Best Practices Manual: Adoption Process

Today’s post is the first in a series about the adoption process. It covers adoption fees and locating potential adopters.

Kyla’s Take:

It’s unrealistic to think that adoption fees will ever cover what it costs to prepare a rescued dog for adoption. Of course, some dogs (like the occasional owner surrender) come into rescue already altered and up-to-date on shots, but most dogs need to be altered and vetted, at the very least. Some need extensive surgeries, and as rescues, it’s our duty to do whatever we can for them within accordance to the policies our rescues have set forth.

As related to adoption fees, the purpose of the fee should be to supplement some of the costs of rescuing and to ensure that the adopter is serious about getting a dog and understand the financial obligations associated with caring for a dog. Most rescues charge more for puppies and less for older dogs. Some have a flat fee, while others adjust their fees according to age and/or health. The most common amount to charge is between $100 and $400.

Most rescues also give a discount to foster families who “fail” (end up keeping their foster dogs), and of course, they don’t charge families who agree to provide hospice care or sanctuary for an “unadoptable.” The most common idea appears to be to give a 50% discount to foster families who decide to keep their adoptable foster pets.

I haven’t heard of rescue charging an application fee, but the question was presented to me the other day. What does your rescue do?

There are many different ways for rescues to find adopters. A website is a great tool to encourage people to adopt, lay out the expectations, provide an application, and showcase adoptable pets. Using online adoptable pet listing services is great, too, because they are likely the first site potential adopters will find. You can also find adopters at adoption and community events. Some rescues make agreements with local television stations to showcase their dogs on a weekly or monthly basis, which can help you to reach a broad audience.You can partner with local businesses to put up posters, have adoption days for your organization, and help you with promotions.

No organization should allow a potential adopter to take home a pet before that adopter has filled out an application and received a home visit, live interview, and background checks. However, keep in mind that a well-planned, thorough adoption process should also be timely and achievable. People commenting that “adopting a dog was harder than adopting a child” are not paying your organization a compliment. If the process is too difficult or lengthy, it will turn people away.

Some organizations, especially really large ones, run specials. However, most smaller organizations stay away from adoption discounts and 2-for-1’s. While we all know that encouraging people to buy pets as gifts for others is a bad idea, some organizations will allow people to purchase gift certificates.

Pat’s Take (GRRAND):

Applications for adoption are on our website.  They can be downloaded, completed and returned on line.   Once vet references (if applicable), and other references are checked, a home visit is scheduled.   This usually can take from a few days to a few weeks.   At the present time, we do not charge a fee for applying.  Our web site, at present, cannot facilitate the process.  We are considering the possibility of establishing a non-refundable application fee once the website is updated.

Setting Fees:

Rescuing and rehabilitating dogs is not a cheap endeavor.  Our cost direct cost per dog is in excess of $800.   That does not include items such as insurance, telephone, or promotional costs.   We have to charge what the market will bear.  After an extensive study into what local shelters and breed rescue groups charge, we came to a scale of fees: dogs up to 7 are $275; dogs 8-9 are $150; dogs 10 and older – no fee required.  We are considering an increase but because of the economy we are not doing it at this time.   Our last increase was several years ago.  We increased our fees 10%.

Finding Adopters

Our biggest source of potential adopters comes from former adopters.  They want to add to their dog family, or perhaps their beloved pet passed away.   We try to maintain contact with the former families by hosting several events for dogs and their owners.  We also get applications from friends and families of former adopters

Our website is the next source of applications.   Searching for breed rescue on the web will list our group.   We are breed specific (golden retrievers) and receive many inquiries and applications as we are the only GR rescue in this state.

We do have the “Meet and Greets” where we will appear at local businesses.   Several business support our organization and allow us to have these events on a regular basis.   We do not, however, take any adoptable dogs due to insurance constraints.  We encourage people to go online or take an application home to return at their convenience.    We do not encourage impulse adopting

What are some other ways that rescues can locate potential adopters? What does your rescue charge for adoptable pets? What are your policies about foster failure?

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4 Responses to Best Practices Manual: Adoption Process

  1. Our adoption fees of course don’t even begin to cover what it really costs to prepare each one for adoption, but yes, there are those few that come in healthy and already vetted(but rarely). Our adoption fees range from $50 for a dog that is 10 or older, $150, $225, and up to $250 for puppies. Our fees are based on age & health. We normally do not offer a “discount” for foster failures but I’m sure if it was a hospice situation that would be considered. I do know of a local rescue that asks for upwards of $600-$800 adoption fees but I find the more average is $100-$400 depending on age and/or breed, and overall health.

    I’ve had the question come up about running specials or discounts on adoption but we feel that if someone really wants a Weim, they will be willing to go thru our adoption process and pay the fee. We’ve found it helps wean out less desirable applicants. As all reputable rescues, we strive for successful adoptions because of course we know it’s hard on a dog to be moved around frequently. My last Weim foster was adopted recently and the couple made the same comment about it being easier to adopt a child but they actually did mean it as a compliment and were very impressed with the process. They said that was one reason they chose MHWR, because of the reputation of carefully screening applicants for the good of the dogs. But even though we have the initial phone interview, home visit, coming to Meet N Greets, we are able to keep the process moving quickly so we don’t lose a good applicant because of frustration.

    As for application fee, we do not ask for that but I do know of at least one CO rescue that does that. I suppose that would wean out those not 100% committed to finding a dog thru that rescue but for me personally I found it to be a put off.

    Finding new applicants is something we’ve been talking alot about lately. We’ve found that by expanding where we hold Meet N Greets we’ve been able to target different markets, such as, hold MnG’s at running stores, and places like Jax, Gander Mt, etc. During the cooler months we hold MnG’s at local pet and feed supply stores too. But in the warmer months we hold MnG’s at dog parks throughout Co Springs, Denver, and up to Fort Collins. It’s hard not to attract attention with 10-20 big gray dogs running around! We would welcome any other suggestions for finding new applicants!!

  2. Of course, the Don’t Kill Bill shows are a great way to find new applicants and new volunteers, too! I was so happy the other day when a woman told me she got involved with rescue after seeing the show. Yay! I hope the rescues got a few new adopters, too!

  3. I love that show!! It was entertaining and I heard several comments from people that said they didnt realize what rescue was really about and that Don’t Kill Bill show opened their eyes to much more of it.

  4. I haven’t heard of rescue charging an application fee, but the question was presented to me the other day. What does your rescue do?

    My rescue does not charge an application fee because we have never felt it was necessary. Instead what we do is our application online has a spam blocker and also has required fields. With our old adoption application, we would often get applications that only had one section completed or somehow a spammer would fill it out. With our new one, its impossible for this to happen. If a field is not completely filled in then an error box comes up asking them to fill out the required field. We also have a captcha (sp?) box that has you enter in a code so that spam cannot fill it out.
    We figure that if people are serious enough to fill out our 7 page adoption application, then they must be serious enough to adopt.
    We might re-evaluate this someday if our volume of applications increases, but for now we don’t feel its necessary.

    Policies about adopting to foster families

    We don’t really have one at this time. Instead what we do is we take this on a case-by-case basis. We have about 10 people in our ‘core’ group, so when something like this comes up, we will discuss it and figure out a solution to work for both parties. Typically our foster families don’t mind paying the adoption fees because they know we run on donations and adoption fees.
    To me this isn’t a huge issue, but if it does become an issue, we will have to sit down and figure out a policy and stick to it. Right now it is nice to take it on a case-by-case basis because we are small enough to do so.

    Finding new adopters

    In my blog posting I have some ideas on how to go about this. But one thing I didn’t mention was doing things like Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. You will often times see coupons for $50-$100 free of advertising for google or facebook. You can use these to help generate interest to your group and hopefully find more adopters. You may even be able to find a volunteer who can set all this up for you and they may be willing to pay for it.
    If you haven’t ever used Facebook ads I would highly recommend looking into it. You can specifically target specific people, for example we target people within a 50 mile radius of Omaha, Nebraska, then we target people between 25 years old-70 years old. The next specific thing you can target is peoples interest. So for example you could specifically only place your ad on someone’s page that has an interest in dogs. The other categories like education, relationship status, and sex we don’t really mess with.
    The next part that is great about facebook advertising (as well as with google adwords), is that you can tell it exactly how much you want to spend per day. So for example we have our facebook ad set up to pay for clicks (rather than impressions), so for each click we will pay up to $1.09. Then we set our daily budget to $4.00. That way you don’t go bankrupt if everyone clicks on your ad.
    Its super easy to set up and really does work. When we first started the rescue I spent around $200 of my own money to help find fans. Eventually I did away with that because our group grew because our fans invited their friends, and it just wasn’t necessary for me to find more fans.
    If anyone is interested in setting up something like this let me know and I would be more than happy to help out. I don’t know a whole lot about Google Adwords, but I know it works along the same lines as Facebook ads does.

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