Thinking about adopting? Be prepared, specific

People often come to the city pound with the simple question, "How do I adopt a pet?" It is a very legitimate question as procedures vary greatly amongst shelters and rescue agencies. A few agencies will have you walk through their facility, pick...

People often come to the city pound with the simple question, "How do I adopt a pet?" It is a very legitimate question as procedures vary greatly amongst shelters and rescue agencies. A few agencies will have you walk through their facility, pick out a pet, pay the fee and send you out the door. Others require an application process, reference checks, veterinarian checks, a home visit, training sessions with the prospective pet and more. Some utilize a foster to adopt program; meaning that you go through a screening program first and are set up as a foster home. The animal you are interested in is placed with you on a foster status for a trial period before the actual adoption occurs.

How prepared are you?

Some people know exactly what they want when they arrive at the kennel; "I want a dog under 15 pounds that is at least a year old and house trained. I've had Shih Tzu mixes before and they have worked well. I don't mind a dog that needs frequent trips to the groomer. Color is not important but the dog must be a female." This type of request is easy to work with. We might not have the right dog right then, but at least we know what to watch for and how to help that person. They are also well prepared at home; probably already possessing most or all of the pet equipment needed and knowledge necessary to keep the animal comfortable, safe and healthy. More challenging to help is the person who states "I'll know the right pet when I see it." The most difficult aspect of this match is preventing the impulse adoption. For example large long haired breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundlands and the Saint Bernard (or mixes containing these breeds) are incredibly cute fur balls when young. They have gorgeous, big, brown (and sometimes droopy) eyes that tug at heart strings.

But without specific experience with these breeds or diligent research, people have no idea of the hours and dollars necessary to simply maintain the coats these dogs grow. Unless you own a Newfie, few people know that a basic grooming for a coat in good shape starts at $100. Heavily matted or burr filled coats push the price higher. A $55 grooming for a Golden Retrievers sounds like a steal. These are local prices in our rural area. Metro prices will be higher. If you don't have the money, do you have the patience and time to maintain that coat yourself?

Set some guidelines before you head out pet shopping. Most (but not all) people know if they are looking for a cat, dog, or rabbit when they arrive at the shelter. Conscientious agencies will work with you on finding the right animal to fit your needs by asking you questions along the following lines:


  • What purpose do you want the animal to fulfill: Companion, hunting, protection, etc?
  • How much room do you have for a pet?
  • Will your pet budget support frequent grooming, a large dog size food bill, or extra veterinarian bills associated with specific breeds?
  • Do you own your home or do you have your landlord's permission to add a pet?
  • What arrangements do you have for who will care for a puppy while you are at work, school, vacation, etc?
  • For larger or energetic dog breeds, what are your dog handling skills and what is your energy level?

When a shelter employee gives you advice that the dog you are looking at probably is not the right dog for you, please listen to that advice. You may well be talking with the person that handles and cleans up after that dog on a daily basis and knows its habits well.
I cannot begin to recall all the animals that have been brought in for remedial training or have been surrendered because not enough forethought went into the purchase or adoption. Matching a high energy dog with a low mobility person (can be due to injury, disease, age or lifestyle) is an accident waiting to happen. At least monthly we see people with bruises, scratches, bites, cuts, sprains or the occasional broken bone courtesy of dogs that they are not able to control.

Online pet shopping

If you are familiar with the humane societies, city pounds and other rescues in your area, you can go online and check out their individual websites. There you will find biographies and photos of the pets they have available. If you are looking for something specific, this will help you narrow your search.

You can also go to sites such as or PetAdoption. These sites invite shelters from across the nation to enter information on available pets. You are given the options to search by location (enter your zip code to stay close to home), by type (dog, cat, bird, reptile, etc.), breed, age and so on. These searches will lead you to agency sites where you can obtain specific information about that agency's adoption procedures and prices. Things like "Do you ship animals to other states?"

Most online sites will have applications that can be filed on line or downloaded and mailed in. This allows you to be pre-approved before traveling to the shelter or attending one of their adoption events off site.

PetSmart in Fargo, N.D. hosts quarterly nationally advertised adoption events. Local adoption agencies including 4 Love of Dog, the Humane Society of the Lakes and the Marshmallow Foundation among others are routinely invited to bring adoption ready pets to these events. People serious about adopting will pre-shop on line, identifying pets they are interested in. They will submit applications to each of the agencies with pets they may adopt and have their applications approved prior to the event. Then on the opening day of the adoption gala they meet the pets in person, make their final decision(s) and are able to take home the new buddy they have been searching for.

The homeless animal numbers are high right now. Although you may feel you don't need a pet, there are hundreds of homeless pets out there that need you. Please start your search by calling your local rescues, the Marshmallow Foundation at 218-847-4100 and the Humane Society of the Lakes 218-847-0511. Send your comments to .

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