The Ultimate Guide To Pet Adoption: The Adoption Process

by Suzie Cyrenne March 05, 2015 9 min read


The Ultimate Guide To Pet Adoption: The Adoption Process

Usually known as the most difficult or most challenging part of adopting a pet, the adoption process is actually pretty easy once you get to know what to expect. If you are one of those individuals who thinks that the adoption process is too tedious, or that there would be very expensive fees, you’re not alone – that’s why we came up with this installment of The Ultimate Guide To Pet Adoption series to set the records straight once and for all!

Oftentimes, future animal parents are wary of adopting from shelters and rescues because of the misconceptions surrounding the actual process of animal adoption. This way of thinking has led to people choosing to buy at pet shops or worse, irresponsible breeders and animal traders just to make the process of getting a pet a lot easier. But is choosing to buy an animal truly easier or cheaper than adopting?

First off, when trying to choose where to get a pet from, convenience should not be the main criteria. Why? Because both buying and adopting comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. When everything is weighed in, purchasing an animal is no easier than choosing to adopt. Don’t believe us? Read on below and Find out more about the adoption process!

No matter where you go, adopting a pet from an animal shelter or an animal rescue usually consists of 4 main steps. The steps are:

  • Filling up the adoption questionnaire
  • Having an interview with a shelter or rescue representative
  • Attending the meet and greet, and
  • Finalizing the adoption

The animal adoption steps mentioned above are not set in stone. Some facilities and organizations may have an additional step or two such as a background check or a home visit. Just as the number of steps involved are not the same for every facility, the order of the steps can also vary greatly.

In some shelters, you may be allowed to meet available animals before you’ll be asked to provide your details and to answer the adoption questionnaire. In some rescues, the volunteers may want to screen your eligibility first before allowing you to meet some of the available animals or attend a meet and greet.

The point of all the steps above is for the animal shelter or the animal rescue to ensure that you will have the capability to care for an animal. Another purpose is to help you find the most compatible animal for your needs and means. Remember that shelter staffs and rescue volunteers are your friends. The adoption process is in place to help minimize the risk of mismatching a playful animal with an elderly owner, or mismatching a furry pet to a family with allergic tendencies towards certain breeds.

In the following paragraphs, we provide you with a more detailed brief on each of the 4 steps of the adoption process, plus 2 additional ones. It won’t hurt to know what you can expect when adopting, right? Just read on and enjoy the animal adoption ride!


Filling Out The Adoption Questionnaire

Some people think that filling out the adoption questionnaire is too time consuming and too intrusive, especially if they are not sure yet if they would be able to find a pet or animal which they would like to take home. It is true that the adoption questionnaire may contain questions which you may not be too comfortable answering, especially if you have not seen an animal you are interested in yet.

Filling in at least some details like your name, living situation, age, and address allows shelters and volunteers to check their records if you have previously adopted a pet from them or if you have a history or record of animal cruelty.

When coming in the facility to fill out the adoption questionnaire, make sure to bring in at least two valid IDs. The shelter or rescue may not ask for them but just to ensure that you are who you say you are, they might be needed depending on their adoption procedure protocol.

The above should not be taken personally, because guess what? EVERYONE who wishes to adopt has to provide the details mentioned here. You can request to complete the questionnaire at a later date or simply fill in the parts which are required to save time.

A friendly note: Lying is not an option when filling out the adoption questionnaire. Do not state that you have a yard when you don’t have one or that you have a certain number of hours available per day when you are in constant battle with the clock. Why? Because the details you provide would help the rescue volunteers and shelter staff recommend a compatible pet for you. Getting an active husky when you live in a studio type and don’t have time for daily walks would only make both you and the animal miserable, and no one wants that.

Acing The Interview

Whohoo! It’s the interview!

If you think that the interview is some sort of a road block for you to adopt a new family member, you’re wrong! If you’re feeling some jitters, then you’re right on!

Once the shelter or rescue has scheduled you for an interview (or decided to do an interview right then and there after you filled out the pet adoption questionnaire, consider yourself one step closer to coming home with your new lovable family member!

In this step, the adoption counselor will determine your suitability for the type or breed of animal you may be interested in. There are times when the interview is a part of the meet and greet so the counselor can see how you interact with the animal and also answer questions you may have.

Contrary to misconceptions on the internet, the interview can actually be very relaxing and reassuring. Why? Because an experienced professional knows how to handle it like a pro and put you at ease. The only thing you have to do is be yourself and enjoy the moment.

Do not feel pressured to be perfect. Remember, each step of the adoption process is in place to help you find the perfect pet for the beautifully imperfect you!

The Meet And Greet

If you’ve read the other part of this article series, you already know what to expect and what to do on a meet and greet. If you haven’t read that or was put on the spot to go for a meet and greet when you dropped by your local shelter or rescue, then just take note of the following:

  • You've got to have a set of questions or take this time as an opportunity to ask questions about the animal(s) you may be interested in.

  • Since you’ll be asking questions, you have to be prepared to take plenty of notes!

  • Be respectful of shelter staffs and rescue volunteers since working in a shelter or rescue is very stressful and, they may not have time to answer all of your queries during the meet and greet.

  • Relax and just be yourself. You would want the animals to like you and not be afraid of you. Looking nervous and being too excited can confuse the animals and may make them bolt or shutdown instead of socializing and getting to know you.

  • Be nice to the animals and if unsure how to approach one in a friendly manner, ask a volunteer or staff to introduce you. This way, the animal will be more relaxed and would appreciate the fact that you’re not simply grabbing and cuddling them as you please. Some pets take a bit of time to warm up to you.

  • And of course, don’t beat yourself up when you don’t find a pet or animal you’d love to go home with. Finding the right pet may take a bit of time. Just be patient and you’ll eventually find one to grace your fur-ever home.

The Dreaded Background Check

Hey, you won’t let your kid just hop in a car with a stranger right? The same thing applies as to shelters and rescues and why they perform some sort of background check.

Some facilities may also ask for character references, like a neighbor, a co-worker, or a respected community member like a pastor. This is all just part of protocol and should not be taken as something personal. The shelter or rescue does this to ensure that they don’t accidentally give an animal to a known animal rights offender or allow someone who does not have the means to adopt a very high maintenance pet.

Embrace the background check, it’s good for you!

The Home Visit and Ocular Inspection

Depending on the shelter or rescue and the type of animal you’re planning to adopt, the pet adoption process may involve an ocular inspection and a home visit. This step is a spin-off from the background check and is simply a way to validate if you can indeed give the pet you’re interested in a good life.

Some people may find the home visit too intrusive and may forgo adopting from a rescue or shelter which requires this. Just ask yourself ‘who is really the one missing out should you decide to forgo adopting’?

Adopting a new animal family member means making space in your home, making room in your heart, and setting aside some time for the pet. If an ocular inspection or a home visit is too much for you, you may want to reconsider and reflect on if you are indeed ready to let another creature into your life.

Take the ocular inspection and home visit as positive aspects of pet adoption! Use the actual moment as an opportunity to ask the shelter staff or the rescue volunteer what you should do to prepare your home. When they see how much you really care and how much you want the animal to feel at home, that’s lots of bonus points for you!


Finalizing the Adoption

This is it! You’ve gone through all the other steps and the only thing that’s left is to finalize the pet adoption! This seriously calls for a celebration!

Setting our excitement aside, finalizing the adoption has its own set of pitfalls and misconceptions. How so? Well, adopting an animal is not free (although many people believe it should be) and the adoption fee is considered by many as too expensive (it’s NOT, considering everything).

First off, once you’ve found your new animal baby and everything has been deemed A-okay to finalize everything, the next thing to do is paperwork. Yep, it’s paperwork folks.

Adopting an animal means you are taking responsibility for that animal’s well-being and actions. It is a contract, and yes, contracts come with paperwork and fees!

The fees are not really that much. On average, it may net between $20 to $500 depending on the kind of animal you’ll be adopting, the breed, age, history, and other factors. Surely, adopting a retired race track horse is justifiably more expensive than giving Flipper the goldfish a new bowl to swim in right? That is what sets the fees.

Speaking of the pet adoption fees being perceived as too expensive, that is not true at all. From the data we gathered from dozens of shelters and rescues all over North America, the adoption fees are a mere fraction of the total cost for all the good things you will be getting for free.

What are the freebies? Most pets and animals from rescues and shelters come with a clean bill of health because they have been thoroughly checked and treated. They are up to date with their shots, health checks, microchip tagging, and are spayed/neutered. Just these procedures alone can cost more than $500 for a dog so being asked to shell out $150 or so isn’t expensive at all. That’s like a mega sale of 70% off! Plus, the fee is usually spent on helping out other animals and for other expenses related to the rescue’s or the shelter’s upkeep – and you get to be a part of that! Doesn’t that feel great?

So how do we seal the pet adoption process? Simply pay the fees, sign everything which needs to be signed, and set a date to pick-up the animal in case you may need a bit more time to prepare your home or the place where the animal may be staying.

Being a good pet parent starts with going through the pet adoption process right. We hope that this installment of The Ultimate Guide To Pet Adoption has been helpful for you.

Care to share some of your thoughts? Please feel free to leave a comment down below or join other animal lovers at Facebook. To ensure that you’ll never miss an informative article like this one or some cute animal news, sign up for our newsletters and you’ll have new content delivered right to your inbox as we post it. We hope to see you around when we share the next part of the series; like the next one, the article on Preparing Your Home For A Pet.

We hope to see you around when we share the next part of the series!


Suzie Cyrenne
Suzie Cyrenne


Suzie Cyrenne co-founded Zumalka over five years ago, and has worked in naturopathic pet medicine for more than six. Day-to-day, she works as the lead manager for the Zumalka staff and specializes in training the team to have thorough knowledge of pet health and the company’s extensive line of naturopathic remedies.

Suzie has gained a lot of experience from years spent in the pet health field and she earned her degree in Homeopathy at the School of Classical Homeopathy in Quebec, Canada, (a partner of the European Academy of Natural Medicine (AEMN) in France).

2 Responses


April 04, 2019

learn about mindfulness gives you a break from faulty beliefs,
ideas, and anxieties giving rise instead to a profound self consciousness of the truth.


December 09, 2015

For our rescue, we don’t finalize the adoption until they do a trial run with the animal in their home for a few weeks FIRST. If the pets already in the home are willing to accept the incoming pet, that is the first soul in the home who gets to have first say if they will allow the incoming pet to share their home. Next it’s then up to the new pet….if they want to stay. If this in fact, is truly THEIR forever home. If they can’t or won’t settle in. We do NOT have a adoption that will happen. Hopefully the interview first, the back round check, the call to their vet and references will reveal if we have better than a 50/50 chance of making this work. We have found more often than not….when a trial doesn’t success it’s is 99% of the time because the adopters were not completely honest in the interview process. Either they don’t know what they really want or have time or room for. Or their previous pets are not wanting more pets in the house. Or their children are way too much overload for the pet coming in. Basically……if PEOPLE can learn to stop putting their wishes and wants over what they know they have the capacity for, then the interview process and home check and previous pets and children should work out. Honestly is they key. Being honest with themselves and their family members. Honestly in knowing what works best in their lives. Honestly in admitting their own and their families limitations. If we get that then usually we can make a happy working match in placing a pet into their homes. It’s all the other mishagoss that makes a bad match for any pet. Because pets need what they need and people need to put the pets in their live and that pets needs above their own needs. If they can’t do that, they should not be adopting or buying a pet. That is REALLY the reason for the rescues being SO careful with the application, the interview, the vet check, the home check and the trial run. So that they cover all the bases to make SURE they are doing the right thing for the pet. Because when you deal with PEOPLE, you get a lot of smoke and mirrors a lot of the time. On the other hand, if you get a shelter who doesn’t do much checking or a bad rescue who’s goal is to get a dollar out of the adopters hands and just place a pet into any home asking for a pet, (and understand there are a lot of those out there), who could care less if this is the right pet for YOU, then you also have a problem. Either way it’s usually the pet who pays the price when being put/placed into the wrong home for them.
In our rescue…the pet in the trial has the final say in if they stay or if they go. If they settle in and are happy and their previous issues have melted away in the trial home, THEN and only then do we finalize a adoption. And AFTER the finalization we still call, stay in close touch for the first six months to a year to make sure nothing is going south after the placement. For if it does, we take the pet back. We do not allow the family to give the pet to someone else. So it’s a on going process and for the good of all involved. Just like adopting a child, their case workers stay in touch and if something goes awry they take the child back and sometimes take the adoptive parent to court. So in every single case, being brutally honest is the best policy. When we get adopters who understand the need for all the care on our side and the pets well being, it’s a beautiful thing that happens. The pet gets a loving home, the rescue gets the satisfaction of knowing all their love and care and usually dollars the raise to take in and care for the pet is all worthwhile and best of all, the pet gets the love and caring it deserves. It’s like a marriage, if only one partner wants it, it’s never going to work. If all parties are on the same page, we have a happy ever after.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.