Pet Adoption Papers – How To Ace Your Dog Adoption Application

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Nothing is more rewarding than adopting a dog from a shelter and providing a loving forever home for them. But, instead of strolling into the nearest rescue to pick a dog, you will have to fill out pet adoption papers first and then wait to get approved. 

If you think that adopting a dog will be fast and easy, you are in for a big surprise!

Shelters and rescue organizations have high standards and strict rules, and they aren’t afraid to reject seemingly perfect adoption applications. But this is only because they want to make sure that every dog ends up with a loving owner who will provide a life-long home. 

Pet Adoption Papers - How To Ace Your Dog Adoption Application - Golden Retriever puppy lying on the desk waiting to be adopted.Pet Adoption Papers - How To Ace Your Dog Adoption Application - Golden Retriever puppy lying on the desk waiting to be adopted.
Pet Adoption Papers – How To Ace Your Dog Adoption Application

Filling out a dog adoption application is just the first, but not the easiest, step in the adoption process.

Furthermore, most adoption applications are rather lengthy and you might feel like some questions are inappropriately intrusive.

Still, disclosing your personal information is a small price to pay for the privilege of saving a dog’s life and adopting a “fur-ever friend.” 

In this article, I will explain how a dog adoption application looks and tell you how to fill out each part of the form.

I will also share with you some tips that helped me refine my own adoption application. Hopefully, they will work for you too, and improve your chances of gaining approval from the rescue.  

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How To Fill Out A Pet Adoption Papers

Adoption is a wonderful way to welcome a new dog into your family. And with so many dogs waiting in shelters and rescue organizations for forever homes, you would imagine that adopting one is a very straightforward process. However, that’s not really the case.

Shelters and animal rescues are infamous for having an extensive dog adoption form, which may seem too intrusive at first.

But, while the process might seem lengthy and off-putting, it’s important to remember that these organizations have the dog’s best interests at heart.

Their sole goal is to match dogs with their prospective owners and to ensure they’ll end up in a forever home. 

Knowing how to fill out the adoption application and what questions you’ll need to answer will bring you one step closer to adopting your new dog.

Below, I’m going to explain what a standard adoption application looks like and help you fill it out.

Contact Information

The first part of every pet adoption form is fairly straightforward. In this section, you will need to list your contact information including your name, address, email, and phone number, so the organization has a way of reaching you. 

Bear in mind, legally you have to be at least 18 years old to adopt a dog. However, some organizations have higher standards and won’t allow you to adopt if you are under 21. 

While this might seem unfair, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. At this age, it is very hard to predict where you will be in a few years – you might go off to a college or move into a no-pets-allowed building.

If this happens, you will have to find a new home for your dog or, in the worst-case scenario, return it to the shelter. 

Being under 21 doesn’t mean that your adoption application will be rejected automatically, but it does lower your chances significantly.

However, if you are confident that you will be able to provide a life-long home and properly care for a dog, go ahead and fill out the entire application.

Your Living Situation

The next part of the dog adoption form focuses on the living situation, and you’ll have to state whether you own or rent the place where you are currently living.

You don’t have to be a homeowner to adopt a pet, but the shelter will want to check to be sure you are permitted to keep pets on the property. 

Countless dogs and cats have to be surrendered to shelters because of landlords and no-pet policies.

So, if you are renting, the shelter will want to verify whether you have permission to keep a dog at your current residence and will ask for your landlord’s contact information.

Furthermore, even if you are allowed to keep pets, many landlords have limitations when it comes to the size, weight, and breed of a dog you can keep.

For example, your lease agreement may allow you to own just one dog that weighs less than 30 pounds. 

Working Hours

Having a dog means that you will need to interact and spend quality time with them every day.

This part of the adoption application includes questions about your occupation and working hours.

While you won’t have to state where you work, you’ll be asked to estimate how much time your dog will spend home alone.

This might seem like a tricky question. On one hand, you have to be financially stable in order to own a dog, but at the same time, you shouldn’t leave a dog alone at home for too long. 

Truth be told, if you have long working hours, or if you travel a lot for business, chances are that your application will be rejected.

While you don’t have to quit your job or be unemployed in order to adopt a dog, you won’t be able to work 12-hour shifts either. 

Some rescues can be very strict with who they place their dogs. I spoke with a rescue at a local pet adoption and they told me they only adopted to people who either did not work and stayed home most of the day or worked from home.

Here’s an article we wrote about raising a puppy while working full-time.

Your Family

Adopting a dog is a big step and will have an impact on your entire family. Therefore, the shelter will want to determine what type of dog will be the best fit for you and your family. 

In this section of the adoption application, you will need to list all the people your dog is going to live with, and if the entire family has agreed on the adoption.

Also, if you have kids, or if you have children visiting often, the shelter will likely want to know about it. 

Your answers to these questions can help the shelter understand your family’s dynamics.

If you are an active family, an active dog breed might be a perfect choice. On the other hand, a senior or low-energy breed can be a better option if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle. 

Your Current Pets

If you already have pets, you will have to think about them before you decide to adopt a new one.

Some cats and dogs can’t get along, and many prefer being the sole pet in the household. So, if you already have pets, don’t forget to mention them on your adoption papers.

This way, the shelter can match you with a dog that will get along with the pets you already have.

Furthermore, if you have any smaller pets such as guinea pigs or hamsters, mention them as well. Certain dog breeds have a strong prey drive and your smaller pets might end up being harmed.

Personal References

In this part of the adoption application, you will be asked to provide accurate contact information for your personal references.

You should choose your references carefully since they can have a lot of sway on whether or not your application will be approved or rejected. 

A person reviewing your adoption application will have a lot of questions for your references, so it is in your interest to list people who know you well.

Listing a reference who won’t answer the phone or who will be uninterested reflects badly on you as a potential pet owner. 

Ideally, your references should be people who have known you for a few years at least and know how passionate you are about adopting a dog.

These people should be your biggest supporters and leave a glowing review that will convince the shelter’s staff that you are the best person to adopt the dog you are interested in.

Tips For Acing Your Dog Adoption Application

If you are serious about adopting a dog, you have probably heard that rescues and shelters don’t just hand out approvals.

In fact, there are many cases when prospective owners did everything right and still ended up rejected by the organization. Luckily, there are ways you can increase your chances of adopting the dog of your dreams.

Here are some tips that can help you get your adoption application approved:

1. You Must Have A Fenced Yard

Most dog adoption applications will ask if you have a fenced-in backyard and how tall your fence is.

While this might seem like a standard question to you, a fenced backyard is a must as far as shelters and rescues are concerned. So, even if you meet all other requirements except this one, your application will probably be declined. 

A fenced yard is extremely important if you want to own a dog and will serve as a safe place for your dog to run and play.

If your home doesn’t have a backyard or you can’t put up a fence, you will have to convince the shelter that you can provide enough exercise for your dog in other ways. 

2. Keep Your Pets Up To Date On All Shots

If you state that you have any other pets at home, the rescue will call your vet to check if their vaccinations are up to date.

Furthermore, most organizations have a strict policy regarding spaying and neutering pets. If your pets aren’t current on all their shots or altered, your pet adoption papers will be rejected right away.

It doesn’t really matter why you didn’t alter or vaccinate your current pets. But if you are serious about adoption, you will have to get them vaccinated and fixed as soon as possible. 

3. Keep Track Of Your Pets’ Veterinary Records

Most dog adoption organizations will require veterinary records for all of your pets, going back two to five years depending on the organization.

If you don’t have a vet who keeps good records or if there are any gaps in your pets’ care, your application will be rejected. 

Furthermore, some rescue groups may seek proof of preventative care. So, if you don’t buy flea and tick treatment or heartworm medication from your vet, start saving those bills as proof of preventative treatment.

4. Provide Detailed Information

When filling out a dog adoption application, be as detailed as possible. Don’t shy away from providing detailed information about your living and family situation, and your previous experience with owning pets.

Explain everything you know about the training, nutrition, care, exercise, and grooming needs of a dog

The more information you provide, the better your application will look and will show that you are truly invested in providing a forever home for your new dog. 

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

If you have any questions about the dog you are trying to adopt, don’t be afraid to ask. Most shelters and rescue organizations love when prospective owners have a list of questions.

This shows the organization that you did some research and are really committed to providing a forever home for that dog.

You will want to get more information about the dog’s temperament and whether they have any behavioral or health issues.

Furthermore, get as much information you can get about the dog’s history: Was the dog abused, or did their previous family leave them behind when they moved away?

Asking these types of questions will help you better understand the dog and will also show that you are truly interested in adopting. 

FAQs About Dog Adoption Papers

How Do I Apply For A Dog Adoption?

The first thing you will need to do if you want to adopt a dog is to submit an adoption application.

Most shelters and rescues have websites where you can fill out or download the application form before submitting it for approval.

At this stage, the most important thing is to provide detailed information about yourself and any previous experience with pet ownership. 

Why Is Adoption Better Than Buying Pets?

There are many reasons why adopting a pet is better than buying one. To start, it is a humane thing to do!

Millions of cats and dogs are euthanized each year while waiting to get adopted into loving homes. It is up to potential owners to decide if they want to be a part of the problem or offer a solution. 

Adoption also gives you an opportunity to get an already house-trained pet who is used to living indoors and interacting with people.

Also, adoption is a lot cheaper than buying a puppy straight from a breeder, and you won’t have to pay extra for shots, microchipping, and spaying/neutering. 

What Is An Adoption Contract?

A pet adoption contract is an agreement between two parties: the adoption organization and the new owner.

The contract outlines the required standard of care the new owner should provide for the adopted animal.

Adoption contracts also contain information about the current health of the adopted pet and are, when signed, legally binding. 

Are Pet Adoption Contracts Enforceable?

All pet adoption contracts are enforceable when the terms of the contract have been violated.

For example, if the adoption contract stated that you had to spay/neuter a dog within the first six months after the adoption and you didn’t do it, the organization can confiscate your dog.

If a pet owner is found to be in violation of the terms of the contract, they must surrender the pet upon request. 

Why Is It So Hard To Adopt A Dog From A Rescue?

Considering that most rescue dogs had difficult lives prior to coming to the shelter, they often have specific living and care requirements that aren’t easy to meet.

Adopting a dog from a rescue is extremely hard since most potential owners are unable to meet the dog’s specific needs. If your adoption application gets rejected, don’t be discouraged. 

This only means that you aren’t the best match for that particular dog. While you might end up rejected by one rescue, another one might like your application and end up matching you with the best dog for you. 


Knowing what questions to expect and how to properly fill out pet adoption papers will bring you one step closer to rescuing a dog.

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization is a difficult process, and it isn’t uncommon for applications to get declined several times. But, these simple steps can help you get approved by the rescue:

  • Provide detailed information
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • List good references

In the end, even if your adoption application doesn’t get approved the first time, don’t despair!

Shelters and rescues are full of dogs in need of loving homes and one of them is waiting just for you.

Have you ever adopted a dog?

Was the adoption process easy or difficult?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Pet Adoption Application - Ace Your Dog Adoption Application - Golden Retriever puppy sleeping on computer keyboard - Knowing how to fill out pet adoption papers can improve your chances of getting approved by a rescue and finding the perfect dog for you and your family.Pet Adoption Application - Ace Your Dog Adoption Application - Golden Retriever puppy sleeping on computer keyboard - Knowing how to fill out pet adoption papers can improve your chances of getting approved by a rescue and finding the perfect dog for you and your family.

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