Finding a Home for a Rescued Pet

Links: Pet Guardian Agreement

To assist people who have independently rescued a stray or abandoned pet, we’ve put together a guideline to help make their rescue and placement a little easier.

Of course, you want to have explored all opportunities to find out whether the pet has a responsible owner somewhere. With cats, this is not as common, since people frequently move and leave their cats behind to fend for themselves. Cats are not “runaways” and do not go stray. Rather, they are naturally very territorial and stick close to their home. Dogs, on the other hand, will go in search of people or other dogs and can travel a distance. Typically, they stay within a few miles of their home, even if it’s not a home they are familiar with. The Oregonian will run free “found” ads, but remember to give a generic description of the pet so an owner must identify their pet. Sadly, some people will try to get a free pet from “found” ads by saying it was theirs. Always remember to have any found pet scanned for a microchip. This can be done at most vets or shelters. Also, be sure to alert your county shelter that you have found a pet so they can include the generic description in their found book for potential owners to look at.

First, to assure your rescue is healthy and unable to reproduce, you will have the pet spayed or neutered and for cats, tested for infectious diseases, FeLV (feline Leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus. In a perfect world, you might rely on the adopter to spay/neuter the pet, but in rescue, we’ve learned this isn’t a perfect world and it’s very easy for someone to ‘forget’ to spay/neuter until “ooops” the pet is pregnant. For financial assistance with spay/neuters, you can download the Oregon Spay Neuter Fund coupon from the internet. You will need to use a participating veterinarian from the coupon. You can also apply to POPPA, Inc for financial assistance. You will want to evaluate with your vet, whether you feel confident your rescue is ready to go to a new home. Often, pets who have lived outside for any period of time will need flea and worm treatment. A healthy coat will generally tell you your cat is ready to go to a new home.

Placement can be a very stressful thing. Most people form a pretty strong bond with an animal they’ve rescued and are very cautious about the home it goes to. Here is a basic guideline for safe and permanent placement of a rescued cat. Of course, if we can assist you in more detail, please call us at: 503-626-7222

Hang flyers at vets’ offices, your place of employment and in pet supply stores such as PetSmart or Petco. Include a photo and make colored laser copies. Note any special needs. It’s very important to try to establish the most compatible match for the pet, to help assure the cat will remain successful in its new home. If you know the pet is shy or timid for example, look for a home without any young children or other animals who might frighten it. This will help prevent potential biting or scratching injuries or the pet hiding under furniture for most of its life. When possible, note whether the pet is good with other dogs or cats. Include all of this information on your flyer.

Ask friends, relatives and co-workers whether they know of anyone who may have a situation that is right for this pet. Explain the situation to them. Usually everyone you know will already have their limit of pets, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t know of someone else, and it can’t hurt to ask. We find that most people will respect that you are doing your part to assist an animal in need, and try to help you.

Run creative ads in the newspaper. Many people think that this avenue of placement is unsafe, but if you do a thorough job of screening, there are some simple precautions you can take to assure that the person you choose is a safe adopter for the pet. A three day ad in the Oregonian will usually cost about $20- $25, and almost inevitably get you some callers. Here are some examples of how an ad might read, but you can get creative and write it like a Personals Ad. We always like to create a name to give the pet a personality. Remember, there are lots of pets looking for homes, so your objective is to get people to notice your ad.

Rescued Cat: Charlie, Domestic short hair gray w/white socks, 2 yrs, male, neutered. Sweet lap cat, dog friendly, afraid of children. Indoor only home. Adoption fee. _____ Phone _______

(note: You can abbreviate ‘domestic short hair’ with DSH, or DLH for long hair.)

Rescued Dog: Solomon, Pit bull Terrier mix, ginger and white. 1.5 yrs old, male neutered. Solomon loves all people. He is very athletic and would make a great running companion or a playmate for a female dog. He is leery of large male dogs.

Below is a simple screening guideline for callers or others who may show an interest in adopting your rescue.

Unless you know them personally (and trust them), never let an adopter take a cat from you. Always let them meet the cat at your home or better yet, a neutral place of choice, perhaps a vet’s office. Observe how they interact with the pet. When someone only looks at the pet, and says they want a particular pet but has made no effort to hold or touch the pet, it may raise a red flag. Note whether the person is listening to what you are saying about the fears or training needs of the pet. Rely on your intuition! Assuming the interaction meets your satisfaction, make arrangements to deliver the pet to their home. If they balk at this, explain to them that people who sell animals to research facilities do not wish to have anyone know where they live, so this policy helps eliminate those people and is for the safety of the pet. If they still balk, or offer a lot of reasons why they have to have the pet immediately and delivery is out of the question…we would call that a red flag and turn them down. An adoption should never be made without careful consideration, so it would be best if they met the pet and went home and had a chance to think it over. The worst thing is when someone adopts on an impulse and wakes up the next day regretting it. You never want to be desperate to place a pet, even if you have limited time. Remember, a life is at stake.

Do not be afraid to inquire about past pets. Mainly, what happened to them. We are looking for people who keep their pets for their entire lives. If the adopter has a history of giving pets away when they move or have any change in their life, or they have a history of pets who died from irresponsible choices, this could happen to your rescue as well. This is a red flag.

We don’t typically recommend adopting pets to people who are adopting a pet for someone else. It’s never a good idea to choose a pet for someone else because compatibility is everything when you are looking for a permanent

home. You are trying to establish a bond between the adopter and the pet. Suggest that the person who will be keeping the pet meet the pet first. Pets as a surprise gift may not be wanted at all. Explain why a surprise is a bad idea.

Verify whether everyone in the household agrees to the adoption. One person who doesn’t want a pet can result in the pet eventually being given up. Not to mention that pets are highly sensitive and may develop behaviors as a result of household tension. Ask whether anyone in the house has allergies to pets. Thinking ahead may prevent the pet being surrendered later.

Charge an adoption fee. There are two reasons for this. One is to help recover some of your costs for spay/neuter, testing, vaccines or any other expense that was necessary to assure the pet was in good health. Most importantly, you are trying to establish that the adopter is capable of paying deposits at rental properties and can afford any unforeseen vet expenses and routine vet care. We usually ask whether pets are allowed at their rental. Explain to them that if they get evicted for having a pet, it is the pet who suffers because there is no place for the pet to go in an emergency situation, so they may end up euthanized at the shelter.

Have them fill out a adoption application. We have a generic version available. Filling out an application gives you a chance to establish any potential concerns but also gives you continued contact with the adopter so that you can follow-up from time to time, ask whether they have any questions, and assure the cat is working out well in the new home.

When you call the person back to see if they have decided on adopting your rescue (or to tell them you feel they are not a good match for your rescue), schedule delivery of the pet to the adoptive home. Always take a second person with you during the delivery. Delivery assures you the opportunity to see that what you’ve been told exists in the home environment is factual. We generally ask the adopter to have an ID tag, collar, harness and leash available when we arrive so we can outfit the dog while we’re there. We also put a microchip implant in all of our rescues and keep our contact information associated to the chip so we will know if the pet ever ends up in a shelter.

Always walk the fence line in the adopter’s backyard and verify there are no holes or areas the dog could escape. You can also determine whether there may be safety issues, and help the pet transition into the new home. When you leave the home, make sure a dog is distracted, preferably with the family in the backyard. Seeing you leave can create additional fear and anxiety for a dog but if you are just suddenly not there, they adjust pretty easily.

Lastly, and most important. Never be afraid or ashamed to say NO. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and you don’t want to spend the rest of your life worrying or feeling guilty that you might have made the wrong choice. Remember, you have taken the time to help this animal because you felt it deserved a chance at a good home. In the end, knowing your care in assuring your rescue is healthy, infertile, and living in a great home, is gratification you can’t purchase anywhere.

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