Tips for Finding a Home for a Pet
The staff at Petfinder would like to help you ensure that the pet you are trying to place goes to the best possible home. Read the headings below and find the section that best describes your situation.
Finding a new home for a lost or abandoned pet
Finding a new home for Your Own Pet
Are you always finding abandoned pets?
Questions to ask potential adopters
You have found a lost or abandoned pet and you would like to find him/her a new home.
The first thing you need to do is determine that no one is looking for this pet. State laws on lost pets vary. A good rule of thumb is to make at least two or three attempts to find the previous owner (make posters, place newspaper ads and radio announcements, notify local police departments, and humane organizations). After seven days (NJ state law) a lost pet is considered adoptable. This also gives you necessary time to observe important personality traits in the pet that will help you find it the best new home. If you can't keep the pet for a week, consider boarding the pet in a kennel or vet's office. This will cost money, but the peace of mind is well worth it. Ask for a discount since it is a rescued dog (it can't hurt to ask).
See below for a list of questions to ask potential adopters. Try contacting a local rescue group to help with the interviews. They are good at it and are usually willing to help! Never offer your animal for free. If you choose to give it to the new family after the adoption screening, that is your choice, but advertising "FREE" is just asking for trouble (yes, pet collectors--for animal research--are a real problem, as are people collecting for purposes of training for dog fights, meals, and other horrifying things to pet lovers). Our recommendation is to at least ask for a reimbursement of veterinary costs.
You are trying to find a new home for your own pet
Relinquishing your pet may be the hardest thing you've ever had to do. It may be a result of divorce, allergies, the birth of a child, uninformed choices, and sometimes irresponsibility or a change in lifestyle. People in these situations often unload their pet at a shelter because it is the quickest way to do an uncomfortable thing. Remember, many are over-crowded and usually between 66% - 95% of the animals taken in are put "to sleep." Pets that aren't often suffer terribly from loneliness and confusion from being abandoned into a harsh environment. Some "pounds" do not have adoption procedures, and others are so overrun with unclaimed pets, that they screen potential adopters poorly, if at all. Other types of shelters are "no-kill" (these usually only destroy un-adoptable, sick, or aggressive pets). No-kill organizations, as well as rescue groups are often under-funded and over-crowded as well. They may refuse to take your animal because they only have room for the strays that they must take.
Taking the time to find a new home for your pet yourself is the best, healthiest, most responsible thing you can do. It will give your pet a much smoother transition to its new life without you. Do NOT be naive, though. Your pet loves and trusts you and this will be a terrible setback both emotionally and physically for him/her. Because your pet sees you as his/her family, this IS a betrayal...even though in the long run it may be for the best.
See below for a list of questions to ask potential adopters. Try contacting a local rescue group to help with the interviews. They are good at it and are usually willing to help! Never offer your animal for free. If you choose to give it to the new family after the adoption screening, that is your choice, but advertising "FREE" is just asking for trouble (yes, pet collectors--for animal research--are a real problem, as are people collecting for purposes of training for dog fights, meals, and other horrifying things to pet lovers).
Maybe you are one of those rare special people (like us) who find stray, abandoned animals every time you leave your home
If this is you, here are a few ideas to consider:
- These are dangerous situations. Don't take them lightly. Try to get experienced help. NEVER force an animal into your car if they seem uncomfortable (some animals flip out when the car starts).
- Align yourself with a rescue organization or animal shelter. You may choose to join one of these groups or you may choose simply to develop a relationship with them. For instance, some people help animal shelters find homes for their pets by placing newspaper ads, updating their Petfinder.com pet list, or paying for spaying and neutering. In turn, some shelters are willing to work with these individuals by providing boarding. Organizations that have good screening procedures are often more than willing to share those with you, and often will even help do interviews.
- Develop a relationship with several local veterinarians who will help you ensure that the pets you place in new homes are healthy, have their vaccines, and are spayed or neutered. Assure them that the vet records will be passed along to the new owner along with your recommendation of the vet!
- Get a tetanus shot immediately. Stray cat and dog bites are common in rescue. These animals are stressed and often afraid (especially when they meet your Fido for the first time). If scratched by a cat, get medical attention immediately. Cat scratch fever can be serious if not treated quickly. If treated quickly, it is just a lesson learned. Invite an animal home with you ONLY if you have a safe means of transporting him/her. It is not recommended to let a strange animal ride loose in your car. Borrow a crate from an animal rescue group or shelter. When you find an abandoned pet, don't over feed it. Especially if you plan on trasporting it. Carry a leash and or cat carrier in your car at all times. Bottled water and canned cat food are also nice to have on hand.
- DEFINITELY make sure your own pet is more than up-to-date on his/her vaccinations. Even vaccinated dogs can get PARVO-virus. There are no vaccines for some pet illnesses. Many rescue workers will NEVER bring a pet into their own home until it has had a thorough vet check. Until you can get the new pet to a vet, separate him/her from your pets, especially if you suspect he/she may be sick.
- Consider boarding the pet in a kennel or vet's office. This will cost money, but the peace of mind is well worth it. Ask for a discount since it is a rescued dog (it can't hurt to ask). Average fees range from $5-20 per day, depending upon the boarding kennel, the size of the pet, and the discount they are willing to give you.
Interviewing potential adopters—QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
The questions below are intended to be used as a guide for interviewing potential adoptor(s) for your pet. They are, for the most part, generalizations. Yes; exceptions to these rules can be found in some of the best pet homes. However, you will only have a small amount of time to get to know each potential adoptor(s) and these questions may help you form a general idea of the worthiness of each applicant. And always remember: You are making a choice that the pet will have to live with for the rest of his/her life. If you have an uneasy feeling about an applicant; FOLLOW YOUR GUT! You are probably right. Good Luck.
Have you ever had another pet? What happened to it?
The best answer is "Yes; It died at age 17." What you really don't want to hear is that their last pet was hit by a car, died of a preventable disease, ran away, or worse... was turned in to a shelter.
Do you have a pet now?
Already having a pet is good. It demonstrates that they already know what is involved in pet ownership.
If yes, then how long have you had it?
In general... the longer, the better.
What size is your current pet?
The best answer is a size that is close to the one they are trying to adopt.
If a cat, has your cat been tested for FIV (feline AIDS) or FILV (feline Leukemia)?
If either cat is positive for one of these diseases placing them together is
disastrous. If a rescued cat is FIV or FILV positive, place it with another
known cat with the same disease.
If you have another dog/cat, is it altered? Will you be altering (spaying/neutering) the cat/dog when it reaches sexual maturity?
The good answer is yes: spay/neuter prevents unwanted pet births, decreasing the euthanasia happening in shelters because of too many companion animals and not enough companion homes. Also spay/neuter prevents cancer and decreases the likelihood that a pet will run away from home or get into fights.
Do you own your home or rent? Do you have a fenced yard?
Ask to see a copy of their lease allowing pets if they rent. Or ask to use their landlord as a
reference. Fenced yards are best, but aren't always possible. In some parts of the country they aren't always necessary (very rural farmland). Make sure the potential adopter is interested in exercising their new pet. Some dogs should get up to three or four miles of exercise a day. "My apartment doesn't allow pets" is one of the top three reasons that pets are taken to shelters.
Will you provide references?
Many organizations require three, one being a veterinarian. Sometimes they find the person had no record at the vet, a family member remarks about how much the potential adopter loves to travel abroad each month, or perhaps what really happened to their last pet. Although these situations are not the norm--with the time, money and energy you are investing in this pet--be sure! You aren't interested in an adopter who will not provide veterinary care for this pet.
Will the pet be a member of your family or a gift for someone else?
It is important that everyone who will be living with the pet meet it first. This minimizes the chances of the pet being returned to you, winding up at a shelter, or being abused or neglected.
Are you willing to allow a home check?
Some rescue groups always do a home check. This verifies the individual has given you a real address. You might consider taking your pet, to see his/her reaction to the home and the people. If one of the family members never gets off the couch or turns the TV down to meet you and your pet, it is probably not going to be the best home. Some organizations also go back to the home one week after adoption. This gives them an opportunity to see that the pet is happy. It also gives the adopter a chance to return the pet if there is a problem. NEVER DO A HOME CHECK ALONE! REMEMBER THE BUDDY SYSTEM!
Do you plan on crating the dog? For how long each day?
Some people feel that crating is a good way to introduce a pet to its new routine and to avoid accidents due to confusion and perhaps depression. On the other hand, 12 hours a day alone in a crate would signal a neglectful situation. Use your judgement here.
If the pet has an accident in the house, what type of correction do you plan to use?
Rubbing their nose in it and screaming "bad pet" is no longer accepted as an effective correction. Many training methods exist. An answer you'd like to hear is one that suggests patience, consistency, and perhaps even a hint that they've read a book (or would like to) about training. It is NEVER EVER appropriate to hit, spank, slap, poke, kick, or humiliate a pet that has had an accident. Many dogs in shelters exhibit urination shyness (they roll over and act submissive every time they urinate). This psychological damage is a result of stupidity on the part of an abusive owner who didn't know how to house break a pet.
How many hours per day will the pet be alone?
Think twice before you adopt a young puppy or kitten to a home where they will be alone for more than four hours a day. New owners should be willing to adopt on a weekend or on vacation time to allow the youngster to adjust to new conditions. Older dogs and cats can withstand being alone for a normal working day. Eight to 10 hours is possible but should be followed by a good excersize/play time, which is difficult for people that have themselves worked a 10 hour day.
Do you have children? How old are they? Have they ever been around pets?
Children should not be expected to be responsible for the pet. If that is suggested, think red alert! Very young kids may be hurt by or may hurt the new pet. This is a personal issue, based mostly on the type of family you are talking to. Tread carefully, here. Some organizations have a strict policy regarding adoptions to families with children under five. Others judge on a one-on-one basis. This is where your people skills come in. Make sure you meet the kids!
Will the pet be going outside at all?
Cats that go outside have a significantly reduced expected life-span, get hit by cars, poisoned intentionally, poisoned unintentionally, get feline aids for which there is no vaccine, get feline leukemia for which the vaccine is only 70% effective, get into fights, get fleas, get lost, etc. You want to hear that this will be an indoor cat (unless you are placing a vaccinated wild cat on a farm or in a rural area). Outdoor/indoor is okay for dogs, but remember, dogs are pack animals and want to be where you are. Leaving a dog outside when the rest of his family is inside may be a lonely experience for the dog.
Will you be declawing the cat?
Declawed cats are more likely to become biters and/or forget litter box training. Many people are very opposed to declawing (or see it as a last resort) because of the gruesome nature of the surgery. At best, it should be done at the same time as altering.
Do you realize that cats can live for more than 20 years? Do you realize that dogs can live for more than 15 years?
This is a lifetime commitment.