Criteria for dog adoption
Just as you may have a rough idea of what sort of dog you are looking for, so you'll find that most shelters also have a few thoughts of their own as to what makes a suitable owner!
Rules and responsibilities
As well as having an understanding of the responsibilities involved in caring for a dog, you'll be expected to meet certain criteria. They may refuse to re-home dogs outside of a certain catchment area for example - understandably, as this can cause difficulties in organizing home visits. They may also insist that dogs are not re-homed to anyone under the age of 18, or on income support or social security, with children under a specified age, or if the dog is going to be left alone for more than a certain number of hours - usually four but this can be less. They'll also want to see some form of ID, plus, if you don't own your own house, written permission to keep a dog from your council, housing association or landlord.
All these conditions can vary between different shelters, it's a good idea to ask first to make sure you can meet them before you actually find and fall in love with the mutt of your dreams.
All members of the family - including any other dogs you own - will also need to meet the rescue before he or she leaves the premises, to ensure that everyone gets on. There'll also be a home visit to arrange.
These form part of the vetting procedure to ensure that you can provide the right sort of home. Your house doesn't need to be spotless but it does need to be a safe and secure environment so before the visit is due, check up on and repair, if necessary, any weak areas of garden fencing and tidy up any other potential hazards.
You may need to be flexible and available at short notice for a visit; if possible, the other family members should be present and the primary carer absolutely must be - it's no good asking your neighbour to stand in for you.
The home visitor won't be able to give you a decision there and then and you'll probably need to wait between several days to a week to hear if you have been successful.
Sealing the deal
Shelter dogs aren't free and if your adoption application is successful, you'll be asked to pay a ‘donation' which helps to cover some of the costs of caring for the dog while he was at the shelter and to sign an adoption form agreeing that you will care for, feed, train, exercise and insure him and seek veterinary attention as required.
There may be additional stipulations such as having him neutered if this has not already been done and that if, for any reason, you ever find yourself unable to keep him, you will return him to the shelter.
If some of this seems excessive, bear in mind that the shelter's first concern is for the dog and trying to ensure that he finds his final ‘forever' home.