Do any shelters have some open adoption policies I can peek at? We are in the middle of updating our shelter protos and I am looking at all "front house" operations including adoptions dept. and our reception team.
Also, does anyone have protos for their front desk/reception team they can share?
Thank you! : )
This is what we use at our off site adoptions, but the basic rules apply at the shelter also.
Hi Jessica, I'll see if I can find any good SOPs. I would definitely recommend having all of your staff read the HSUS Adopters Welcome Guidelines (I'm sure some have already read them once, but a refresher is always good). Sometimes we have to remind staff that the adoption process should be a happy one. We don't need to treat potential adopters like suspects when they walk through our doors (I've been guilty of that in the past myself.... before I saw the light). Here's a link to a great webinar that one of my teammates hosted on open adoptions that would be great for your adoption staff and volunteers to watch: https://youtu.be/TAYAoqjDH4o
Bottom line is that the name of the game is to keep the process as easy and painless as possible. I would start with your application and make sure it is concise, 1 page is best to capture the most pertinent contact information and have room for any disclaimers.
Once the adopter has chosen the pet they are interested in, the adoption counselor can then ask questions in a friendly conversational way (not rapid firing questions off a check list like an interrogation). If the adopter mentions something that has a counselor concerned, like if they had a dog that died of heartworms for example or a cat that 'ran away', instead of immediately denying them, they should take the opportunity to educate to make sure they don't have to endure that painful experience again. The key to remember is that most people really are good or have good intentions, they may just not have all the information that we do.
We would recommend removing any barriers that will delay the adoption and/or delay the LOS for the pet in the shelter. Landlord checks, vet checks, home visits for example should all be excluded. That doesn't mean that the counselor cannot inquire about if they rent, do they know of any pet restrictions, what the pet deposit is, etc. But we want to do this in a way that says, hey, I realize you're an adult and I shouldn't treat you like a child, but we also want to make sure that you don't bring this pet home and 3 days later get in trouble with your landlord and have to return him and be heartbroken. A lot of times people will tell you they've either got all their ducks in a row, or that they really should probably hold off and ask their landlord before they make the final decision. If an animal is returned however, that shouldn't be considered the end of the world. Now at least you have a little more info about the pet and can try again.
The last thing that I feel is super important is sharing with the adopter that your staff and shelter is a resource and encourage them to reach out if they have questions, concerns, issues with their new pet adjusting, etc. So many times there is a disconnect between the shelter staff and the adopter that once they walk out the door the adopter feels they are on their own and would never consider calling the shelter for help. Sending the adopter home with information on helping their new pet get acclimated, how to introduce to resident pets, basic steps to make this a successful transition will really help. In addition, they should be provided with a phone number or email that they reach back out to if needed. I think you will see minimal returns when adopters feel that they have you as a lifeline and can reach out if issues arise.
Our industry is always evolving so I'm glad that you're looking to refresh your SOPs to ensure that you're following Best Practices.
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