The adoption process
When you visit a shelter, keep in mind that you are not seeing the animals at their best. They are in a strange environment, surrounded by other animals they don’t know. Some will be very excited, jumping and barking as you approach. Others will be quiet and a bit scared — but don’t be too quick to judge them as they will adjust once they’re settled into a family.
It’s best for everyone in your household to be part of the adoption process — in fact, many shelters will require that.
Ask the staff for more information about animals that interest you. Ask if the dog is good with children, with other dogs, with cats, etc. It’s best if you can interact with the dog outside or in a separate area away from the stress of the animal rooms. If you already have a dog, you should bring him or her to meet a potential sibling in a neutral setting to make sure they’re compatible.
You will be asked to complete an adoption questionnaire and meet with shelter staff to discuss your expectations and lifestyle in order to make the best match.
Don’t take it personally if you are not accepted for adoption, or for the particular dog you’d like. This may be a sign that you’re not ready for a Fido yet – or just not right for that Fido.
More resources on adopting a dog
- Choosing & Caring for a Shelter Dog, by Bob Christianson
- Love Has No Age Limit, by Patricia McConnell and Karen London
Who’s who in animal adoption?
You might be wondering: what’s the difference between a humane society, SPCA, rescue group, or municipal shelter?
Humane societies and SPCAs are generally a different name for the same thing. They are both non-profit, charitable organizations established by people who care about animals. They educate about the humane treatment of animals and usually run a shelter to care for and find new homes for neglected, lost, abused, and homeless pets.
Many are also mandated under provincial/territorial legislation to enforce animal cruelty laws. They usually work closely with the police when charges are laid.
Animal rescue groups are also non-profit, voluntary organizations that care for homeless animals, usually in foster homes, and work to adopt them into suitable and caring homes. Some rescue groups are specific to a certain species (dogs, cats, even donkeys!) or a certain breed.
Municipal shelters or “pounds” are shelters for stray and abandoned animals that are run by the town or city government’s animal control department. Most provinces and territories have legislation requiring that stray pets be kept at these shelters a certain number of days (usually at least 3) to allow for owners to reclaim them. After that, they may be put up for adoption or euthanized.
Many animal control facilities work hard to reunite lost pets with owners and promote adoption of unclaimed animals. Others, unfortunately, have little funding and few staff, and provide only the bare minimum and then euthanize.
The bottom line is, healthy, adoptable pets in need of homes can be found through any of these sources, so in most areas, there is no shortage of options for finding your perfect adoptable Fido.