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Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

  • 1.  Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 04-29-2022 11:52 AM
    Last week, we posted a poll about required Meet and Greets. We received 1,642 responses with the following results: 
    poll results:  does your organization require meet and greets?

    Almost 3/4 of the respondents require a meet and greet of current pets, household members, or both. Let's dive in a little deeper to learn more from each other.

    • If your organization requires meet and greets of current pets or household members:  What are those requirements and why is it important?

    • If your organization doesn't require meet and greets:  Why not?

    Here are some resources about meet and greets: 
    July 2021 HASS blog post
    HSUS' Adopters Welcome Manual - Implementing Policies page 14

    What do you think? Require or not? 


    #AdoptionsandAdoptionPrograms
    #Diversity,Equity,InclusionandJustice

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    Kim Domerofski (she/her)
    Community Manager
    Maddie's Fund
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  • 2.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-01-2022 04:55 PM
    Our rescue has always implemented meet and greets since we're 100% foster based so that the applicant can see our animals in their comfortable environment while also giving the foster and applicant time to ask and answer any questions. 

    If the applicant lives a distance from the foster we do ensure their application is fully processed and that they're approved so that if it is a perfect fit and they want to finalize the adoption, they can take that feline home that day instead of having to make another trip another day to do so. 

    By doing meet and greets it definitely allows the applicant to see how the feline is personality and behavior wise. If for some reason it isn't a great fit, the foster can talk about our other available felines more in depth that may be a better fit.

    We've never had any push back from applicants about a meet and greet/ home visit and I think it's how we approach the topic. Our adoption coordinator is mainly the one in contact with them and has been doing these visits virtually since covid. We let them know the primary purpose of the video visit is to see their environment with a fresh pair of eyes to make sure there aren't any obvious dangers like cords hanging from a ceiling a kitten could get tangled up in, a hole in a wall or something along those lines that's big enough for an animal to fit through and to take the opportunity to answer any questions they may have, especially with first time pet owners and if they're adopting a kitten. So many are super excited to show the set up they've created for their future pet, all the toys, where the litter box will be etc! A couple of reasons why I feel home visits are so successful is because it's usually done by one person who they've been in contact with the most throughout the entire process and by having an unbiased approach that makes the applicant feel like this is just a general once over vs in depth interrogation.

    With our meet and greets they've also always been done with no barriers in place, the feline's best interest in mind and setting the new family up for success. By doing these things so many of our past adopters keep in touch with our fosters providing updates and pictures which we all absolutely love and really makes the entire process of foster to home feel complete.

    By doing these 2 processes as part of our application, we've only had 2 felines returned since our rescue began back in 2015 and those 2 feline surrenders were just a few months ago and started out as a complicated situation otherwise our small rescue has adopted out well over 1,000 animals with only 2 adoption surrenders.

    Hope this answers your questions on our processes and why we do what we do!


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    Tracy Hanson
    Ellie's Legacy Pet Rescue
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  • 3.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-02-2022 07:38 AM
    I'm really curious to see what people have to say, because I struggled to pick an option on that poll! (I think I ended up choosing "required for both".) For us, it comes down to the ever-unclear answer of "it depends." Our base policy is "everyone meets the pet", but that flexes depending on the pet and humans involved.

    For some of our pets, mostly dogs with challenging behaviors, we definitely need everyone to come meet, talk to us, and go through some coaching to make sure everyone in the household is feeling safe and confident about living with this pet. However, I think this should be a conversation too. As a recent example, we had someone interested in adopting a highly-fearful dog who is reactive to strangers and usually requires ~3 meets before trusting a new person enough to allow more than very brief touch. She had no damaging bite history, but was quick to lunge, snap, and nip. For this kind of dog, we usually do a series of meets here at the shelter, but the interested adopter's partner was reluctant to come to the shelter because he finds them depressing and upsetting. After talking, we came up with a plan for the adopter to do the series of meets, the partner to come just once for a walk in the fields across from the shelter in order to set up a neutral first-meet, and for the adopter to plan to continue to be the main handler and caretaker while continuing the introduction process with her partner and adult daughter (who lives in a separate part of the house, duplex-style, so we didn't require any meet.)

    That kind of required meet isn't needed for all pets, although I do think making sure that everyone who is going to be living with the new pet knows about and is okay with the new arrival is important. (With a few exceptions, like parents wanting to keep the adoption a surprise for their kids. In that case, we've already met the caretakers and had a chance to talk over expectations with them.) For a lot of pets, that can be via phone, it doesn't need to require an in-person meet unless the other people want to meet the pet first. If other members of the household have worries, we can talk with them and the adopter to try and resolve them.

    I do like to assist with a first dog-dog meet someplace neutral, so that folks aren't trying to do that intro in their living room, and so we can talk about what each dog is communicating to the other. I feel like giving people specific things to watch for as they continue the process is helpful, but there are dogs who are not comfortable traveling to the shelter or folks with multiple dogs who aren't up for wrangling them all to the shelter for a meet. Those cases have to be addressed individually. For the multiple dogs, I usually try to describe what behaviors we have seen, and have the adopter bring the dog they think will be the trickiest to match up with the new dog. From there, we can troubleshoot that meet, and talk though other situations they anticipate with their other dogs.

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    Emme Hones
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  • 4.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-02-2022 02:30 PM

    We attribute our low return rate (less than 2% per year for more than 10 years) to two things:
    (1) the extra time we spend up front doing 'walk n' greets' with dogs and potential adopters, and
    (2) the human-training materials (our favorite book & some YT videos) every adopter receives at/before adoption.

    In addition, we spend 5-10 minutes talking with each potential adopter BEFORE the dog he/she/they are there to see is brought up, and we ask one important question right off the bat: "When you think back to your "heart" dog - the one you had sometime in your life who was your soulmate and perfect match - what characteristics did you love the most?" This vital question does multiple things:
    (1) It gets people thinking about a dog's personality and traits more than their looks.
    (2) It lets people know we want the best match for them, and that we're listening to what is important to them (we repeat their answers back to them to show them this).
    (3) It helps us determine if the dog they're here to see would do well in their home.

    For instance, say a woman comes to the shelter to see "Max." We can see from her adoption application that she is a truly awesome pet-owner (we're checked her vet references, her FB page and her home via googlemaps) - Yea! So I ask her that question about her "heart" dog...
    "Oh I loved how my Sydney followed me from room to room, and I loved how gentle he was with the little kids next door," she replies.
    "Did you say you were here to see Max?" we ask after repeating what she just told us about her "heart" dog.
    "Definitely!" she replies with enthusiasm.
    "Uhhhh, I need to tell you that Max is the kind of guy who eats kids for sport, BUT don't you worry..." I say thoughtfully and conspiratorially, "I may have your next "heart" dog here. Just give me a minute to see if he's still available..."  I then come back with not one, but TWO dogs who would be a much better match than Max. Why two dogs? Because I'm pretty sure this wonderful new adopter won't be able to choose between the two, and I (devious person that I am, but always in it for the dogs...) want her to take them both.

    Want to know what happens next? She completely forgets about Max and she is soooo appreciative that I took the time to ask the question she didn't think to ask. She ooohs and ahhhs over how well the two dogs walk next to one another and how they play so well together in our dog park. And then she asks about adopting them both!

    This true story has happened many times over, and it reflects a very good use of our time because this new adopter now can't wait to tell her friends (and the whole world via social media) to come down and adopt not one, but two well-matched dogs from us.

    IMHO, meet n'greets (better yet, 'walk n'greets') are super-important since dogs aren't boxes of cereal to be restocked on the shelf if it turns out they aren't what was wanted. The more time we spend with our adopters helping to set them and their new dogs up for success before adoption, the greater the benefits to all. Lower returns; better shelter reputation, and - yes - a higher adoption rate.

    On a much sadder note, one of the very few times I acquiesced to an adopter's plea for us not to insist his whole family come to meet a cat he wanted to adopt, his mentally-ill wife wound up killing the cat by breaking her neck. Never again. That was fifteen years ago, I can still see the sweet kitty as though it was yesterday.

    Ugh... I don't want to end on that note, so please go back and read the happier story again. :-)



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    Lynne Swanson
    Safe Harbor Farm K9
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  • 5.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-02-2022 07:38 PM
    Yep yep.

    --
    Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
    Certified Canine Fear Abatement Expert instructor/mentor, The Fearful Dogs Project
    Principle, Canine Fear Solutions

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  • 6.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-03-2022 06:10 AM
    I love that you shared one of the specific questions you find useful when matching folks up! So often asking a generic question, like "what type of dog are you looking for?" gets a breed as an answer, which isn't so helpful when we actually need to match personalities. Your question sounds like a great way to start a conversation about who they are looking for.

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    Emme Hones
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  • 7.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-03-2022 05:04 AM
    Our municipal shelter does a foster to adopt program.  So a meet and greet is done at the fosters house.  If the foster is uncomfortable doing the meet and greet at the home, then, we allow them to do it at the facility.   But, it is not a requirement.

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    Steve Marrero
    Liberty County Animal Services
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  • 8.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-03-2022 07:01 AM
    Our program is unique in that we run a prison dog program where dogs are in a local prison for 10 weeks receiving training from specially trained inmates. We are not allowed to pull dogs out for a meet and greet so the first time the family will meet their dog is on adoption day or 'parole day'. The entire family can come to this event, and bring a resident dog to see if the dogs will get along. Though due to covid, we are not holding our adoption events at the local store like in the past. We are holding them outside in a parking lot to where our storage unit is located. The family can still back out if they don't think things will work out or they don't think it is the best match. Through the 10 weeks of training, adopters receive the dog's weekly reports to keep updated on how the dog is doing with their training.

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    Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan
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  • 9.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-05-2022 04:29 PM
    Hi Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan (and any other group running prison dog programs):

    All the funds raised by Safe Harbor Farm K9's not-for-profit SMILE! Project go to neat dog projects, and one of them is prison dog training programs. In this case, The SMILE! Project donates copies of a very user-friendly book on human and canine behavior to prison libraries. Think of it as a human-training manual that will complement any dog training that you're doing. 

    You can read the first two chapters and Table of Contents on the website www.givesmiles.us. If you think it will help your prisoners help the dogs, reach out to me here with the number of books you need.

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    Lynne Swanson
    Safe Harbor Farm K9
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  • 10.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 05-09-2022 11:44 AM
    Thanks to everyone who shared their answers on this post so far! 

    I see that 27% of the poll respondents said they don't require meet and greets. If you are one of the 27% of poll respondents who works or volunteers for an organization that doesn't require them, can you share why you don't? Has it always been that way or did your organization move away from required meet and greets -- if so, why the change?

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    Kim Domerofski (she/her)
    Community Manager
    Maddie's Fund
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  • 11.  RE: Should meet and greets be required before adoption?

    Posted 05-10-2022 05:16 AM
    With our cats that we find/place for adoption, we always do 'meet and greets'. We consider ourselves feline matchmakers and we find that both home visits and having someone over to meet a cat in our home can be very very helpful. We realize that not everyone can do this-especially not shelters but we do encourage people to put some form of this into play. It can really help get a feel for the adopter. We foster/adopt out cats so we know with dogs it's quite different. We recently did an adoption to a first time cat person. She had always wanted a cat but growing up her mother was allergic. She has a place of her own now, and mom when she visits takes some allergy meds. She came to meet our foster once alone, then bought a cat experienced friend, and then, we did the home visit and drop off. During the process she got to see our foster in her natural environment at home, play with her, and got a feeling for what having a cat is like. She got to see cats on cat trees, eating, and even using a litterbox. We got to educate. We felt it was very helpful. We do follow up calls and one visit and things were going great. I think they can be very helpful.

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    Debra Hoffmann
    Safe Harbor Animal Coalition
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