How to Educate a Prospective Pet Adopter

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Prospective adopters walk into animal rescues intending to adopt an animal in need.

It’s a noble mission.

Your animal rescue’s job is to determine if the prospective adopter is ready to adopt an animal in need.

Your animal rescue’s job is to help the prospective adopter determine which animals they may or may not be equipped to care for.

Although prospective adopters may have pure intentions, they might not have the skill set or time required to care for an animal in need.

That doesn’t mean that your animal rescue should shut the front door on that prospective adopter!

Many of us have been first-time pet owners at some point.

To all our fellow pet owners out there... can you honestly say that you knew exactly what to do in every scenario possible as soon as you became a pet owner?

Probably not.

Pet ownership is like parenting in the sense that it’s more of a journey than a destination. Pet parents, just like human parents, are more than capable of learning along the way.

It’s your animal rescue’s job to teach them.

In this article, we’re going to cover the different forms of education your animal rescue should be providing to prospective adopters.


1. Educate Prospective Adopters on Your Animal Rescue.

Prospective adopters don’t just have to become new adopters.

Every conversation with a prospective adopter is an opportunity to also convert the prospective adopter into a:

  • Foster Parent

  • Volunteer

  • Donor

  • Community Supporter

The amazing thing about prospective adopters is that they can become adopters, foster parents, volunteers, donors and community supporters all at once!

But they can only be converted if your adoption team educates them on the different ways to get involved with your animal rescue.

Prospective adopters will be happier than you think to hear about your animal rescue’s mission and how you’re working to achieve your goal.

According to a recent study cited by Maddie’s Fund “One-third of adopters loved the idea of joining the passionate community of shelter-pet adopters; these findings were similar across all generations.”

There will be instances where your adoption team decides that a prospective adopter is not necessarily ready to become an adopter. Your rescue can still tell the prospective adopter about your animal rescue’s foster program.

Becoming a foster parent can be a great first step towards responsible pet ownership.

Adopters want to stay involved! It’s your adoption team’s job to inform them of all the different ways they can help your organization achieve your mission!


2. Educate Prospective Adopters on the Importance of Responsible Pet Ownership.


Anyone can own a pet but not anyone can be a responsible pet owner.


Animal rescues need to educate community members on the importance of responsible pet ownership.


Here’s what we at L.S.A consider to be responsible pet ownership:

  1. A commitment to care for your pet for his or her entire life.

  2. Acknowledging that owning a pet requires an investment of time and money.

  3. Selecting a pet that is suited to your home and lifestyle.

  4. Ensuring pets can be properly identified using both microchips and tags where the owners' contact information is up to date.

  5. Adhering to local bylaws by ensuring pets are licensed and/ or leashed in public spaces.

  6. Helping to manage the overpopulation crisis by controlling your pet(s)' reproduction through managed breeding, containment, or spay/neuter.

  7. Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with a veterinarian.

  8. Socializing and providing appropriate training for animals to facilitate their wellbeing and the wellbeing of other animals and people in the community.

  9. Only by using positive reinforcement training to train animals at home.

  10. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation for the animal based on the animal’s species, age, breed and health status.

  11. Recognizing declines in the animal’s quality of life and making decisions or consultations with veterinarians to make appropriate accommodations (i.e. pet stairs, new harnesses, diet, palliative care, hospice and euthanasia).

For more information on responsible pet ownership click here.

3. Educate Prospective Adopters on How to Care for a Specific Animal Species.


Prospective adopters need to learn how to care for the type of animal they’d like to adopt.

For example, if a prospective adopter is thinking about adopting a cat, they’ll need to learn information on litter training or how to manage scratching behaviours.

They should also know what type of diet to feed their cat and how to groom their cat.

Someone adopting a rabbit may need information on how to set up a rabbit’s enclosure. They may need information on how to care for a rabbit’s dental health.

A prospective adopter looking to adopt a dog may need to learn how to safely walk their dog. A dog owner may need information on how to introduce their dog to other dogs in their community.

Your adoption team must teach prospective adopters how to care for the animal species’ unique needs.

When it comes to caring for a pet, there is a lot of information to be learned.

Your adoption team should never be required to research or compile all of this information by themselves.

In fact, your animal rescue needs to train your adoption team on how to care for animals.

That is the only way to make ensure that each adoption counsellor will provide prospective adopters with the same information.

Your animal rescue should have a humane education department set up to assist your animal rescue in providing humane education to your animal rescue’s community.

Your humane education team should be proactive in creating training programs to educate your adoption team in each of the areas where they will be required to provide education to adopters and prospective adopters.


4. Educate the Prospective Adopter on the Specific Animal’s Medical Concerns.

Medical disclosures are disclosures used to divulge information on any of the animal's known medical conditions.

In instances where animals have medical concerns, their prospective adopters will need to be informed of each medical concern.

Your adoption team needs to use the appropriate medical disclosures to notify the prospective adopter of each medical concern.

Medical concerns will help your adoption team educate prospective adopters on:

  • Information about the animal’s specific medical concerns

  • Information on what has been done so far to manage the medical concern

  • Information on what must be done moving forward to manage the medical concern

Your adoption team should advise prospective adopters on how to access community services to help them learn how to better manage the animal’s medical condition.

This can include information on local veterinary care providers, especially emergency veterinary care providers.

For more information on medical disclosures, you can click here.

5. Educate the Prospective Adopter on the Animal’s Behavioral Concerns.


Behavioural concerns are behaviours that require management.

Behavioural concerns come in all shapes and sizes.

In instances where animals have behavioural concerns, their prospective adopters will need to be informed of each behavioural concern.

Your adoption team needs to use the appropriate behavioural disclosures to notify the prospective adopter of each behavioural condition.

Behavioural disclosures will help your adoption team educate prospective adopters on:

  • Information about the animal’s specific behavioural concern.

  • Information on what has been done so far to manage the behavioural concern.

  • Information on what must be done moving going forward to manage the behavioural concern.

Your adoption team should advise prospective adopters on how to access community services to help them learn how to better manage the animal’s behaviour.

For more information on behavioural disclosures, you can click here.


6. Educate the prospective adopter on your animal rescue.

Prospective adopters don’t just have to become new adopters.

Every conversation with a prospective adopter is an opportunity to also convert the prospective adopter into a:

  • Foster Parent

  • Volunteer

  • Donor

  • Community Supporter

The amazing thing about prospective adopters is that they can become adopters, foster parents, volunteers, donors and community supporters all at once!


But they can only be converted if your adoption team educates them on the different ways to get involved with your animal rescue.

Prospective adopters will be happier than you think to hear about your animal rescue’s mission and how you’re working to achieve your goal.

According to a recent study cited by Maddie’s Fund “One third of adopters loved the idea of joining the passionate community of shelter-pet adopters; these findings were similar across all generations.”

There will be instances where your adoption team decides that a prospective adopter is not necessarily ready to become an adopter. Your rescue can still tell the prospective adopter about your animal rescue’s foster program.

Becoming a foster parent can be a great first step towards responsible pet ownership.

Adopters want to stay involved! It’s your adoption team’s job to inform them of all the different ways they can help your organization achieve your mission!


7. Educate the prospective adopter on the importance of responsible pet ownership.

Anyone can own a pet but not anyone can be a responsible pet owner.

It’s important for animal rescues to educate community members on the importance of responsible pet ownership.

Here’s what we at L.S.A consider to be responsible pet ownership:

  1. A commitment to care for your pet for his or her their entire life.

  2. Acknowledging that owning a pet requires an investment of time and money.

  3. Selecting a pet that is suited to your home and lifestyle.

  4. Ensuring pets can be properly identified using both microchips and tags where the owners contact information is up to date.

  5. Adhering to local bylaws by ensuring pets are licensed and/ or leashed in public spaces.

  6. Helping to manage the overpopulation crisis by controlling your pet(s)' reproduction through managed breeding, containment, or spay/neuter.

  7. Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with a veterinarian.

  8. Socializing and providing appropriate training for animals to facilitate their wellbeing and the wellbeing of other animals and people in the community.

  9. Only using positive reinforcement training to train animals at home.

  10. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation for the animal based on the animal’s species, age, breed and health status.

  11. Recognizing declines in the animal’s quality of life and making decisions or consultations with veterinarians to make appropriate accommodations (i.e. pet stairs, new harnesses, diet, palliative care, hospice and euthanasia).

For more information on responsible pet ownership click here.

8. Educate the prospective adopter on how to care for a specific animal species.

It’s important for prospective adopters to learn how to care for the type of animal they’d like to adopt.

For example, if a prospective adopter is thinking about adopting a cat, they’ll need to learn information on litter training or how to manage scratching behaviors.

They should also know what type of diet to feed their cat and how to groom their cat.

Someone adopting a rabbit may need information on how to set up a rabbit’s enclosure. They may need information on how to care for a rabbit’s dental health.

A prospective adopter looking to adopt a dog may need to learn how to safely walk their dog. A dog owner may need information on how to introduce their dog to other dogs in their community.

It’s important that your adoption team teaches prospective adopters how to care for the animal species’ unique needs.

When it comes to caring for a pet, there is a lot of information to be learned.

Your adoption team should never be required to research or compile all of this information by themselves.

In fact, it’s important for your animal rescue to train your adoption team on how to care for animals.

That is the only way to make ensure that each adoption counsellor will provide prospective adopters with the same information.

Your animal rescue should have a humane education department set up to assist your animal rescue in providing humane education to your animal rescue’s community.

Your humane education team should be proactive in creating training programs to educate your adoption team in each of the areas where they will be required to provide education to adopters and prospective adopters.

9. Educate the prospective adopter on the animal’s medical concerns.

Medical disclosures are disclosures used to divulge information on any of the animal's known medical conditions.

In instances where animals have medical concerns, their prospective adopters will need to be informed of each medical concern.

Your adoption team needs to use the appropriate medical disclosures to notify the prospective adopter of each medical concern.

Medical concerns will help your adoption team educate prospective adopters on:

  • Information about the animal’s specific medical concern.

  • Information on what has been done so far to manage the medical concern.

  • Information on what must be done moving forward to manage the medical concern.

Your adoption team should advise prospective adopters on how to access community services to help them learn how to better manage the animal’s medical condition.

This can include information on local veterinary care providers especially emergency veterinary care providers.

For more information on medical disclosures, you can click here.

10. Educate the prospective adopter on the animal’s behavioral concerns.

Behavioural concerns are behaviours that require management. Behavioural concerns come in all shapes and sizes.

In instances where animals have behavioral concerns, their prospective adopters will need to be informed of each behavioral concern.

Your adoption team needs to use the appropriate behavioral disclosures to notify the prospective adopter of each behavioral condition.

Behavioral disclosures will help your adoption team educate prospective adopters on:

  • Information about the animal’s specific behavioral concern.

  • Information on what has been done so far to manage the behavioral concern.

  • Information on what must be done moving going forward to manage the behavioral concern.

Your adoption team should advise prospective adopters on how to access community services to help them learn how to better manage the animal’s behavior.

For more information on behavioral disclosures, you can click here.




11. Educate the prospective adopter on the post-adoption stage.

A lot of animal rescues believe that educating adopters about the post adoption stage simply involves setting realistic expectations.


Unfortunately, setting realistic expectations is not enough information to help the adopter successfully navigate the post adoption stage.

Adopters need to know how to help their new pet settle into their home.

Remember, even after an informative one-hour adoption interview, you adopters might not reach expert status.

Your animal rescue needs to be sure to provide the prospective adopter with information on:

  • How to feed their pet.

  • How to groom their pet.

  • Which foods may be poisonous to their pet.

  • How to recognize if their pet is sick.

  • What to do if their pet is injured or falls ill.

Adopters also need to know that it’s okay if they can’t navigate the post adoption stage on their own.

In fact, adopters should never be expected to navigate the post adoption stage alone.

Providing post adoption support is an important part of reducing your animal rescue’s failed adoption rate.

It’s an important part of increasing your animal rescue’s client satisfaction levels.

To read more on the benefits of post-adoption support systems click here.

Your animal rescue can provide post adoption support to your adopters via:

  • Online

  • In person

  • Email or chat

  • Telephone


12. Educate the prospective adopters on the reasons why owners surrender pets.

There is valuable insight to be gained from achieving an understanding of the reasons why owners surrender their pets.

Animal rescues must gain access to that insight and educate prospective adopters on how to navigate the scenarios that result in people choosing to surrender their pets.

It is the education that gives animal rescues the ability to develop programming to prevent owners from surrendering their animals due to lack of knowledge surrounding the animal’s upkeep.

At L.S.A we do our homework. We have lots of insight-regarding the reasons why owners surrender their pets.

Here are some of the common reasons why owners surrender their pets:

  • The owner lost their job and is no longer able to care for their pet’s basic needs.

  • The animal needs veterinary care that is too expensive for the owner to afford.

  • The owner is facing homelessness due to a recent eviction.

  • The owner is unable to manage the animal’s behaviour.


Responsible pet ownership means committing to caring for pets throughout their entire lives.

It’s usually a very long relationship where anything can and will happen! Adopters need to be prepared!

Your adoption team can educate prospective adopters on what responsible pet owners are expected to do in each of these situations.

For example, your adoption team can inform adopters about where to find pet food banks in their community in the event that adopters were to experience financial difficulty in the future.

Your adoption team can inform the prospective adopter on different ways to finance their animal’s veterinary care such as:

  • Personal savings plans

  • Pet insurance plans

  • Companies who offer loans for veterinary care


Your adoption team needs to educate adopters on what resources to use to manage their pet’s behaviors. New adopters will need to know what to do if their pet develops a new behavioral concern.

Lastly, equip your adoption team with the tools needed to educate adopters on what to do if their landlord ever gives them a hard time because of their pet.

This information has the power to prevent adopters from feeling the need to surrender their pets.


Concluding Thoughts.

Every department in your animal rescue is responsible for providing education to at least one segment of your animal rescue’s community.

  • Your foster department may focus on educating foster parents.

  • Your intake department may focus on educating owners who’d like to surrender their pets.

  • Your veterinary team may focus on educating your animal rescue’s workers and volunteers to ensure awareness of how to care for animals in need.

  • Your adoption team will provide education to both adopters and prospective adopters.


It’s important to make the distinction between adopters and prospective adopters. Your adoption team has the power to:

  • Make sure animals experience a high quality of life post adoption.

  • Increase your animal rescue’s client satisfaction rate.

  • Lower your animal rescue’s failed adoption rate.


It’s important for your animal rescue to make sure your adoption team receives the training needed to provide adopters with the information needed for them to succeed.

It’s also important to make sure your adoption team has the support needed to feel confident doing their jobs.

Your adoption team needs to feel comfortable declining adopters in instances where adoptions need to be declined.

The team also needs to feel comfortable proactively offering resources to prospective adopters.

Your adoption team needs to feel confident and knowledgeable in the subject matters we’re asking them to educate adopters and prospective adopters on.

Investing in your adoption team is the best way to invest in your animal rescue’s adopters and prospective adopters.

You can follow Rescue Corner for more information to help your animal rescue’s adoption team be the best team they can be!

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