Non-profit, private shelters, which often (but not always!) have terms like “SPCA” or “Humane Society” in their names, are one place many people go when they’re interested in adopting a dog or cat.
Some of these shelters are modern and beautiful, and others are old-fashioned. The best of them will have lots of helpful, friendly volunteers and/or staff members who are knowledgeable about the pets in the shelter. These folks are invaluable in matching your needs to the characteristics of the pets, and in answering basic questions about breed, behavior, etc.
After you’ve selected a pet who seems right for you, most private shelters will let you take him or her to a “get-acquainted room” to visit with the pet in a quiet setting. Others might keep their pets in roomy “dog apartments” or “kitty condos,” and you may be invited to spend time with the pet on their own turf.
Some shelters also have fenced outdoor areas where you can play with the pet.
If you are interested in a dog and already have a dog at home, many private shelters will require you to bring in your resident dog for a get-acquainted session. This is to make sure there will be no future dog-to-dog conflicts.
All private shelters will ask you to fill out an adoption application. Sometimes they do this before you’ve met any pets, and other times, they don’t have you do it until you’ve selected a pet you’d like to adopt.
Sometimes, the questionnaire is mostly about practical things like your experience with pets, landlord information, and references.
Other times, it’s part of the process by which the shelter staff help steer you toward the pet who is right for your lifestyle. Whether you fill out the paperwork at the beginning or end of the process, ideally, as staff go over the form with you they will make the process educational and pleasant, answering any questions you may have and carefully going over the health and behavior of the animal in question.
These forms can be long or short, but their purpose is to make sure that the dog or cat ends up in a great home. So even if you don’t like filling out forms, know that it’s for a good reason. Think of it as being similar to a consult with a neighborhood pharmacist!
The Shelter Pet Project hopes the shelter will roll out the red carpet for you and make the experience a great one. If not, you might want to send a note to the director at a future time and remind her of the importance of good customer service.