Have you found a stray dog or cat, or do you need to find a new home for your pet? We hope the suggestions in this resource will help you. First, we’ll talk about what to do if you’ve found a stray. (If you locate the pet’s owner, you may not even need to find a new home.)
If you do need to find a new home for the stray pet or your pet, we’ll show you how to get the word out. We’ll talk about how to create an effective flyer, how to take a good photograph of the pet, and how to write imaginative text (to capture the attention of a prospective adopter) for a flyer or take advantage of the networks already established to advertise your animal online.
We then discuss the preparation of the pet: making sure that the animal’s vaccinations are up to date, that he/she is healthy and that all relevant information is ready to be passed on to the adopter.
We also walk you through the very important counseling process to make sure all the basic needs of the pet will be met in the pet’s new home. Finally, we provide information on how to finalize the adoption and offer some words of encouragement in your quest to find the pet a home.
Table of Contents
1.) What to do when you’ve found a stray
2.) How to get the word out
3.) How to prepare the pet for adoption
4.) How to screen potential adopters
5.) Meeting the potential adopter
6.) Finalizing the adoption
7.) Some final words of advice and encouragement
Check for a tag or microchip.
If you’ve found a stray, check for a tag on the pet. If there is a tag, and the owner’s name is on it, call and arrange for a pickup. If the tag gives the name of a veterinarian’s clinic, call during business hours and get the name and phone number of the owner using the code number on the tag. Then follow up to return the dog or cat. If the animal has no tag, there may still be a way to identify the stray if he/she has been microchipped. Contact your local shelter or a veterinarian to get the pet scanned with a microchip scanner.
If there’s no tag or microchip, put a temporary tag on the animal with your name and phone number. You can use a luggage label or even tape the information around the collar with some duct tape.
Notify your local shelter that you have found a stray animal.
There are different laws in each city regarding stray animals. In some communities, finders of lost animals are legally required to either surrender the animal to the animal shelter or to report to the shelter that they have a stray animal. Check with your local animal control or animal services department in your city to find out what your legal obligations are.
Even if you’re not legally required to notify the shelter, you’ll still want to let them know that you have a stray and provide a photo and relevant information about the pet. If the owners of the animal are looking for their pet, they will most likely start by calling the shelter, so it’s very important that the shelter knows that you have found the pet. Also, some shelters have bulletin boards on which people can list lost and found pets, so it’s a good idea to post a photo of the pet at the shelter.
If you have some hesitation about trying to find the owner, keep in mind that just because an animal is injured, scared, or without identification does not mean that he has a “bad” home. Your stray might have lost his identification; he might have been lost for a long time.
If you do take the pet to the shelter, and you wish to adopt him if he’s not claimed, be sure to let the staff know that. After the stray hold period is up, you will have adoption privileges. It is a good idea to call the shelter daily to let the staff know that you are interested in the animal’s welfare.
Make every effort to find the owner.
Besides notifying your local shelter, you’ll want to check lost-and-found ads on social networks like Facebook and NextDoor.com or even in the local newspapers. Also, post a photo and information about the pet on your social networks. Another good strategy is to put up flyers in the vicinity where the animal was found. Don’t forget to give your phone number and/or email address.
A typical ad describes the type of animal, the location where he/she was found, and the coloring and other distinct characteristics of the animal. Most people do not try to claim animals who are not their own. With that said, you could leave out one crucial characteristic of the pet, so that when someone calls claiming to be the owner, you can verify that the animal really belongs to that person.
If you do need to find a new home for a pet, you’ll want to advertise as widely as you can, in as many places as possible. Creating a flyer is a great way to start. Here’s what to put on the flyer:
- Describe the appearance, size, and age of the animal.
- Include the pet’s name and a good photograph of the pet (see the sidebar below).
- If the pet is spayed or neutered, include that information.
- Describe his/her nature and appealing qualities.
- Define any limitations the pet might have (e.g., pulls a bit on leash, chases cats).
- Don’t forget your phone number and the times you can be reached.
Make digital flyers and share them on your social sites as well as neighborhood or pet groups. Also, print out copies of the flyer and post them throughout your community, wherever prospective adopters might see them. Ask to put them up at veterinarians’ offices, pet supply stores, and the workplaces of your family and friends. Places like supermarkets, libraries, churches and health clubs often have community bulletin boards where anyone can post flyers.
Tips on Taking Good Animal Photographs
Since photos really help people make a connection to an animal, you’ll want to use a good-quality photograph. Color is best. (If you don’t have a color printer, copy places like Kinko’s can print the flyers for you.)
When you take the photographs, use a background that is in contrast to the animal, to highlight his/her best features. Keep the photo simple and clear, with few background distractions, though you might want to use a person, a hand or some other means to show the scale of the pet.
Before snapping the photos, take the time to get the pet as calm and relaxed as possible, so the photos don’t show an animal who looks anxious or scared. Ideally, the photo you choose for the flyer should have the eyes of the animal in focus.
But don’t stop with posting flyers. There are many other ways to spread the word:
1. Contact as many shelters and rescue groups as possible. Most agencies will be overloaded, but they might allow you to bring your pet to one of their adoption days. They might be able to put you in contact with someone who is looking for the kind of pet you are trying to place, or they could have some other suggestions. You can find local shelters and rescue groups by searching the listings on the Best Friends Network and Petfinder.com.
2. Contact breed rescue groups if you’re trying to place a specific breed. If you have a pug or a Persian cat, for example, there may be rescue groups or clubs that have lists of people looking to adopt that particular breed. Some breed rescue groups might even be willing to place a mix, as long as the animal is close to purebred. You can find local listings of breed rescue groups by doing an Internet search on a search engine such as Google.
Here’s a sample search combination:
Siamese + breed rescue + Montana
3. Post the pet’s photo and bio online. Try posting on adoption websites such as AdoptAPet.com, as well as your own and your friends’ social media channels. You can also do a classified ad in your local newspaper if that makes sense in your community.
4. Use any and all of your community contacts. Ask friends and family to mention the animal in their church or community newsletter; send an e-mail about the pet through your office memo system; post a notice and photo on your Facebook page; or share some flyers with members of clubs or associations to which you belong.
5. Don’t underestimate word of mouth. Tell anyone and everyone about the pet who needs a home, and ask friends and family to help with spreading the word. You never know – your father’s neighbor’s daughter could be looking for just the pet you have to offer.
6. Get the pet out there. (This works especially well with dogs.) The more your pet interacts with people, the more likely he/she will charm the right person. If you’re trying to place a dog, take him/ her on walks, to pet supply stores, to the local park. Put a colorful bandana on the dog that says, “Adopt me.”
Sample Bios or Ads
Betty Lou has a new pair of shoes and she is ready to walk right into your heart! Betty is a two-year-old spayed female terrier mix. She loves to dance, prance and play. She is a doll! She is good with cats as well. Call Kelly or Doug at 555-3576 after 7 p.m. weekdays or all day Sunday.
. . . .
Joe Cocker is coming to town and wants to sing for you. Joe is a three-year-old neutered male cockapoo with a great personality. Loves kids and dogs, but isn’t as keen on cats! He has had all his shots. Call Morris after 6 p.m. at 555-4674.
. . . .
Persian cat with attitude. Martha thinks she rules the world! She is gorgeous, and knows it. She loves to sit on laps and be petted. She would prefer a home where she is the only cat. See her at the Petco on Broadway, Saturday, June 10, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Ask for Beth.
. . . .
SHAMBU is the kind of companion that we all long to have. Loyal, playful, tender and kind best describes this beautiful orange tabby. He is 3 years old, neutered, and has had all his shots. He prefers an adults-only home. Call Jeremy at 555-2189 before 11 a.m. any day. Donation for my favorite animal charity required.
It’s a good idea to bring the animal to a veterinarian for a thorough checkup. If you can have the pet spayed or neutered, even better. It will be easier to place the pet if he or she has been seen by a veterinarian prior to adoption and is spayed or neutered.
You should also prepare a general history of the pet that is fact-based or has been witnessed by you. Include as much information as possible about the pet’s likes and dislikes, current food preferences and favorite treats, relationship to other animals, and preferred types of toys. All this information will help the adopter get acquainted with the pet and make the transition easier on the animal.
To show the pet’s best side, it’s always good to groom and bathe him or her before taking your flyer photos and before showing the pet to a prospective adopter. If it is relevant and you have the ability to do so, talk to a trainer about the pet’s disposition. The help of an experienced and caring professional can often help you resolve quirky or destructive behavior, making it easier to place the pet in a new home.
When people respond to your post, flyer or ad, you’ll want to talk to them on the phone before introducing them to the animal. By discussing the animal and expectations with potential adopters on the phone, you can save time.
It may be helpful for you to know some details of how we at Best Friends view our own adoption process, so check out the sidebar below.
Best Friends Adoption Philosophy, Tone and Preparation
Philosophy: Everyone who walks through our doors is a potential adopter. We want to provide clients with everything they need to become better-equipped pet owners, and if they have little experience owning a pet, those clients leave more prepared for that responsibility. We don’t look for reasons to not adopt to people. Rather, we try to proactively give our clients all they need and want in the process of selecting a new pet, while offering the joyful experience of adopting a companion animal.
Tone: It is critical that the adoption process be a positive experience for pet adopters. Throughout the process, your tone must be friendly and enthusiastic. You should smile, congratulate them on making a great choice, thank them for choosing adoption and in general be upbeat about the adoption. People should leave feeling happy with the pet they selected and about deciding to adopt a pet from us.
Preparation: Time should be put into getting to know the animals in the shelter. Greeting people and commenting in a friendly way about the animals and asking about what kind of animal they want to adopt is the best way to approach people. Asking open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with yes or no) is the best way to get people talking. If you can determine early in the conversation what their preferences are, you can best prepare them for an adoption, or find out if it is not a match. Be sensitive to the individual’s reactions.
The following is a list of questions to ask the prospective adopter. You might want to take notes as you talk to the person. From the answers to these questions, you can start to understand the needs of the person. Try to ask the questions in a conversational style, so it doesn’t sound like you’re conducting an interview. To start, you might say: “Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about yourself and your home?”
“What best describes your experience with owning a pet?”
Try to get a picture of the prospective adopters’ level of experience with pets. This is a starting point to how you will interact with each of them.
- If they have never owned a pet, you know right away that they will need all the basics (information about feeding, exercise, vaccines, vets, etc.).
- If it has been over a year since they’ve had a pet, they may need some reminders on the basics.
- If they have owned a similar pet or currently have a pet, they should have the basics down, so your focus will be more on the match of the animal with the new home.
“How would you describe your household?”
Understanding the prospective adopter’s home life (e.g., hectic, calm, quiet, noisy) will help you assess whether the pet will succeed in that new environment. For example, it may not be ideal to put a shy pet in a home with someone who wants a socially active pet and also has young kids. However, keep in mind that even though you may be correct that this isn’t the ideal lifestyle for the pet, we do not know how animals will act in different environments.
“How many pets do you currently have and what types?”
If they have other pets, we recommend setting up a meet-and-greet so your pet can meet the prospective adopters’ pets before adoption.
“What are the ages of your current pets?”
Knowing the ages of the adopters’ current pets is also helpful for the matching process. Discuss the levels of energy the current pets have. For instance, if adopters are considering adding a puppy or kitten to a household with a senior dog or cat, talk with them about the need to be sensitive to the difference in energy level and the need to pay plenty of attention to their current pet.
“Are your pets current on their vaccinations?”
It’s important that vaccinations are up to date and that pets see a veterinarian on a yearly basis and as needed. Remember that inexperienced pet owners may not know that pets need vaccines annually or that kittens and puppies need a series of vaccines.
“What types of pets will be visiting your home?”
If the pet is a frequent visitor, we recommend a meet-and-greet prior to adoption to maximize the success of the adoption.
“Where will the pet live?”
Asking about where the pet will live helps you understand how prospective adopters may regard the pet. Garages can contain substances (e.g., antifreeze) that are hazardous for dogs and cats. Also, you want to make sure that the pet will be safe being in a yard if unattended.
“What sort of pet are you looking for?”
Asking this question helps you understand what prospective adopters need or are seeking in a pet. Examples of more specific questions:
- How social of a pet do you want? Do they want a pet who likes to be held a lot, who loves to play, who stays by their side?
- How vocal of a pet do you want? Some people love chatty pets, some don’t. If the prospective adopter lives in an apartment, a very vocal pet could cause issues with the neighbors.
- How quickly do you hope the pet will adjust to your home? This is an opportunity to help prospective adopters understand that it can take time for a pet to adjust to new people and a new environment (for some cats, it can take weeks).
Once you have talked to the potential adopters, you will have a pretty good idea about whether they are interested in adopting and providing the pet with care, shelter and companionship.
The next step is to meet the people and introduce the animal. You have some choices about where to conduct the introduction. The prospective adopters could come over to your place, you could take the pet to theirs, or you could meet on neutral ground, like a park or a vet’s office. If the potential adopters have cats, meeting in their home is best. If the prospective adopters have a dog and you are placing a dog, a park could be a good place for a first meeting. Taking a walk with the dogs is a great introduction method. Wherever the meeting takes place, you will want to observe closely how the people relate to the pet and how the pet relates to them.
If you decide to go ahead with the adoption, you may want to finalize it with an adoption contract, which can be a safety net for both you and the adopter. (If you post the pet on AdoptAPet.com, the site provides an adoption contract.) Make two copies of the contract and both of you can sign them. Leave one with the adopter and take one with you. Also, remember to hand over any medical and vaccination records, and any special food, bowls, toys or bedding.
As you go through the process of placing a homeless pet, keep in mind that creativity, persistence, and a positive attitude are usually rewarded. Think about the best possible environment for the pet and explore all the options you can think of. Try not to get discouraged and don’t give up after just one or two interviews. Finding a home can take some work and some time, but if you persevere, you are sure to be successful. We hope that the advice we've given here helps you to place the pet.
Best Friends, other animal welfare groups, and many concerned individuals have used the process described here to re-home thousands of dogs and cats. So, when you’re feeling discouraged, just remember: It can be done. People find new homes for pets every single day. With some effort, creativity and perseverance, you can do it, too. We wish you the very best.