10 Signs of a Good Pet Adoption Manager

Updated: Dec 30, 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.

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that your animal rescue has a strong adoption policy simply because you have a strong adoption team full of adoption counsellors who are well trained and properly supported.

It’s simply not the truth!

Your adoption team might do a great job of providing education to prospective adopters, but the question is: Are they providing the right information?

Your adoption team might do a great job of screening prospective adopters within the guidelines, given but the question is: Were they given the right guidelines?

All of these things will come down to whether your animal rescue has a strong adoption policy… or not.

This is why the next step of a good adoption manager includes the evaluation of their animal rescue’s adoption program.

This is a very important step that cannot be skipped.

Here are some of the many questions that an adoption manager will need to ask when assessing your animal rescue’s adoption program:

  • What are the needs of animals in your community?

  • What are the needs of pet owners in your community?

  • How many prospective adopters contact your animal rescue every month?

  • Are you happy with how long your adoption process takes?

  • How many prospective adopters does your team turn away each month?

  • Is your adoption rate high?

  • Is your average length of stay short?

  • Is your failed adoption rate low?

Answering these questions will be easier if your animal rescue is already collecting data on your adoption program.

Most shelter software programs will automatically gather this data on your behalf.

If your animal rescue has made the mistake of not using a reliable shelter software, then your adoption manager will need to go back into your adoption files to extract the data needed to complete the assessment.

An experienced adoptions manager should have the ability to review your animal rescue’s adoption policy, as well as your animal rescue’s supporting data to assess your animal rescue’s adoption policy.

However, an inexperienced adoptions manager may need to do a bit of research to bring themselves up to speed before proceeding to make the assessment again.

In these instances, it may be a good idea to have your operations manager and adoption manager work together.

7. A good pet adoption manager will research other animal rescue’s adoption policies.

Your animal rescue does not know everything.

We repeat, your animal rescue does not know everything!

That’s why it’s important for your animal rescue to always be gathering up to date information.

Your animal rescue should always be gathering information on your animal rescue’s metrics and your community’s needs.

However, your animal rescue should remember that the problems your animal rescue seeks to solve are not unique.

There are Humane Societies, SPCAs and animal rescues around the globe seeking to solve similar problems.

Do you have too many strays in your community? So do many other communities across the globe.

Many of whom have probably documented their journey while effectively reducing the number of strays.

Even if your animal rescue is already effectively lowering their stray population… wouldn’t you still want access to information that may help you lower your stray population faster?

That is why your animal rescue should always be maintaining access to new life-saving information, even when your animal rescue is happy with your current policies, systems and procedures.

This life-saving information often comes in the form of research.


Thanks to the internet, we no longer have to rely solely on trial and error to find solutions to community problems.

Instead, we can rely on research studies. Most research studies involve case studies.

Case studies are an excellent tool that can be used to help your animal rescue decide on policies, systems and procedures that can help your animal rescue solve your community’s problems.

All of the policies, systems and procedures that we design here at LSA are finalized only after we’ve done the research necessary to determine whether they have a shot at being effective.

If your animal rescue is struggling to gather data on your animal rescue’s metrics, we can help you.

If your animal rescue is struggling to gather information on your community, we can help you.

If your animal rescue is struggling to access the research studies that you need, we can help you.

8. A good pet adoption manager will continuously assess their animal rescue’s adoption program.

There is no such thing as a perfect and complete adoption policy.

Instead, your animal rescue’s adoption policy will always be a work in progress.

Over time, the needs of animals in your community will change. Your animal rescue’s adoption program will need to change too.

An adoption manager will have no way of knowing whether their adoption policy is effective unless they continue to assess the policy’s ability to meet their community’s needs.

Adoption policies should be reassessed at least once a year.

Your animal rescue’s Adoption Manager, Operations Manager and Board of Directors should each play an active role in this process.

It is important that this process is documented and any research that has been done should be properly cited.

This assessment should also be stored in a safe place so that it can be accessed for many years to come.

9. A good pet adoption manager will create a research-based proposal with any changes they’d like to make on their adoption program.

Your animal rescue’s adoption manager should be a part of your animal rescue’s policy development stage.

Pet adoption managers are pet adoption managers because they understand the process of pet adoptions.

This understanding can come from their professional experience working with different animal shelters or animal rescues.

This understanding can also come from researching case studies and statistics on pet adoption policies.

There are also seminars, e-courses and other networking events that can provide adoption managers with the information needed to make sound decisions when it comes to pet adoption policies.

A good pet adoption manager will be able to properly assess, critique and suggest changes to your animal rescue’s adoption policy.

An adoption manager must develop the expertise necessary to complete an assessment of your animal rescue’s adoption policy.

Once the assessment is complete, the findings should be included in a research-based proposal that includes suggestions on how your animal rescue’s adoption policy can be improved.

10. A good pet adoption manager must be comfortable being wrong and open to change.

Your animal rescue’s adoption program probably isn’t perfect and that’s okay because most adoption programs aren’t.

It’s more important for your animal rescue to have an adoption program that can improve, rather than have an animal rescue with a perfect adoption program.

Unfortunately, this is where most animal rescues fall short.

Although many factors can make it difficult for an adoption program to effectively adapt to change, nothing can be a greater hindrance to change than an adoption manager who refuses to believe they’re doing something wrong.

Adoption managers who are scared to admit that they may be doing something wrong tend to be very defensive when they receive feedback from their subordinates.

This is one of the biggest problems in most adoption departments.

Your animal rescue’s adoption counsellors interact with prospective adopters regularly.

These adoption counsellors are your animal rescue’s front-line workers.

If something is wrong with your animal rescue’s adoption policy, programs, systems or procedures… they will know.

It is common for adoption counsellors to express their concerns to their manager.

However, if their manager is unable to take feedback from their subordinates, the likelihood of them suppressing this information becomes high.

If your Operations Manager and Board of Directors do not have a way of receiving feedback from your adoption team that has not yet been filtered by your adoption manager, it will be nearly impossible for your animal rescue to improve your adoption program.

Your animal rescue needs to find an adoption manager who is comfortable being wrong.

It is even more important for your animal rescue to find an adoption manager who is capable of receiving feedback from their subordinates.


BUT!


It is even more important for your animal rescue to establish a system that allows your Operations Manager to receive feedback from your adoption counsellors directly.

Concluding Thoughts

We’re sure that you know by now that having a good adoption manager is vital to your animal rescue’s success.

Without a good adoption manager, your animal rescue cannot have a strong adoption team.

Having a weak adoption team will not only impact your animal rescue’s adoption team.

Having a weak adoption team, policy or program will also impact your animal rescue by:

  • Increasing your animal rescue’s length of stay

  • Increasing the cost associated with caring for animals in care

  • Lowering your animal rescue’s client satisfaction rate

  • Negatively impacting your animal rescue’s foster program


Remember to follow Rescue Corner for more tips on how to improve your animal rescue’s adoption program!

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