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How to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter

1 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Adopting a New Puppy

An animal shelter is a great place to go if you want to adopt a dog, but you can’t just waltz into most shelters and waltz out with a new puppy — they have rules about adoption. Animal shelters need certain information from you, and you're wise to get some insight into the shelter, too.

Questions to ask the folks at the shelter include

  • Do you have the dogs spayed or neutered, or do you require that adopters spay or neuter them? If so, do you offer a voucher to have the procedure done locally at a discount?

  • What information and supplies do you provide with an adopted dog?

  • What information and paperwork do you require from prospective adopters?

  • What are your adoption fees? Are there other costs involved?

  • Do you embed microchip identification in the animals? How much does this cost?

  • Do you have other requirements an adoptive owner must meet?

If you receive agreeable answers to these questions, ask the shelter for a list of everything you need and everything you’re required to do, before you come back to adopt you new doggie.

To seal the deal, you fill out an adoption form that asks you many questions, and you may have to provide some paperwork to turn in along with the adoption application. Although every shelter does things a little differently, a typical adoption process usually involves the following:

  • Filling out an application form that includes basic information about you, your living situation, other people and pets in your household, and where you plan to keep your new dog.

  • Showing proof that you own your home or that your landlord gives permission to having a dog move in.

  • Proving that you’re not a student. Some shelters won't let students adopt pets because they're notoriously prone to leaving the pets behind after graduation.

  • Agreeing to take certain steps in the future, including:

    • Having your dog checked regularly by a veterinarian.

    • Having a microchip implanted for identification and so that our dog can be tracked if lost.

    • Having your dog spayed or neutered.

    In many cases, you must sign a contract agreeing to certain terms. Some shelters require a deposit that you get back when you show proof that you’ve met the terms of the agreement. Some shelters take care of these services before releasing the dog for adoption, and the costs are fully or partially covered by your adoption fee — which obviously is higher in that case.

  • Agreeing either verbally or in writing to take proper care of the dog by providing good nutrition and veterinary care and by having her adequately vaccinated, as required by law and as recommended by a vet.

  • Verifying either verbally or in writing that the dog is for you and not a gift for someone else and that you intend her to be your pet and not your guard dog or breeding stock.

After you fill out all the paperwork, collect your copies, pack up any supplies and other information that come with your pet, you can take your new friend home!

Come prepared to transport your animal home safely. Dogs need to be in kennels that can be secured inside a vehicle or strapped safely into a pet seatbelt, both of which you can purchase at the pet store or online.

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