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How to Lower Your Failed Pet Adoption Rate

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

The ultimate goal of any animal rescue is to find animals safe, loving, forever homes.

Adoption teams everywhere are doing their best to help their organizations reach this commendable goal.

When we say 'forever home' what we're really saying is that we want animals to go to happy homes where they can hopefully live happy lives - for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, not every forever home turns out to be forever.

What are Failed Pet Adoptions?

Failed adoptions are adoptions that result in an animal who was adopted from an animal rescue being returned to a similar organization.

Failed adoptions are bad experiences for everyone involved - especially the animals.

Imagine how confusing and stressful the re-homing experience must be for them.

Here's why failed pet adoptions are a bad thing.

Failed pet adoptions increase an animal's chances of developing behavioural concerns.

Animals, like us, have feelings. Imagine being promised a happy ever after, only to be returned to an animal shelter or rescue. It’s confusing, to say the least.

Changing families and homes too often causes animals a lot of unnecessary emotional stress. Some animals may even go on to develop behavioural concerns as a result of the stress.

In many regions, those same behavioural concerns can decrease the animal's chance of making it out of a shelter alive.

Failed pet adoptions increase the odds of an animal losing their life.

Unfortunately, not every shelter is a no-kill shelter.

Shelters that do not operate under a no-kill mandate might choose to 'euthanize' the returned animal or another animal in their shelter due to a lack of resources.

According to the ASPCA, each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).

There are negative effects for everyone involved!

Failed pet adoptions cause animals unnecessary emotional stress

It takes a lot to say goodbye to an animal you were once ready to embrace the world with. A recent story shows the emotional turmoil adopters go through when a dog adoption doesn’t work out.

The five-year-old black Labrador Retriever became a vehicle of guilt and anguish as well as a source of grinding tension between two deeply committed dog people.

“Our hearts were full of hope and happiness when we welcomed Paolo into our lives. Our souls were wracked with sorrow and shame when we gave him up… We soon realized that what we had adopted was not a dog, but an 85-pound weapon of mass destruction.” Source

Failed pet adopters may grow fearful of adopting again.

Sometimes love isn’t enough. It can be heart wrecking, even traumatic, for animal lovers to realize this harsh reality.

Failed adoptions can make animal lovers feel like failures. That type of emotional experience can prevent them from ever trying to adopt again.

Failed pet adoptions are a waste of your resources.

Every failed adoption results in an additional animal under your animal rescue's care.

We all know there is a cost associated with caring for animals and in the case of a failed adoption, all of this cost is going to fall on your organization.

Do you realize that we're now talking about funding? Funding is at the core of your animal rescue's ability to achieve its mission. This is why failed adoptions aren't just an "adoption issue."

Failed adoptions are an issue that affects your organization as a whole.

There are endless effects of failed pet adoptions.

Failed pet adoptions can cost you future adopters.

Failed adoptions make people angry and angry people usually need somewhere to direct their anger. Your animal rescue may end up being the target of that anger.

If some of this anger makes its way into a Facebook or Google review then your organization could be in big trouble.

Future adopters will read those reviews and those reviews might just be the deciding factor as to whether they adopt from your team or go to a breeder.

Here's how to decrease your failed adoption rate.

Avoid finalizing pet adoptions prematurely.

If you'd like to decrease your failed adoption rate then your adoption team needs to avoid finalizing pet adoptions prematurely.

Your adoption team should not be finalizing any adoptions until after you've received enough information on the animal's medical or behavioural conditions.

The reason why is pretty self explanatory.

Your animal rescue is responsible for educating prospective adopters on the companion animal they've chosen before the adoption takes place not after.

There's no way your adoption counsellors can educate adopters on the type of care the animal needs if they themselves are unaware of it.

Prospective adopters will know which medical or behavioural concerns they're equipped to handle and which ones they're not.

But they can't exercise their ability to make an informed decision if your adoption team fails to lets them know what medical or behavioural concerns an animal is suffering from.

We know it can be difficult to track down an animal’s life story but you should at the very least be taking all animals to see a veterinarian before re-homing them.

Your foster parents and volunteers should also be getting to know each animal to the best of their abilities before re-homing them.

This will help your organization gather valuable information for prospective adopters.

These two steps cannot be avoided without consequences for your animal rescue.