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The adoption application comes in many forms, and the questions can feel overwhelming for many.  Generally, a euthanizing shelter will have fewer questions, private rescues (especially breed-specific rescues) may have several pages.

Here are the most common, and why they are asked:


This is the most common question asked on adoption applications.  No shelter wants to send an animal to a home where basic medical treatment is not offered or where regular vaccination does not take place.  You will face a whole range of judgement about this question depending on which organization you are trying to adopt from.  Some rescues ask only about the major vaccines – rabies, DHLPP, etc.  Others extend this to include canine influenza, and Bordetella (kennel cough).

Neither canine influenza nor Bordetella are considered core inoculations.  And, although kennel cough is certainly something you want to protect against if you ever board your dogs or if you take your pets to a dog park, if you do neither it’s not an absolute necessity.  Just be aware that rescues and shelters all judge these matters differently. If you’re a great pet parent, but not necessarily in compliance with each and every one of the requirements, move on to an organization that is more in line with your philosophy.

Some veterinarians will require you to give them consent, before they will speak with a rescue representative.  Please have your veterinarian’s contact information with you when filling out the application.


I don’t think I’ve come across a shelter or rescue which does not require that all of your other pets be spayed or neutered before you can adopt.  The main reason for so many unwanted animals in shelters is careless breeding of dogs by backyard breeders.  As for cats, the numerous feral colonies caused by irresponsible pet owners dumping unwanted felines guarantees a practically endless supply of homeless kittens.  You will likely not be able to adopt if you haven’t protected your animals against breeding.


In my opinion, these are kind of useless.  You wouldn’t deliberately list someone as a reference who will not give you a good one.  And, in this day of hectic lives, there are plenty of people who don’t have friends over to their houses on a regular basis to observe the owner’s interactions with their pets.  However, most shelters will request these so have contact information for a few people who are willing to say good things about you.

man filling out adoption application


Training methods. Some adoption applications will not ask for anything here – some will.  There are rescues which require adopters to attend formal training with their new pets as part of the contract.  Some even have a trainer they work with, and your training sessions must take place with them.

This can get very complicated.  I know of one shelter who will not adopt to someone who does not intend to crate train  And, I know of a rescue who will turn you down flat if you say you ARE going to crate train.  Have a general idea of how you will handle training your new dog before you apply.  This will save you from having to make a split-second decision while filling out the paperwork.

Also, if the rescue works with a specific trainer, don’t be afraid to ask about the fees. A good dog trainer is worth a lot, but make sure any costs are within your budget.


Again, there are many different opinions.  Some organizations will require that at least a portion of your yard be fenced in.  I tend to agree with that because very few families have the unlimited time and energy necessary to ensure enough exercise for their dogs if they have to walk them all the time.  If you have invisible fencing some rescues will love you and others will deny your application.  There are shelters who love doggie doors so that the animal can go in and out into a fenced yard as they please. Others will consider this a definite “no”.


This one is often a problem.  It seems as though the longer people need to be away from home for work, the stricter the shelters become.  Of course, dogs should not be left alone for 10 or more hours at a time on a regular basis.  But the pool of adopters shrinks significantly for rescues who require no more than 4 or 5 hours absence in order to approve an adoption.  (Although I’m in a special circumstance where my dogs are not on their own very often, most people do not have that luxury.  I’ve also always been fortunate in that my dogs are happier sleeping on the couch instead of going to outside activities.)

Be aware that almost no shelter will adopt a puppy under six months to a family where no one is home for a good portion of the day.  House-training and socialization take time.  And the more you can be there for your pup in the early days, the closer your bond will be.


Some rescue organizations will ask you questions about your health.  I was shocked when I discovered this – fortunately, only the rare few do.  Common sense dictates that a shelter would not, and should not, adopt a large-breed puppy to a frail older couple.  That same couple, however, may do very well with a senior, low-energy dog.  One of the things good adoption counselors do best is lead a family to the perfect pet for their circumstances.  Each and every one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow – does that mean we shouldn’t be allowed to bring a pet into our home?  You will have to make a choice for yourself if you want to answer questions such as this.


This section of the adoption application will list your past pets and what happened to them.  Shelters are trying to learn whether you were a responsible pet owner in the past, since past performance often predicts future performance.  You will be asked if you’ve ever surrendered a pet to a shelter.  Be honest here – there ARE times where rehoming a pet is the best possible outcome for the animal.  Most organizations will listen to the reasons before making a decision and will not automatically exclude you.


This is strictly to discover whether you are allowed pets in your home.  I’ve seen many pets returned to a shelter once a landlord discovers their existence.  The shelter is only trying to prevent that for both the animal’s and the adopter’s sake.  If you own, of course, that’s not an issue.  Many shelters will not adopt to adult children still living with their parents. And many will require that you be on your own for at least a few months.


Many shelters and rescues will perform a home visit before your application can be approved.  They’re (generally) not looking to see if you washed your breakfast dishes that morning. But they will be checking your home to make sure it’s a safe environment for a pet.  An outside observer such as an adoption counselor can also spot things you may have missed, like a hole under your fence, or a garden tool you’d forgotten to take into your garage.

Shelter Dog Adopted


Don’t say never.  Every one of us has a reason that return would become necessary.  Think about every eventuality and be honest.  If a rescue turns you down because of this answer, move on to another organization.  That having been said, please don’t get a pet with the idea of returning should you move, or become pregnant, etc.  Returning an animal is very hard on the pet. They don’t understand why they no longer have a home.  Adoption of a cat or dog should be for life – just as with adopting a baby.


Most of the items above apply only to dogs.  Cat adoption is generally a much simpler matter requiring vet and personal references and a few other questions.  The adoption application is usually considerably shorter. If you’re looking for a feline companion, adoption is a lot easier than for canines.


Shelters and rescues are founded by people whose passion is animals.  Most will, and should, put the health and safety of their charges above the feelings of the humans looking to adopt.

However, it is very easy for a rescue organization to slip into a mindset which looks for reasons to say “no” rather than reasons to say “yes”.  Bear in mind that this usually comes about gradually, after many experiences with bad adopters, animal abuse, and general public apathy.  This is not an excuse, but it is a reason.

If you run into a group like this, just move on.  No amount of discussion or arguing will change that mindset.

There are hundreds of unwanted animals in your area to choose from.  Find a group whose philosophy of pet ownership most closely matches your own and get APPROVED!  Best of luck adopting a furry companion to add to your family!

Adoption Application Approved



Photo of person filling out paperwork by Helloquence on Unsplash

“Approved” photo Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay


10 Common Adoption Application Questions

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This Post Has 16 Comments

    1. abbey

      Thanks for reading, Patricia – glad you found it useful.

  1. Shirley

    My daughter adopted a deaf dalmation that had already been in several homes and returned to the shelter. The questions she had to respond to were very thorough! She’s had him now for over 5 years and he’s the best dog ever!

    1. abbey

      So glad to hear it, Shirley – thanks to her for adopting, not just a dog, but a special needs dog! That’s just wonderful.

    1. abbey

      I hope so, Mary Sue. It’s a little intimidating filling out one of these the first time.

  2. Madi Dearson

    I think it is a necessity – asking all these questions, this way when people go through the process they don’t do it lightly and understand the responsibility that comes along with it. The shelters do such important work. Thank you for sharing this info.

    1. abbey

      Absolutely. And it’s also important to understand that each shelter or rescue has it’s own protocol, so a denial at one doesn’t necessarily mean a denial everywhere.

  3. Veronica Bareman

    Great information – important to be prepared before going in to a shelter to adopt a pet. It’s especially important to remember that bringing home a pet is a commitment of time, money, and resources and should not be taken lightly. Thank you for the post!

    1. abbey

      Thanks, Veronica! And I agree – I’ve seen way too many animals (dogs, mostly) brought back 24 hours later for just behaving like a dog.

  4. mangyan trav

    Thanks for having this kind of article, gives me hope. I’m planning to adopt a puppy this month which having a little complication in the documentation.

    1. abbey

      Congratulations, Mangyan! Enjoy your new puppy, and keep searching until you find just the right match.

  5. This is great information , Abbey. I had no idea that all this was involved in animal adoption! It’s good to know that these shelters want the best home possible for these animals. Thanks

    1. abbey

      Yes, they do. Having worked as an Adoption Counselor, it is not easy telling someone they don’t qualify. But it’s all worth it when the animal gets just the right forever home!

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