How to Adopt a Pet from an Animal Shelter

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
How to adopt a dog. How to adopt a cat. Where to find pets for adoption. Why do animal shelters have questionnaires? Learn more about pet adoption. How much does it cost to adopt a pet? Is it hard to adopt a pet? What steps are involved in adopting

Many people use the term “pet adoption” incorrectly, almost as a trick when selling their own pets. Pet adoption, in its most correct form is adopting a pet from a proper pet rescue, one that is run not for profit. Pet adoption, just as baby adoption, includes questionnaires, steps to approval, and contracts.

Pet adoption often involves a fee – but not always. Some shelters adopt out older pets to senior owners for free, or feral cats to rural homes for free, however most pets are paid for, and donations above the adoption fee are always welcome (and would receive a charitable receipt).

Selecting the Pet

Anyone who wants to adopt a pet should call the shelter in advance to see when their adoption hours are. Some shelters do not have proper shelters and instead have the pets living in foster homes – but bring them out to adoption events at local malls or other functions.

Selecting a pet and adoption may take 2 – 3 hours. Some shelters let the pets leave the same day, while others take a bit longer to screen the new owner (or may want to hold the pet longer for vaccination and health reasons). People may wish to inquire about which day of the week is least busy, often Saturdays are very busy and spending time with individual pets can be impossible, making selection difficult.

Selecting the right dog can be more time consuming than selecting the right cat. A person should have determined roughly what kind of dog fits their lifestyle and ask the shelter staff to show them appropriate dogs – which they can then walk or play with to make a choice. People who have dogs may want to bring their own dog to make sure it gets along with the one they are selecting.

With cats, the age might be a bigger factor, noting that older cats are better with children and less claw aggressive in the home (as well they may be already spayed/neutered, or in some cases already declawed (if that is desired). It is important to note that a cuddly kitten may not grow up into a cuddly adult.

Other adoptable pets are often available including horses, rabbits, and birds - some small pets may even come with a free cage, or supplies.

adopted cat

This sleepy cat was adopted by the author as an adult cat, just over 10 years ago.

The Questionnaire

Typical questions would a persons name, address, and previous pet experience. A person is generally asked if they own their home or rent, renters must provide either a copy of their rental agreement showing they can have pets, or must provide their landlords phone number who they will call to check to see if pets are allowed.

People are asked if they have any pets currently at home, if they have had pets in the past, and why they want the pet they have chosen.

Specific questions are also asked in regards to the kind of a pet a person has selected. If they have selected to adopt a dog they may be asked if they have a fully fenced yard, or if they plan to take it to obedience lessons for training. If a person wants to adopt a cat they may be asked if they plan on letting it out, or having it declawed.

These questions are not always to eliminate people from the adoption, but so the staff can council the adopter to make sure the pet they have chosen is the right one for them. For example a person with no pet experience, and a small yard, might not be suited to adopting a Husky or Akita.

Note most animal shelters do not adopt to people under 18, or people who are giving pets away as gifts, nor do they allow pets to be used for breeding purposes – after all they already are dealing with surplus animals and do not want more.

The Adoption Contract

The adoption contract will cover the care the shelter expects the pet to receive, and will often state that if at any time during the first year of ownership of the pet that the owner cannot keep it, it is to be brought back to the shelter.

The contract will also offer a limited health guarantee – often 10 days to 2 weeks, thus protecting the new adopter from bringing home a sick pet.

How to Find Pets for Adoption

Most animal shelters are listed in the phone book (often under Animal Rescues, Charities, or Pet Shelters), or a person can call a veterinarian and ask. Another great option is using which has links to over 300,000 pets from 13,000 adoption groups. is currently for finding pets in Canada, USA, and Mexico.

Other sites, such as craigslist often have people's private pets for sale, not necessarily real “adoption” pets, and caution should be taken as these pets may not come with vaccinations, or health guarantees – a person should never pay a cent for a pet that is not vaccinated, vet checked, or come with proper (written) guarantees.

Before you Adopt a Pet:

Are you Ready for a Cat?

Are you Ready for a Dog?

FAQ about Animal Shelters and Pet Rescues


Jessie Agudo
Posted on Mar 30, 2011
john doe
Posted on Mar 19, 2011