• The very first step to getting started with adoptions is to
build a relationship with your local open-intake or kill
• Even if you’ve had a contentious relationship in the past
you need to work together now. Remember, you can’t
save anyone if you’ve been banned from the shelter!
Getting Started: Minimum Needs
• Dogs at risk of euthanasia.
• The drive to save those dogs.
• A few trusted staff members or volunteers.
• A few crates and one vehicle.
• APA! started with no where to house dogs but Dr.
Jefferson’s garage, one truck, one staff member, and a few
volunteers. It can be done!
Getting Started: Minimum Needs
• Set your protocols before you begin! It is so much less stressful as you
are getting started if all of your staff and volunteers are using the same
processes and protocols.
• But, be sure that you are ready and able to adapt as your organization
grows and you learn more about the needs of your community.
• We recommend weekly meetings for staff/team leaders to discuss what
protocols are working well and what areas need to improve.
Getting Started: Selecting Dogs
• It’s important to keep
a good mix of dogs in
• Diversity will help
you to appeal to a
wider range of
adopters and allow for
more balance at off-
Getting Started: Selecting Dogs
• Keeping diversity in your program will allow you to keep
• Having a larger number of more easily adopted dogs will
allow your organization to generate income for the harder
to adopt out dogs and allow you to grow your programs.
Getting Started: Necessary
Materials and Staff to Conduct
YourFirst Dog Adoption
Getting Started: Set Your
• Determine adoption fees
• Determine basic adoption protocols i.e.: will you adopt to
individuals under the age of 21? Proof required of landlord
approval for renters?
– Note: individual circumstances in which APA! denies an adoption
or counsels more thoroughly will be discussed in more detail.
Getting Started: Adoption Packets
• All APA! adoption packets include:
– Adoption Application
– Adoption Contract
– Basic Take Home Instructions
– Medical and BehaviorHistory
• Note: Be sure to have a local attorney review your application and
contract for compliance with local laws and regulations.
Getting Started: Materials for
• Donation Jars
• Table and 2-3 folding chairs
• Office supplies – pens and clipboards
• Signage and business cards
• Nametags and t-shirts for staff and volunteers
• Dog and human first aid kits
• Tents for shade and to draw attention to your site.
Getting Started: Basic Dog Care
Items for Every Site
• Leashes, collars, and harnesses –one of
each per dog and several extras.
• Lots of treats – a variety of higher value and
lower value treats can be helpful in
motivating the dogs
• Clean up bags – because poop happens.
Getting Started: Training
Adoptions Staff and
Areas of Training
• Dog Handling
• Basic Dog Care
• Adoption Protocols
• Site Specific
• Basic Medical Care
• Customer Service
Training: Dog Handling
• Counselors and volunteers should handle dogs with kindness and
respect at all times.
• Training should cover loose leash walking, proper usage of equipment
such as Martingale collars or harnesses, and some basic obedience
Training: Basic Dog Care
• At most of APA’s sites the counselors are responsible for routine dog
care such as feeding, nail trims, and bathing.
• We feed the dogs twice a day and administer prescription medication
• We also train our staff to use enrichment materials such as Kongs as
much as possible to exercise the dogs’ minds.
Training: Basic Medical Care
• At APA! all staff adoption counselors are trained in the dosage and
administration of basic preventatives such as flea and tick
preventatives, heartworm preventatives, and dewormer as well as in
the administration of basic vaccines such as DAPP and Bordatella.
• By having the adoption counselors take care of these basic
preventatives as necessary at the start of each day it saves the limited
time and resources of the medical team.
• APA! also trains adoption counselors to identify basic illnesses and
perform general wellness checks on the dogs each day. Counselors
report any variations from the norm to the medical team so that the
dog can be scheduled for a thorough examination and treatment if
• Having a basic knowledge of medical care also allows our counselors
to more fully educate adopters.
Training: Customer Service
• Customer service is of paramount importance even though
it is the most easily overlooked training area.
• Friendly and helpful staff members and volunteers will
increase adoption numbers, increase donations, as well as
help to maintain a positive relationship with the
community and your off-site partners or your in-shelter
• REMEMBER TO SAY, “THANK YOU”!!
• All adoption counselors need to be trained to be
able to safely break up a dog scuffle should one
• All adoption counselors also need to be trained to
understand some basic dog behavior such as
maintaining critical distance and basic body
language that dogs use. Specific behavior issues
will be discussed further in the behavior
• Basic Rules
– Adopter must spend time with the dog prior to
– Adopter must thoroughly complete an application.
– Adoption counselor must thoroughly review the
application and discuss any potential red flag areas with
– The adoption counselor must never judge the adopter.
It’s an adoption interview, not an inquisition.
• While the applicant is interacting with dogs the counselor should
observe and engage the applicant in conversation.
• Try to steer the applicant towards the right dog for their lifestyle
before they fall in love with a dog that will not be a good fit.
• Be honest without being discouraging. Discuss the dog’s exercise and
training needs, temperament, any restrictions, and any relevant health
information. Full disclosure is not negotiable.
• The Adoption counselor will take every application and thoroughly
review. In the case of one or more “red flags” on the application, the
counselor will ask probing questions and note answers and topics
discussed on the application. If the applicant fails to provide adequate
answers, the counselor will continue to discuss the individual dog
situation and try to get to the bottom of the issue.
Common Red Flags
• History of outdoor only pets, desire for this dog to be outdoors
• History of surrendering pets to shelters.
• Current breeding activities.
• History of pets dying or becoming lost as a result of neglect or
improper safety practices.
• Adoption as a gift to someone else.
• Desire to adopt multiple dogs at once.
• Adopter under 21 years of age/supported by parents.
• History of physical reprimands.
Denying an Adoption
• If you have reviewed an application and discussed, in
detail, all red flags with the applicant and believe that this
is not a good home for the dog in question the counselor
must discuss this with the manager on duty or adoptions
manager prior to denying the adoption.
• But, remember that denial should always be the last resort.
Sometimes, if you just put an adoption on hold for 24 hours to gather
more information you can clear up any misunderstanding or red flag
that was on the face of the application. Ex: Call a vet reference, call a
landlord, do a home visit.
• If an application looks good and this will be a good, safe
home for the dog you can approve the application and
complete the adoption by going through an adoption
contract and a Basic Take Home packet as well as any
relevant additional information for this dog.
• Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure! Protect your organization by
disclosing all relevant information (i.e.health, behavior) and adding a
clause to the contract to that effect and having the adopter initial that
• For example, for a dog with a health problem you would write “I am
aware this dog will require daily thyroid medication” and have the
adopter initial or sign the added clause.
• Our most common special adoption circumstance is a pre-
adoption. If a dog isn’t yet spayed or neutered and we feel
we have found the perfect home for them we will allow a
pre-adoption with a $150 deposit. The dog remains the
property of APA! until the day of surgery.
• Other special circumstances that may come up are dogs
needing surgery for which APA has fundraised, dogs with
ongoing medical needs that APA! will help out with, or
• APA! runs an open
adoption policy. If for
any reason the adoption is
not working out we
require that the dog come
back to APA! even if the
dog was adopted out
several years ago.
• We go over the return process with every adopter during
the adoption process; all APA! adoption paperwork
includes the contact information for returns.
• Our Adopt-Line team handles the logistics and scheduling
of return. The Adoption Manager approves all returns and
works with the Behavior Manager to address any behavior
issues in the dog.
• However, we always want return to be the last resort so we
encourage adopters to get in touch with us at the first sign
of an issue and offer ongoing support to our adopters.
• Baseline Adoption Fee: $150
• Some dogs will have higher fees. Post-parvovirus dogs or dogs that
have required extensive medical treatment are two examples.
• We reduce adoption fees for dogs who have been in our program for a
while, dogs who are older, or dogs with special needs.
• This would include
off-site adoptions of
dogs pulled into your
shelter or foster homes
and dogs you are
working with at the
open intake shelter.
Benefits of Off-Site Adoptions
• Ability to start saving lives before having an
adoption facility for start-up groups.
• Increased adoption numbers due to increased
exposure in the community.
• Spreading your mission, educating the public,
and gaining name recognition.
• Additional donations
– The APA! dog program receives most of its donation
jar donations from one of our off-site locations.
Off-Site Adoptions Start Up
• First, you need to develop a relationship with off-site partners.
• APA! works with several area PetSmart stores as well as an artisan’s
market in a thriving downtown area to run numerous off-site events
• If you wish to develop an off-site adoption program for dogs in the
local shelter you also need to work with the shelter to gain access,
permission, and develop protocols.
• One of the first things to look at is the demographics in the selected
neighborhood and the cleanliness and organization of the store itself.
• If scouting sites, go to the site for a few days to get a sense of traffic
through the store as well as the staff and management in the store.
The more polite and helpful the staff, the more happy customers will
be walking past your adoption site. Happy customers = more
Selecting Sites cont’d
• When approaching a partner, have statistics ready
about your successes, photos of happy adoptions,
all program information and 501(c)(3) status
• Make an appointment to speak with the location
manager and sometimes property management
depending on the store’s situation.
• When you approach a site, have your equipment
and staffing ready to start THAT day.
Supplies Needed for an Off-Site
• Categories of supplies
– Sanitation and safety
– Basic dog care items
– Dog containment items
– Adoptions materials
– Supplies to deal with the
– Marketing materials -
signage, donation jars,
perhaps some retail items
Storage of Supplies
• Depending on the site, you may have some permanent
secure storage or you may need to tote these items back
and forth each day. Plan for space in the transport vehicles
not just for crates and dogs but also for all of the supplies
needed to successfully run a site.
Sanitation and Safety Supplies
• Roccal Spray
• Hand Sanitizer
• Antibacterial soap
• Sunscreen for doggies and people
• First aid kits for humans and dogs.
• Tupperware bin to use as a basin in which to
sanitize items such as bowls, leashes, and toys.
• Humane methods to break up a fight should one
happen - air horn, citronella spray, shake cans.
Basic Dog Care Items
• Water and food bowls
• Water jugs or access to running water
– Yes, you can run a site without running water!!
• Leashes, collars, harnesses
• Clean up bags
• Food, toys, and treats
• Linens/bedding for warmth and to create shade
• Grooming items – nail clippers, shampoo, and
• Ex-pens: One per
adult dog or litter of
• Secure transport
• Adoption packets for each dog at site
• Extra adoption packets and commonly used
handouts such as post-parvo or demodectic
• Table and 2-3 folding chairs
• Clipboard, pens, stapler etc.
• Donation jars, signage, printed literature
Weather Related Supplies
• Sunshades or tents to protect each ex-pen from
blistering sun or light rain
• Ice, fans, and misters for hot weather
• Blankets, jackets, and sweaters for cold weather
• The Dog List
– Each day we publish a list on our website of where each dog will
be. It helps us to ensure there is a good balance of dogs at each site
and helps the public find dogs in which they may be interested.
• Preventative Meds
– Administered by counselors as needed before going to site in the
• Loading Dogs Safely/Efficiently
– Make sure vehicle is an appropriate temperature. Each vehicle has
Daily Off-Site Schedule
• 8AM Counselors arrive at APA to prepare for the
day. Walk their dogs, gather their supplies.
• 9:30AM counselors leave for site.
• 10AM counselors set up their sites.
• Site should be set up and dogs fed/medicated by
12PM at latest.
• Evening meal followed by breakdown and return
to APA begins at 6:30PM.
• Counselors’ days end at 9PM.
Site Set Up: Sanitation
• Put your table and
donation jars out first
• Everything needs to be
sanitized with a 1:30
Site Set Up: Sanitation
• Ex-pens and the ground beneath them can be sprayed with
the solution prior to getting any dogs out.
• Leashes, bowls, and hard toys can be soaked in a basin.
Site Set Up: Dog Care
• Once the entire site and materials have been sanitized you
can get the dogs out of their crates 1 at a time and walk
them prior to putting them in ex-pens. Clean up all feces
• Be sure each dog has bedding, toys and water. Once all the
dogs are in their pens you can feed them and administer
• While the dogs are eating: hang small donation jars, small
sanitizers, and kennel cards on each ex-pen.
• While the dogs are eating supervise the dogs for signs of
resource guarding and ensure that people aren’t petting the
dogs while they are eating.
Managing Your Site
• Get dogs out for walks as often as possible while still
maintaining control of your site. Always clean up feces
and urine immediately.
• Keep a bucket or trash can nearby but out of sight/smell
for poo bags.
• If it is slow you can work on grooming the dogs or basic
Managing Your Site: Customer
• The off-site adoption counselors are the face of your
organization in the community! It is important that the
counselors treat every person that walks by as their new
BFF. A warm smile and a friendly hello will go a long
way towards increasing adoptions and donations at each
Managing Your Site: The Public
• We want the public to interact with the dogs and
take them for walks! It’s the best way for them to
get to know a potential new family member.
• Please remind visitors to sanitize their hands
before and after every pen.
• If someone wants to walk a dog please get the dog
out for them to avoid escapes and take their keys
or other valuable item while they walk the dog.
Managing Your Site: Behavior
1. If two dogs are barking at each other put a visual barrier such as a
sheet or shade between the dogs. If that isn’t working, you can
sanitize and swap ex-pens to put a non-reactive dog between the
two reactive dogs. You can also give the dogs interactive toys to
keep them occupied.
2. If a dog is trying to climb out of its pen: put a drag lead on the dog
and secure a lid onto the pen so that the dog can’t get out. It is OK
to use an XL wire crate offsite as long as the dog has shade and
ample time out of the crate.
End of the Day: Breakdown
• Walk all dogs one more time and load them into crates in
climate controlled vehicles. Be sure to use the same crates for
each dog as during morning transport.
• Create a sanitizer basin with 1:30 Bleach Water solution.
Sanitize bowls, hard toys, leashes etc.
• Gather dirty laundry, spray ex-pens and the ground where dogs
have been with the bleach water solution.
• Breakdown ex-pens, tables, and load vehicle.
Return to APA!
• Upon return, dogs are walked again and put into
• Counselors clean out their vans. Sanitize all crates
for 10 minutes with the bleach water solution
(making sure that all areas of crate are in contact
with the solution).
• Restock vans for the next day with food, clean
• Prepare nightly adoption log, deposit all donations
and adoption fees, and complete the end of day
email prior to end of shift at 9PM.
Dealing with Emergency
Situations at an Adoption Site
• Need to have foul weather plans in advance so that there is no
confusion when the issue arises.
• Who can make the decision to close a site? When would site
• What to do if you do have to close early?
• At APA! the Manager on Call or Adoptions Manager can make
the decision when to close a site early due to foul weather.
Dog Stolen from Site
• Prevention is key. Always be vigilant.
• If a dog is stolen: Make note of the person’s
description, vehicle they are driving, license plate
number, and direction of travel and call 911. Give
the police the suspect’s description as well as the
dog’s description. Call the dog adoptions manager
who can alert the microchip company.
• MOSTIMPORTANTLY: Keep yourself and the
other dogs safe. Do not confront someone who
appears dangerous or who has a weapon.
Donations Jar Stolen from Site
• If a donations jaris stolen: Make note of the person’s
identifying details and alert police.
• Most importantly: Keep yourself and the dogs safe!
Don’t confront a violent, angry, or armed individual. Just
call 911. Donations can be replaced, you cannot.
Loose orEscaped Dog
• If you are alone
– Call the dog adoptions manager immediately and watch to see in
which direction the dog has fled.
– While keeping your site under control try to coax the dog back
with treats, sweet talking, and praise. Drop low to the ground and
speak in a gentle, soothing voice. Don’t shout or use excited, high
Loose orEscaped Dog
• If you have a trusted volunteer or other helper:
– Grab some treats and a leash and follow the dog. If
you know the dog, drop to a knee and try to call the
dog and capture calmly. Try not to run after a dog,
they will run faster. If they’re in full flight, run after
the dog, trying to keep it in sight. Take your phone,
so you can update helpers as to its whereabouts. Your
helper should immediately contact the dog adoptions
manager and dog program manager.
Loose or Escaped Dog
• If you can’t quickly catch the dog, call the adoptions manager to
have flyers made, hang flyers, and call in more help to look for
• APA! has successfully caught loose dogs even after two months
on the run in the winter, don’t give up!
• Examples: Fawn, Rainbow, and Unicorn - the little Chi family
that loved to run away.
• Separate – Keep the dog at least 6 feet away from all other dogs. If
you have been handling that dog, change your shirt to avoid
transmission of germs.
• Supervise – Monitor the dog’s symptoms, contact the medical team.
• Seek emergency care if necessary
• Stay calm.
• Safely separate the dogs – do not grab collars. Use your airhorn,
citronella spray, or even the water hose.
• Alert the adoptions manager and complete an incident report.
• Attend to your own wounds first if you get bitten.
• Administer first aid to the dogs if needed.
• Seek emergency medical care if needed.
• First, safely return the dog to his run, secure the ex-pen with a lid and
separate the dog from the public area. He should not be handled by the
public or volunteers for the rest of the day.
• If the dog bit a member of the public or volunteer we need their name
and full contact information. APA! always recommends bite victims
seek medical attention.
• Thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water.
• If no skin was broken no further medical attention is needed.
• If the skin was broken, APA! recommends that the bitten person
seek medical attention to prevent infection.
• If the wound is serious and will not stop bleeding seek
emergency medical attention.
• ALL bites, no matter how minor, must be reported to the Dog
Adoptions Manager and Behavior Manager.
• Bites are a learning experience. They tell us something about the
dog’s behavior, something the dog may need to work on, and
also alert us to what type of home may be most appropriate for
Challenges and Failures: Zera
• What happened?
• As a direct result of
everything we learned
from Zera we created a
successful Behavior &
Enrichment program to
work with dogs with
Challenges and Failures: Hershey
• What happened?
• As a direct result of
Hershey’s death we added
additional measures on
our applications and
follow up support system
to help our animals stay
safe in their adoptive
Challenges: Sandy Sue
• Sandy survived the
euthanasia list, a severe
URI, parvovirus, and
heartworms. She also
• However, we did not give
up and Sandy is now a
beloved family pet.
Rising Above Obstacles
• If you take nothing else away from this
presentation remember this: There will always be
naysayers and roadblocks. You will make
mistakes, sometimes at the cost of a life. Please
do not give up. There are so many lives that can
be saved, simply by refusing to give up. Keep
moving forward, keep learning, keep changing,
and keep growing. That is the road to NO KILL!
• Photos provided by
– Scarlett Blue Photography
– Ed Lehman
– Summer Huggins
– Angela Lozano
– Holly Livermore
– Jessica Marsh
– Cathy Bridge
– Melissa Miller