Want to adopt a pet? Prepare for a full background check.


When I decided to save a kitten last spring, I didn’t expect it to take almost a year.

The last time I adopted an animal – my dog, a little over ten years ago – the whole process took less than a month. On my way home from the grocery store, I saw someone from a rescue organization walking Otter around and I stopped to chat. One quick application, two referrals and two weeks later it was mine.

Shortly after the pandemic started, I started religiously checking Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet for a kitten. Whenever I saw the one I wanted, I filled out a request. Unlike the two pages I submitted to adopt my dog ​​in 2009, these were long, exhaustive and, in my opinion, a bit overwhelming.

A rescue organization asked me to complete a seven page application, submit five personal references, and provide a detailed record of every pet I have owned since I was a child. Another wanted my driver’s license number, several references, a fecal sample from each of my dogs, a personal meeting and a separate home visit.

Others wanted to know if my yard was fenced; if I enroll my pet in a training course; if I had ever been divorced; how long I spent at home; and what was my overall philosophy of discipline.

The worst part? I never got a response – from any of them.

When the pandemic hit, pet adoptions and foster care increased as people sought to ease their loneliness and find solace; In the first month of the crisis alone, Petfinders’ adoption requests doubled from the previous four weeks, according to the company.

“The sheer amount of apps is just not possible for rescue groups to respond to everyone,” said Alison Schwartz, owner of Doxie by Proxy, a dachshund rescue in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Sometimes we can get 10 to 15 a day. We have four key board members in our group, and only one of them is responsible for screening applications.”

As the volume of inquiries has increased, so has the level of detail.

Joyce Chikuma, a 59-year-old medical assistant in Edmonton, Canada, said her dog’s five-month adoption process resembled her experiences of infertility.

“You can’t get what you want,” she says. “You can’t get pregnant when you want to get pregnant. And when you have to wait, it creates all these feelings of “Why not me?” Why can’t I be a parent? Why can’t I be a puppy parent? ‘ “

The process also reminded Ms. Chikuma to seek approval to adopt a child. Rather than assessing a person’s ability to care for another being, she said, the focus is on “whether I am well enough or have good housing”.

While radio silence and false starts are painful, the experience can also seem completely absurd. Ms Chikuma said she knows someone who drove six hours just to find an available dog. Apps often read, in part, as creative writing prompts, with potential users asked to describe their perfect weekend in detail.

Indeed, some have questioned whether they should be tactically inventive in their responses.

“Do I lie and say that I work very close to home?” Ms. Chikuma said. “I can go home and come back. Or is crate training a good thing to say, or is crate training a bad thing to say? “

Elaine Skoulas, 35, spent three years trying to adopt a chihuahua in Los Angeles. She was immediately disqualified as an adopter of most available pets because she did not have a fenced yard or other pet in her home.

“I think it’s really difficult because it’s clearly only targeting a very small percentage of the population who might have enough privileges to have a house with a big yard,” she said.

Fiona Young-Brown, a 48-year-old writer in Lexington, Ky., Also struggled with the jobsite issue. (She lives in a row house with no fence.) But her struggles didn’t end there. She needed a vet referral for one of the dogs she was hoping to adopt, but her vet had recently passed away.

“You can’t get a letter of recommendation from someone you’ve never taken an animal to,” Ms. Young-Brown said. Other rescue organizations wanted photographs of every room in her house or a signed affidavit returning the dog’s property to the rescue if something happened to Ms Young-Brown (what her lawyer told her isn’t even legal. ). Each of them also demanded administrative fees.

“We wanted a rescue on the principle of helping another dog, but at that point we were really starting to think, ‘It invades our privacy so much that we better contact a breeder,” Ms. Young said. -Brown. .

Ms Schwartz said detailed questions and home inspections are needed. “It’s giving someone a life,” she said, and relief organizations are committed to ensuring that every animal ends up in a “forever home.”

She also noted that rescue organizations can be responsible for the welfare of each animal. If they adopt one that injures someone or dies, she said, the rescue could be continued, depending on state laws. So, intense apps are designed not only to limit abuse and eliminate people who cannot take responsibility, but also to protect the organization legally.

Not everyone in the rescue world agrees on the question of detailed questionnaires. At the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of the world’s largest humanitarian societies, adoption matchmakers ask questions about the atmosphere in the home to match pets and owners.

“We really feel like those kinds of restrictive policies, the ones that sort of serve as barriers – so things like owner checks, house calls, referrals, do you have a fence, all those kinds of things. ‘demands – we really feel like those. prevent people from adopting, ”said Christa Chadwick, ASPCA’s vice president of accommodation services Not to mention, she said, that they“ don’t really help anyone figure out if this family is going provide a loving home for an animal. . “

Of course, there’s good reason to be thorough: Research from the American Humane Association shows that about 1 in 10 adopted animals are discharged or relocated after six months.

“I think there should be some sort of screening for people,” Ms. Skoulas said. “I don’t think there should be just dogs being handed out on the streets.” But, she said, the protracted process can be “a huge deterrent” for some future pet parents.

“In the end, we just wanted another dog in our house to love and pamper,” Ms. Young-Brown said. “And instead we just thought, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?'”

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