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Open Adoption Guidelines

Melanie Anton, ASPCA


Start with the premise that there is no perfect pet owner. Statistics show that once a person decides to get a pet if they are denied at a shelter or rescue they will usually get one elsewhere often from breeders, pet stores or “free to a good home” ads. Each encounter with an interested individual is an opportunity to educate (not preach) and learn. We will have fewer animals brought into shelters if we help people become good, responsible pet owners, regardless of whether or not they are denied an animal.

Explain. Tell your potential adopters why you are asking questions: that it is devastating to the animal to go from home to home, and that you are working in the animal and the adopter’s best interest in determining the best possible match.

Listen. Hear what the person is saying before you start judging their motives. If they had to give up an animal in the past, find out why and work to prevent that from happening again. React to ideas, not to the person.

Courtesy. Treat adopters with the same respect that you want and deserve. If you are busy, tell them so and make an appointment to visit/call them again. Don’t lose track of an interested individual. Research shows that adults are more receptive to learning new ideas and values under conditions that treat them as intelligent, competent and well intentioned.

Work with their good intentions. Remember that they were good enough to want to rescue a pet, so they already have your pets in mind. It takes more effort to seek out a rescued pet then to stop by a pet store, visit a breeder or answer a ‘free to a good home’ ad.

Expand the possibilities. Don’t automatically eliminate homes that may not fit rigid criteria. People that work all day or that don’t have previous experience may not be perfect, but they may be able to make arrangements for pet care and they can learn.

Remember we are representing shelter and rescue pets everywhere. If we turn people off to rescues and shelters, then we are pushing people to pet stores and feeding the machine that turns out puppy/kitten mill animals and backyard breeders. If they don’t adopt from you, they will go elsewhere and we will have lost our opportunity to promote our special needs.

Screening potential homes is an important part of our commitment to the animals that we are rescuing. We have an equal obligation to the public to provide the best experience possible. Open your mind to the possibility each potential adopter offers and more pets will be in loving homes.


Courtesy of ASPCA National Shelter Outreach
424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128

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