moved into a new home together.  They were looking for a dog to join their family.  They had set their sights on Seamus after viewing his photo online, and the shelter didn’t provide much history.  My friend knew only that Seamus was about 1.5 years old and that he had been on the streets for a while before coming to the shelter.  Seamus was recently neutered.  The shelter did not discuss the dog’s temperament or talk about the sort of home that would be best for him.

At home, Seamus was rowdy, and it was clear to my friend that he had not been properly socialized.  He was destructive when left alone.  My friend worked from home a couple of weeks in order to spend time with Seamus and acclimate him to his new home.  However, the behavior problems persisted, and Seamus ultimately became aggressive to my friend’s partner.  Fortunately, my friend was able to quickly rehome Seamus with a relative.  Seamus currently has plenty of space to work out his high energy, and he is doing well.

Sir Miles

Ultimately, my friend was able to adopt a dog suited to his lifestyle and personality. The lessons he learned from his experience with Seamus helped him approach this adoption very differently.  He and his partner looked at several different dogs, and they took their time to make a decision.  When they found Sir Miles, they visited him on multiple occasions at his foster home.  They even brought him to their home to see how he reacted.  His background was appropriate for the family.  He had been an owned dog, but his owner had to give him up because he was not able to spend enough time with him.  Sir Miles settled into his new home well, and he is a much-loved family member.  My friend has even met his former owner via social media and shares updates about Sir Miles with him.

The role of the shelter

One of the most important lessons my friend learned from his adoption of Seamus is that not every pet is right for every household. A good shelter will work with adopters to help them understand what breed or type of pet is best for them.  I spoke with Ms. Casey Waugh from Wayside Waifs to find out how her organization helps create adoption successes.  At Wayside Waifs, successful pet adoptions begin with intake of the animal.  The shelter collects information about every animal surrendered.  A behavioral team assesses and works with the animals.  There is even a running club that allows volunteers to run with dogs and assess whether they will make good running partners.  Adoption counselors use information about the adopting family and information about the animals in the shelter to make recommendations for adoption.  The group contacts landlords directly to ensure that renters will be able to keep their pet.

Potential adopters are encouraged to spend time with the pets at the shelter.  Those looking to adopt animals that have been in the shelter for a longer period of time may take the dogs home for a “Slumber Pawty,”  generally 7-days or less.  This helps ensure that the pet is a good fit in the home.  Finally, adoption counselors follow up on every adoption to identify and solve any developing problems.

Checklist for successful adoption

  1. Plan for adoption and don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  Rushing to pick a new pet can lead to an emotional choice.
  2. Be realistic about your needs and abilities.  You may feel very compassionate and want to rescue a pet with behavior problems.  If you don’t have the experience or temperament to train or the budget to hire a trainer you and your new pet will not be happy.
  3. Be open with the shelter about your lifestyle.  The shelter will make better recommendations if they understand your needs.  If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with a new pet, be clear about that up front.
  4. Look at more than one potential pet and take the time to learn about their backgrounds.
  5. Spend time with the pet, in your home if possible.
  6. Stay in touch with the shelter and ask for help if you encounter problems.
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Six tips for successful pet adoptions

featured image: AdobeSpark

When a Pet Must Go

Whatever the reason for relinquishment, it is almost always heartbreaking when a pet must go.  Add in the stigma and guilt that often accompanies the choice to give up a pet, and the situation can easily become a nightmare for the pet and the family.  The good news is that there are alternatives to giving your pet up to a shelter, and plenty of resources to help you through this difficult situation if you know where to find them.

Get help from a local shelter

As a first step if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t keep one of your pets, reach out to a local shelter.  Many shelters have special programs to help keep pets with their families, or they can direct you to other organizations as needed.  Often, there are free or low-cost ways to help you overcome a problem with your pet.  Shelter websites may link you directly to resources for your problem.

We talked to Casey Waugh, Communications Director for Wayside Waifs to learn more about the ways shelters can help.  Before the shelter takes an animal in, staff make every effort to keep the pet with the family.  At Wayside Waifs, staff don’t ever want a pet to feel like a burden to his pet parents.  The organization maintains a pet food pantry to help struggling families feed their pets, because staff never want a family to lose a pet due to the inability to afford food.  If the pet needs to be spayed or neutered, Wayside Waifs will point the family to low-cost or free veterinary care.

The shelter has a behavioral team that offers consultations for pets exhibiting some types of behavioral issues such as house soiling or aggression.  In some cases, the team may even make a home visit.

Use social media

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your pet, you may be able to successfully rehome her.  Reach out through social media. Creating a great bio can help you inform potential adopters about your pet’s history and highlight her personality.  The San Diego Humane Society has a fantastic rehoming kit that includes a template for your pet’s bio. Be sure to include a photo.  It can be intimidating to admit to your contacts that you need to rehome your pet.  But finding a great new home for her will be worth the effort.

List your pet with a breed-specific rescue group

Breed-specific rescue groups can match your pet with potential adopters.  These groups reach people with an interest in your pet’s breed.  These adopters are often well-acquainted with breed-specific issues and are prepared for challenges.

Surrender to a quality shelter

It isn’t always possible to rehome a pet on your own.  In those cases, a quality shelter with a reputation for compassionate animal care is the best option.  Most shelters will help you through the process. At Wayside Waifs, for example, you will be asked to complete a detailed application.  Information you provide about your pet will allow the shelter to provide the best care and to find the best new parents for your pet.  You may be asked to pay a nominal surrender fee.  These fees help care for your pet while she is in the shelter.

The shelter may not be able to take your pet right away, but be sure to talk to them if you are absolutely unable to keep the animal.  Some shelters work with foster families on a case by case basis to provide care in special circumstances. If for any reason your pet doesn’t qualify for surrender at a particular shelter, staff should help you find alternatives.

Jake, a success story

“If you don’t take him, I’m going to shoot him.” That’s how Jake, a 13-14 year old Golden Retriever who had been living outside on a farm, came to Wayside Waifs.  In this case, although there was no room in the shelter, Wayside Waifs made a place for him.  Jake was eventually adopted by one of the staff and enjoyed a very useful and happy life as a therapy dog with a great home. Sometimes, rehoming really is the best option.

This topic will be continued next week in a special post comparing two different adoptions.  We’ll discuss the ways that pet parents and shelters can approach the adoption process in order to prevent the need to rehome.

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His owner was going to shoot him, but Jake was successfully rehomed by Wayside Waifs.  Photo courtesy of Wayside Waifs.