10 Signs of a Good Pet Adoption Manager

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

To have a strong adoption department, animal rescues need to have strong adoption managers.

Without a strong adoption manager, your adoption department will crumble.

That probably brings you to your first question.

What makes a pet adoption manager a good one?

To understand what a good adoption manager is, it’s important for us to first understand what a good adoption manager is not.

A good pet adoption manager is not just a manager who everybody likes.

We’ve met adoption managers who are very likeable, yet completely incapable of providing the type of training and support that their adoption teams need to be effective at securing forever homes for companion animals.

We’ve met adoption managers who are likeable but completely incapable of designing adoption policies that are effective at meeting the needs of animals in their communities.

A good pet adoption manager is not just a manager who delivers favourable metrics.

We’ve met adoption managers who deliver high adoption rates, while simultaneously reporting a high failed adoption rate.

We’ve also met adoption managers who deliver high adoption rates, but many adoption counsellors agree that animals do not always go to safe and loving homes.

Does that sound like a good adoption manager to you?

Now that we know what a good adoption manager is not, it is time to focus on what a good adoption manager is.

What does a good pet adoption manager do?

A good adoption manager ensures:

  • Their adoption team is well supported

  • Their adoption team is well trained

  • Training programs are available for new adoption team members

  • They routinely perform the job of each of the team members whom they supervise

  • Their adoption team is using the right systems and procedures to efficiently perform their jobs

  • They perform a thorough assessment of their animal rescue’s adoption program

  • They research other animal rescue’s adoption policies

  • They continuously assess their animal rescue’s adoption program

  • They create research-based proposals with any changes they’d like to make to their adoption program.

  • They can understand constructive feedback and are open to change for the better.

Adoption managers should be striving to do better by ensuring that they are actively checking off each of the bullets listed above.

Operations managers should also be taking the time necessary to determine whether their existing adoption managers are good ones.

Your animal rescue’s Board of Directors should take the steps necessary to determine whether their existing adoption managers are good ones.

This process involves actively receiving feedback from your animal rescue’s adoption team.

This process also involves actively gathering data on your adoption department’s metrics and properly interpreting the data.

It is also important for animal rescues to keep each of these factors in mind when onboarding new adoption managers.

We are going to explore each of the points listed above in greater detail below.


1. A good pet adoption manager will make sure their adoption team is well supported.

Adoption Counsellors are required to place animals in their forever homes, and it’s not always easy!

Think about how long it takes for human beings to decide who they’d like to spend the rest of their lives with.

Now think about how long the average adoption interview takes.

These interviews are short!

They usually don’t take longer than an hour or two at the most!

That means adoption counsellors are required to decide who an animal will spend the rest of their lives with, in less than an hour and a half.

Let’s not forget that in some instances, adoption counsellors will have to decline prospective adopters.

Being face to face with someone, whose adoption you’re about to decline is not easy.

People become angry.

It’s not uncommon for prospective adopters who’ve had their adoptions declined to ask to speak to adoption managers.

In these instances, what does a good manager do?

Does a good manager adhere to ‘the customer or prospective adopter is always right’ motto and send the animal in question home with a prospective adopter whom the adoption counsellor was uncomfortable with? Or does a good manager stand by their adoption counsellor’s decision?

In instances where adoption managers choose not to stand by their adoption counsellor’s decisions, they should consider bracing themselves as the team momentum plummets.

They should also brace themselves for the possibility that adoption counsellors may not feel comfortable declining prospective adopters in the future.

That means animals may potentially be put into dangerous situations simply because adoption managers are unable to support their teams!

Nobody wants this to happen.

It’s so important for adoption managers to make sure their adoption teams feel supported.

2. A good pet adoption manager will make sure their adoption team is properly trained.

Too many animal rescues skip out on investing in the right training programs required to make sure their adoption teams are well trained. It’s a shame because the investment that needs to be made is not always a financial investment!

Time and expertise are what it takes to create a sound training program.

A sound training program is required to make sure that your adoption counsellors know how to do their jobs well.

This is an important part of keeping animals safe.

It’s also an important part of being able to retain your animal rescue’s employees or volunteers.

If your animal rescue fails to train your adoption team then your animal rescue is failing not only your employees or volunteers but also the very animals whom you’re trying to help.

Part of an adoption counsellors job involves educating prospective adopters on how to care for their soon to be forever pets.

How can your adoption counsellors be expected to provide prospective adopters with the education they need if your animal rescue has not trained them on what information to provide prospective adopters with?

Another important aspect of your adoption counsellor’s job includes properly screening prospective adopters.

How can your adoption counsellors be expected to properly screen prospective adopters, if they’re not taught how to do that effectively?


3. A good pet adoption manager will make sure there is an up to date training program available to train new employees and volunteers.

Do you remember what it was like to start a new job or volunteer position?

It was probably a bit intimidating.

If a new adoption counsellor doesn’t have any previous experience, they may feel intimidated by having to complete a job they’ve never done before.

If an adoption counsellor has adoption experience, they may not feel confident operating according to your animal rescue’s policies or procedures, simply because they’re not as familiar.

For example, your animal rescue may be using a different shelter software other than the one they’re used to using. Or you may have a different procedure for declining an adoption other than the one they are familiar with.

Your adoption program needs to have training programs to bring new employees or volunteers up to speed!

These training programs will train new employees or volunteers on how to do their jobs and make them feel valued by your adoption team.

The last thing any animal rescue wants to hear in a Google review is “I offered to volunteer my time for free and the organization didn’t value me enough as a volunteer to provide me with the training necessary to do my job.”

You can avoid these instances by simply being proactive and creating a training program before onboarding any new employees or volunteers.

This will increase your employee or volunteer job satisfaction rate, which will help your animal rescue retain your employees or volunteers.

4. A good pet adoption manager will try to perform their adoption counsellor’s job for a few days.

Working as an adoption counsellor for a few days is a great way for an adoption manager to gain the experience needed to properly support their teams.

Think about it... How can someone pinpoint the type of training and support that an adoption counsellor needs to do their job if they’ve never done the job before?


A person can have an overall understanding of what a person’s job entails without properly understanding what skills or procedures are required to complete each task.

Working as an adoption counsellor for a few days is a great way for an adoption manager to gain a better understanding of what training may be needed for adoption counsellors to acquire each skill.

Having your animal rescue’s adoption manager working as an adoption counsellor for a few days is also a great way for your adoption manager to show your adoption team how committed they are to gaining a better understanding of their needs.

Good adoption managers should be committed to showing this type of commitment to their teams.

5. A good pet adoption manager will make sure their team is using the right systems and procedures to get the job done.

Believe it or not – adoption departments use a lot of systems!

Systems can be loosely defined as a set of principles, tools or procedures according to which something is done.

Systems can be quite complicated and involve a lot of training.

An example of a system like this would include whatever software your animal rescue uses to organize your adoption files. Petpoint is an example of a commonly used system.

But systems can also be as simple as whatever procedures your animal rescue is using to determine which order adoption applications will be processed.

Your animal rescue also probably has some sort of system to help adoption counsellors decide which prospective adopters are compatible with which companion animals.

Your adoption manager can’t know if these systems are working well unless they take the time to identify and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each system.

Working as an adoption counsellor for a few days is a great way for an adoption manager to learn about each of the systems that adoption counsellors use to perform their jobs.

Gaining a better understanding of each of these systems will help your adoption manager determine whether the systems being used are efficient enough to help adoption counsellors do their jobs.

Equipping adoption counsellors with the skills needed to do their jobs will help build your team’s momentum.


6. A good pet adoption manager will do a thorough assessment of your animal rescue’s adoption program.