6 Questions to Ask at the Animal Shelter

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 20, 2015

Welcoming a new four-legged companion into your life is an exciting decision that will lead to years of joy and happiness. It can even be more rewarding if you decide to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. Knowing what to ask on your visit to the shelter will arm you with important insights and help you pick the right pet for you and your family. Here are six questions to get answered before adopting a new pet.

1.What is the animal’s history?

Find out how the dog or cat that you are interested in wound up at the shelter. Was the pet found as a stray or did a previous owner surrender him? Understanding a dog or cat’s history will help prepare you for potential behavior or training needs if you decide to bring the pet home.

2. Were behavior tests conducted?

Most shelters and rescue organizations conduct basic behavior tests to assess whether or not a dog or cat should be put up for adoption. Find out what type of tests the shelter runs and request a breakdown of the results. This will help you determine at-home training needs.

3. What kind of medical care did the animal receive?

Shelters and rescues generally perform health checks on all pets before they are put up for adoption. You can expect the pet to be checked for heartworms, given all necessary vaccines and thoroughly examined for any additional medical problems. Ask the shelter veterinarian or staff to explain whether the pet needs any specific medications or additional care so that you can prepare.

4. What is the timeline for adoption?

Not all organizations handle the adoption timeline in the same way. Some shelters allow you to take a dog or cat home the day you fill out an application, but other rescues and facilities have a longer vetting process and require potential adoptees to bring other pets and family members for meet-and-greets before the adoption gets approved. Don’t forget to inquire about the timeline and set your expectations accordingly.

5. What fees can I expect to pay?

Adoption fees vary from shelter to shelter and are not the same for all pets. Puppies and kittens usually have higher adoption fees than other pets at the shelter. Popular breeds may also fetch higher fees. Make sure you clearly understand the fees and what they cover before signing an adoption agreement.

6. What food is the pet eating?

Before bringing a dog or cat home, find out what type of food the shelter is feeding. Ask the staff or your veterinarian for information about the nutritional value of the pet food and decide whether or not you’ll continue feeding the same food at home. If you do want to switch pet foods, ask a veterinarian for advice on transitioning to a new food to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Vets can also counsel you on the best food for the pet’s life stage and lifestyle.

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