Shelter Dog Adoption Advice

Pet expert Peggy Frezon tells you what you need to know before you adopt a shelter dog.

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Peggy Frezon with a canine friend

About nine years ago, I was scrolling through the adorable photos on Petfinder when I came across a reddish-brown spaniel, about 9 months old, with silky ears and soulful brown eyes.

I had to have that dog! You guessed it; that was Kelly.

Before I could adopt Kelly, however, I had to pass an interview conducted by Kelly's Rescue Mom. I anxiously sat on the couch as she scrutinized my home and examined my daily routine.

Here are some questions you, too, may be asked when you're ready to adopt that one special dog.

1. If you already have a pet, can you provide veterinarian records?
While it doesn't matter if your current dog had fleas or your previous dog once hurt its paw, adoption organizations want to see that you sought proper treatment for them. They'll also want to ensure vaccinations were kept up to date.

This information will show that you provided good care for your pet and will probably do so for the new dog as well.

2. Do you own your home?
Some adoption organizations require you to own your own home. Others will ask to see a copy of your lease and the pet policy, if you are a renter.

They may ask to talk to, or receive written consent from, your landlord. Confirming that the dog is allowed at its new home helps ensure it won't have to be returned (or worse, abandoned) later.

3. Do you have a fenced-in yard?
You'll need a safe area for your new dog to run and play. A representative may even come to your home to verify that you a have fenced-in yard before you can adopt a dog. They may also visit to see if your home is safe, and big enough for the breed of dog you are considering.

4. Do you work full time? 
Adopting a dog is more difficult for those who work outside the home full time. Many organizations will not adopt to families where no one is home during the day. Others will only adopt older dogs, not puppies, in that situation.

Families with staggered or flexible schedules, where one adult is home most of the time, or where an older, responsible child is home in the afternoons, will have an easier time adopting a dog.

5. If you have children, how old are they?
Every adoption organization will ask about the members of your household and ages of the children. The SPCA will not adopt puppies less than 6 months old to homes with children under 4 years old. Some dogs are not a good match for young children.

While they may seem a bit daunting, these questions help place a dog in the right home, with the best care possible. And with typical adoption fees ranging from $100 to $350, you'll want to be sure a dog is the right match for you and your lifestyle, too.

Fortunately, Kelly is now a joyful and loving member of our family.

Good luck finding your fur-ever friend!

Peggy Frezon, freelance writer and pet lover, has owned dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, hermit crabs, turtles and fish. Visit here twice monthly to read helpful tips on caring for your pets and check out her blog.

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