The process involved in adopting a dog has certainly evolved during the past nearly 200 years. But what remains steadfast in people from the 1800s to today is that desire to protect animals and to embrace that feeling of love when their search leads them to find and adopt THE dog.
I know that feeling. Five years ago, and after more than a year-long search, I found Kona. She was a shy terrier mix in a kennel run at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Escondido, California. Her bio stated she was friendly and definitely needed a home with other dogs. She saw me, quietly got up and pressed her body against the front of her cage. She then gave my hand a gentle kiss.
No words can describe that instant connection we both felt — a feeling many of you also know in your adoption quests. Kona aced every temperament test I gave her at the shelter, including a biggie: must love cats. Kona loves and respects cats, and today she is an AKC Canine Good Citizen, a certified therapy dog and my four-legged assistant in my pet first-aid and pet behavior classes. And she is my best friend. She was worth the long search.
A Look Back at Adoptions
Today, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, adoptions are on the rise at public and private animal shelters all over. This begs the question: When and where was the first animal welfare society in the world?
Historical records indicate that the first started in England. A group of men wanting to protect animals from cruelty met at Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in London on June 16, 1824 to take steps to create the Society for the Protection of Animals.
The group struggled financially and politically until 1837 when the future Queen Victoria became a patron. When she became queen, it became the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals. That promoted interest among others to form ways to protect animals in other British towns. By the turn of the century, animal protection societies were created in neighboring Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and Holland. Today, the RSPCA (rspca.org.uk) is the world’s largest and oldest ani mal welfare charity. Its primary missions are to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals in England and Wales.
And for you dogged history fans, the first such society created in the United States was in 1866 in New York City. While working as a diplomat in Russia in 1863, a New Yorker named Henry Bergh intervened and stopped a carriage driver from beating his fallen horse. It made such a major impact on Henry that he quit his diplomatic post, returned to New York City and founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca.org) in 1866.
Pet rescue and shelter programs have changed dramatically through the years, with many “firsts” and incredible contributions aimed at finding all homeless pets their forever homes. Dogster has created a timeline recognizing these major contributions, which we continue to update.
Today’s Adoption Options Are Many
Returning to the present day, there are so many more ways to adopt a dog who needs a home, which include:
✤ Booking an appointment at your local animal shelter/rescue
✤ Going to your county animal care and choosing from found dogs now available for adoption
✤ Attending a local pet adoption meet-and-greet event
✤ Contacting a breed-specific or size-specific rescue group
✤ Rescuing a stray dog from the streets
✤ Taking in a dog from a family member or neighbor no longer able to care for him
✤ Finding a match online at various adoption sites all over the globe
And, there is the option to first agree to foster a dog and assess how the both of you are bonding in your home before making that call to permanently adopt. People who do this often sheepishly describe themselves as “foster failures” but in reality, these are “foster successes” because they took the time to make sure that the match works for them and the dogs.
There are also nonprofit groups led by people like Carla Naden. She founded Animal Synergy in San Diego in 2013. This is a rescue, rehabilitation and sanctuary for dogs and other companion animals who are seniors, have special medical or physical issues or who are terminally ill.
“We are the voice for the most vulnerable and misunderstood animals in our shelter systems and society,” says Carla, inspired by a shelter dog named Nugget facing euthanization at a shelter. “He changed my life, and I will work in honor of his memory every day.”
Be Patient — It’s a Process
At shelters and rescue groups, expect to fill out plenty of forms. There will be questions about your dog history, current pets and children in the home, whether you rent or own and other areas. The organizations ask these questions to reduce the chance of the dog having to be returned back to the adoption center.
You may also have to do meet and greets, both at the rescue and then later a home visit, where you and your family have an opportunity to spend time with the dog. There may be a home inspection to make sure you are who you say you are (and not a reseller or someone who wants the dog for something like dog fighting), to ensure there is a fenced yard, there are no pet hazards, etc. The organization may do a reference check, particularly with your current veterinarian if you have one. Your veterinarian will be able to assure them that your current pets are all up to date on their vaccines, medications and annual checkups and your future dog will get the same kind of great care.
There is also usually an adoption fee. This helps offset the cost for the shelter of microchipping, spaying/neutering, taking care of health issues and more. Sometimes the adoption fee is reduced (particularly if the dog is a senior or is special needs) or waived for a special purpose.
Research the organization before starting the adoption process so you know what to expect from it and what it will expect from you. Once you have finished the process, you’ll have to sign an adoption contract. Besides agreeing to basic care, you may be asked to spay or neuter your new pet if that hasn’t happened yet, promise to notify the rescue if the dog ever has to be re-homed so the organization can do it, guarantee you will take the dog to the veterinarian within a certain amount of time to complete any vaccinations and sometimes even promise to take the dog, particularly a puppy, to training classes.
Time for Doggie School
OK, you sealed the deal. You adopted a dog. Once the “honeymoon” period ends, you discover your dog is, well … not a perfect dog. His previous experiences (living situation, time at the shelter) has shaped him. He may be slow to being house trained, insist on chewing your shoes or not master basic doggie obedience cues like sit or stay.
When adopting a dog, it’s a good idea to have a trainer assess him if there are any issues and create a training program for you. Or, even have the trainer help you prepare for the arrival of the new dog: going over things like the potty area, where he will spend his time, dog proofing the house, basic training and introductions to other members of the household like children and other pets.
Help is also available at reputable dog training centers.
“The most common issue we see is reactivity toward other dogs,” says Maureen Patin, founder and certified professional dog trainer at What A Great Dog in Frisco and Richardson, Texas. “A good training program can make all the difference with helping your new dog integrate smoothly into your family.”
Her center works closely with several shelter and rescue groups in the DallasFort Worth metroplex. No matter where you live or how much dog knowledge you have, consider enrolling in a training program, Maureen urges.
“Look for a trainer who is certified with a reputable organization and one that uses the most current training methodologies that include behavior science and using positive outcomes to modify your dog’s behavior,” she says.
A Member of Your Family
The adoption process takes some time and effort, but it is all worth it in the end. During my own adoption search, I kept the words of “America’s Family Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker in my head.
“Take your time. Pick with a purpose. Don’t choose a dog by looks alone. Pick a dog who fits you and your lifestyle. After all, you will probably have this dog longer than your current job, your current residence, your current car and maybe even your current relationship.”