How to Adopt From a Rescue

Pet care & safety
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What can you expect during the adoption process through a rescue? The waiting game after finding the love of your life can be excruciating, but let’s walk through the process to help prepare for the process.

Pet Adoption Qualifications

Adopting a pet in years’ past was simpler than it is now. Before, you could stop in, point to a dog, and walk out with a license and a leash. While that simplified process is still out there, it’s far less common. Most rescues, shelters, and animal control facilities require some kind of screening process. How do you qualify to adopt a pet?

Most shelters put potential adopters through a screening process that may include:

  • Verified veterinarian references

  • Scheduled home visit

  • Authentication with landlord on pet agreement (if leasing)

  • Screening interview/application

  • Foster-to-adopt trial period

Proper screening helps prevent animal neglect, and a good match can prevent an animal from being returned to the shelter. After all, the sheltering and adoption process is hard on both the pet and the rescue workers, and a return can be even harder. This process, and those similar to it, ensure pet adoption approval and, hopefully, a perfect match.

We adopted our Rottweiler from the county kennel where dogs had a short hold time and adoption wasn’t the norm, so we were surprised at the resistance from the adoption counselors. The dog was emaciated and had a suspicious mass – not a highly adoptable dog by most standards. Yet, we had to fill out several documents making certain that we did not have children, had a six-foot fence, and would get her the medical treatment she needed. I can appreciate that they wanted to adopt her out to a person who would care for her.

How much does it cost to adopt a pet?

Overall, cat adoption costs usually range between $25 and $100 and dog adoption costs range between $50 and $400. But the love and companionship of a happy ending? Priceless.

Adoption rates vary widely by location, organization, and usually by the type of pet. Here is some general pricing guidance:

  • Senior pets are typically less expensive

  • Purebreds are often priced higher due to increased demand. (Yes, one in four shelter dogs appears to be a purebred.)

  • Small, independent rescues are more likely to build the cost of prior medical care into the adoption fee

  • Larger rescue groups tend to price pets more uniformly

  • Some groups ask for a donation plus the basic cost of things like transportation, ID tags, or microchip

  • It’s not uncommon to see “buy-one-get-one” and special pricing when a shelter is crowded or if a pet has been available for a long time

What does a pet adoption fee cover?

I know people who’ve found stray cats or dogs that they decide to keep (after no owner was located) and have surrendered them to the local shelter, only to adopt them back immediately. Why go through all that? Simple: The perks of adoption from non-profits help spare your wallet.

Nearly all reputable rescues include at least some of the following in their adoption fee:

  • Spay or Neuter

  • Vaccines

  • General health check

  • Microchipping

  • Collar & leash

  • Discounts on crates, bowls, or other supplies

  • Training advice

  • A complementary follow-up exam with a participating vet

  • Short-term or discounted pet insurance

A spay or neuter surgery and shots could easily run around $700 for the average dog, so receiving all of these benefits is real budget saver.

Adopter Duties and Expectations

Most adoption contracts have some language to outline the adopter’s duties and expectations. Typically, they include the obvious (I promise to feed, water, and care for my pet) but other clauses can extend the rights of the rescue. For example, some rescue group remain the main contact on the microchip so if the pet is lost, the rescue group would be contacted first if the chip is scanned. While this is not always the case, this is a huge lifesaver for dogs that could end up as strays if the ID or microchip isn’t kept current by the owner.

Many rescues require you to return the pet to them directly instead of re-homing yourself, or state that you cannot euthanize the animal without their consent, except in case of emergency. While all of this language can feel a bit “big-brother-ish,” it’s actually good peace of mind for the owner. If you ever become unable to care for or manage your pet, the rescue will respond to your call for help. Your adoption contract should feel like a safety net.

What to do When you Bring Your Adopted Pet Home

Once you get your pet home, take advantage of online forums and guides. For instance, if you adopt a younger pet and need a bit of help, check out Embrace’s puppy and kitten guides! You can also use the rescue or the foster parents as resources – they can help you get vet care and answer behavioral questions as best they can. While they may not know much about your pet’s history, they have a background in helping a lot of pets. Before long, you’ll find that your e-mails to the group stop being so much about “help me figure him out” and turn in to “I don’t know what my life would be like without him.”