When pet adoption doesn’t work out, it can break your heart. It starts out well, with the excitement of adding a new pet to the family. We lock eyes with a dog or cat at a shelter or at an adoption event, and we fall in love. We get excited about the great times we will have with our new fur friend. 

A pet adoption (and the excitement) can come to a screeching halt quickly if the adoption application isn’t approved. Even if your application is approved, your new pet may not adapt well to their new home and family…or vice versa. Many rescued dogs and cats get returned to shelters and it’s a horrible feeling. 

The team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is here to help you understand the process of pet adoption and how to find the right pet. We look at the reasons why pet adoptions fail and what to do when they don’t work out. 

When the Pet Adoption Application Isn’t Approved

The application process at shelters and rescues varies. At some, the application process itself is fairly easy. With others, it can be daunting. The application could be several pages long and ask detailed questions. With any application, the goal is to ensure that the pet ends up in a good home environment. And each shelter or rescue may define a “good home” a little differently. 

Ideally, come prepared for the application process. Think through what would create a safe and happy home for your new pet and be ready. For example, do you have a fenced-in backyard? If not, will you be able to give a dog with multiple daily walks? If you’re adopting a cat, they will ask questions about the other cats in your home. 

Be thorough in your explanations and supply details about your living situation. Understand, though, that even if you’re a fantastic potential adopter, your situation may not meet a particular group’s requirements. Don’t give up. 

Ideally, choose a veterinarian or veterinary hospital in advance and preferably one that offers both behavioral services since many rescues have health needs and behavior issues. If your veterinary hospital also offers training, that is ideal. 

Have your Driver’s License or other I.D. handy and be ready to pay the adoption fees. But don’t be too discouraged if your first adoption attempt isn’t successful. You may need to make a few adjustments in your home situation first, or the animal that you had in mind may not be the right fit for you. 

Reasons Why Adopted Animals are Returned

Let’s first point out: just because adoption doesn’t work out, you are not a failure. In fact, 10% of adopted animals get returned within the first 6 months. A successful pet adoption relies on several factors. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a great pet mom or dad, but that the adoption just wasn’t the right timing or a good fit. 

That’s why it is important to understand why adoption isn’t always right. Here are some of the more common reasons why someone returns an adopted pet:

  • Destructive behavior (marking, resource guarding, chewing, etc.)
  • Separation anxiety (howling, crying, barking)
  • Problems getting along with other pets in the home
  • Unexpected veterinary costs 
  • Human health issues
  • Aggression
  • Hyperactivity (needs more exercise than the owner can provide)

Many shelter pets come from unknown backgrounds. Most lack training or socialization. If they were feral or lived on the streets, they can have emotional issues. It’s understandable that they need instruction and patience. 

An adopted pet can become a wonderful member of the family, but they can at first require extra attention, time, and training. Not all families are ready for that investment. Even if you are, and have had successful adoptions before, some pets have more severe issues than others. 

Other times, unexpected illness or major moves can lead to an adopted pet being returned. It can be a heartbreaking decision for all. If an adopted pet must be returned, give information about the issues you faced. This can help the rescue or shelter better place the pet in the future. 

Then, prepare yourself to attempt another adoption. Understand why the first pet adoption didn’t work out and use our tips below for making your next adoption a success. Some issues are unavoidable, but you can address many of them with knowledge and preparation.

5 Tips to Make Your Next Adoption a Success

Don’t be discouraged if the first adoption wasn’t a match made in heaven. Hopefully, now you will be better prepared to go into adoption with eyes wide open. If the adoption didn’t work out because of the animal, here are good ways to help make the next go-around “stick”. 

  1. Make sure you are prepared. Adoption is a process that requires a commitment of time, financial investment, and dedication to your new pet’s training and health needs. Ask yourself if you are ready. Make sure no other pressing issues are in the near future before adoption. Know that you have the time and space to take in a new companion. Expect to spend time training and socializing your new fur friend.
  2. Know your potential pet. It’s tempting to choose a pet based on looks, but sometimes the cutest pet has the most challenges. Discuss the background of the potential adoptee. Consider factors like energy level, size, breed, life expectancy, health conditions, age, etc. Know everything you can know to make an informed decision.
  3. Make sure you do an introduction. If there are any pets already in the home, do a pet introduction before adopting. Include all family members, including kids. See how the meet and greet goes and if there are any possible red flags, like aggression or fear.
  4. Get help. Accidents will happen. A destroyed shoe or a stained carpet may be the sacrifice you make in the first few weeks. If problems of behavior occur, get help from a reputable trainer and your veterinarian. They can help guide you in training your pet and address problems as they occur. You don’t have to do this alone.
  5. Consider fostering a pet. If you’re not ready to adopt just yet, shelters are always in need of foster parents. It’s a wonderful way to add a pet companion to the home while helping a pet find a more permanent home. It’s also a great way to get to know a pet. Many fostered parents eventually adopt their foster pets.  

Finding a new pet is exciting and challenging – and it is a process. Prepare in advance and ask all the questions needed before taking the leap. If we can help you with your new four-legged friend, please call us! We offer veterinary care, behavioral services, training and much more. We want your next pet adoption to be a pawsitively great success.