Tips to visit Animal Shelter or Rescue

Gray medium hair kitten drinking from water in cage












Have you ever gone to visit an animal at a shelter/rescue and were totally turned off by the personnel that you talked to?  Or you felt that the questions they asked you on the application seem too personal and intrusive?  Here is a little insight into organizations like these and my tips for a successful visit.


Brown Dog outside on leash


Number One rule……

Volunteers and employees work for the animals, not the adopters.

The animals are the first priority!  They live in small cages or runs, in the vicinity of other lost, forgotten or abandoned animals.   The volunteers see these animals every day.  They experience their anger or fearfulness when they are first admitted.  Some of the animals adapt to the new environment and some hold a steadfast dislike that makes them appear miserable to every potential adopter.  Volunteers and employees want their animals to be adopted into their forever home.  They take time to make sure that you, as the adopter are right for this animal.  They take into consideration your preferences, but they will not let you adopt an orange cat if the black & white one would fit your household better.

Torti Siamese girl resting on a lapMost people that work at an animal shelter or rescue are VOLUNTEERS.

Some organizations have employees, but these numbers are small.  Volunteers make up the majority of the work force.  And these volunteers are doing this because of their love for the animals and their desire to help them.  Make sure you have enough time to visit an adoption day or a shelter, as many times the number of volunteers is limited and the number of adopters is plentiful.  Don’t give them a hard time but instead be patient and understanding.  They are not volunteering their time to get an attitude from you.

Kittens & Puppies are the easiest animals to be adopted.

Please consider whether your household is right for an older pet or for a younger adult.  Adult cats have established personalities.   Volunteers can guide you to the cats that would work best for what you want.  Some volunteers know the animals very well and some just volunteer on occasion.  Make sure you ask when speaking to someone about your potential pets.  Everyone has an opinion and not all opinions will be the same.  It’s ultimately up to you to feel comfortable with your new pet.  Some cats are very different in a shelter environment than if they were in your own home.  The close proximity of other animals and the hustle and bustle of many people coming and going is stressful to some cats.  This causes them to act differently than they would in your home and environment.

Black kitten sitting in a cage

Kittens have standard ‘crazy’ personalities for the most part.  I personally feel that I can tell kittens that have strong personalities at an early age, as I have fostered many a kitten.  But it’s true, even their personalities are still developing and will change as they get older.

Puppies have the same issue as kittens.  Everyone wants a cute and cuddly puppy and no one even looks at the adult dogs.  Puppies are messy and a lot of work.  You will need to train a puppy from scratch while some adult dogs will already have the basics in training down.

If you have your heart set on a baby, and no one is going to change your mind, be considerate to the volunteers that give you the list of reasons to consider an adult.  Do not blow them off or be condescending.  They experience multiple kitten or puppy adoptions every day.  And nothing is more disheartening than seeing a 1-year-old returned because his behavior could not be tamed by the adopters that took him at 10 weeks old.  This animal is now less adoptable (just by his age) and has developed bad habits that need to be corrected (and also limit his ability to be adopted again).  Know what you are getting into if you NEED to have a baby.

Brown dog head held by hands

There are endless ways of running a shelter or rescue.  Make sure you adhere to their rules.

Every organization believes in different things.  Nothing is right or wrong.  If the shelter or rescue has a website, check out the policies and procedures before you visit.  Ask volunteers if interacting with the animals is possible, prior to sticking your fingers in the cage or opening the doors.

Some rescues have an open policy on touching, petting, holding the animals while others want you to put in an application before meeting them.  Shelters tend to be stricter on hygiene protocols.  This is due to the confined nature of the animals.  Some require hands to be sanitized between touching of different animals.  Others do not let you touch baby animals (kittens, puppies) because their immune system is low and diseases can pass easily in a shelter.

I am a firm believer that the more people that touch an animal, pet it or hold it, the better chance it has to be adopted.  But I do understand stricter protocols for shelters because of passing any sickness that might be lurking under a paw.

Don’t expect to be able to pick up every cat or see every dog that is present in the shelter.  Remember most workers are volunteers who have multiple duties in addition to a normal life and another full-time job.  Even employees are stretched thin as most of these organizations rely on donations to survive.  Not everyone has the time to show every animal to someone.  Either talk to the people that know the animals and decide what it is that you are looking for in a personality or pick out a few by the way they look and ask to see them.

Brown puppy posing for pictureAccept the application process is long

Unless you know someone at the rescue or shelter, they are using their one-on-one experience with you and the info you provide in the application to determine if this animal is right for you.  The following are the basic info that most shelters or rescues require on their application.  Certain rescues can be more or less depending on how they are run.

  • You will need to provide the shot records of all your existing pets. This can most likely be verified by the shelter calling your vet.  Make sure you have the name and number of your vet or vets depending if you use different vets for different pets.
  • If you rent your home, provide the landlord name and number. They will call them to confirm that you can have a pet or have an additional pet.  Some landlords have breed restrictions.  If the dog is a rescue, no one can confirm it’s a specific breed without papers.  A rescue can only guess at the bred depending on the history that is known of the dog.  Some landlords or apartment complexes require a certainty on the breed.
  • Have one or two personal references on hand. Some rescues ask for someone that knows how you handle or interact with your own pets.

You might think these steps are overkill.  But remember – most shelters/rescues will choose the best adopter for that animal.  It’s not a first come-first served type of atmosphere.

Assume that the application process will be one or several days.  It’s a rare case when you will be taking home your adopted pet the same day you meet and visit it.  There are of course exceptions.  One example is that the perfect family has walked in and wants the hard to adopt, multiple issue animal.  This is the type of animal that goes home on the same day, but only if all calls are returned quickly in relation to references and records.  But for the majority of us, this only happens once every few months.

Adopting an animal is a privilege.

Make sure that you know what you are getting into.  If something doesn’t seem right with the animal or the shelter/rescue, don’t adopt him/her or from them.  You are making this commitment to the animal, hopefully for life.  You need to be certain.

Calico cat laying against dog

Almost all shelters or rescues survive off of donations.

Lastly, if you don’t plan to adopt, drop a few bucks in the donation jar on the way out.  Or if you have unused food, litter or supplies at home, bring them along for a donation.  Do not use these donations as a bribe to get the animal that you want.  Donate without any prejudice.

What other tips do you all have for adopting from a shelter or rescue?

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!