Updated: Feb 17
Some people think that once a pet adoption is finalized, the adoption process is complete.
The truth is a pet adoption is never complete.
A 'finalized adoption' simply means that both the companion animal and new adopter have entered into the final stage of the adoption process.
This final stage is commonly referred to as the post adoption stage.
The post adoption stage is the start of the forever bond that your adoption team is hoping the companion animal and new adopter will share.
But it's important to remember that this transitioning stage may also be the start of a series of disastrous occurrences that may result in a failed adoption.
You know it's important for your adoption team to keep your failed adoption rate low, but did you know that offering post-adoption support is one of the most effective ways to control your failed adoption rate?
What is post-adoption support?
Post-adoption support is the type of support all animal rescues should be providing to new adopters during the post-adoption period.
The problem is that most animal rescues only think about providing post-adoption support - on a reactive basis.
"If they call us with a problem, we'll be more than happy to assist them."
But this line of thinking is flawed in so many ways.
Your adoption team should always be proactive when it comes to providing adopters with post-adoption support.
New adopters need support whether they ask for it or not.
Providing adopters with the support they need doesn't just help the adopters.
It also helps your animal rescue and the very companion animals your team works so hard to help.
Post-adoption support has proven to be such a valuable tool that it was recently used by Austin Pet’s Alive to help lower their euthanasia rate.
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement also recognizes the importance of post-adoption support in their Adoption Best Practices.
Providing post-adoption support to new pet adopters doesn't need to be time-consuming.
Providing post-adoption support to adopters can be as simple as providing new adopters with a 'new adopters training guide.'
Adopters can reference their 'training guide' whenever they feel they've encountered a situation that they lack the skillset to handle.
These training guides make it a lot easier for your adoption team to provide post-adoption support without having to communicate with each adopter individually.
Many animal rescues choose this approach. If you choose this approach then you'll have to make sure that your new adopters training guide is completely up to date at all times.
You'll also need to make sure that this document is available both electronically and in print.
Although providing a new adopter's training guide is better then providing no post adoption support, it's still not the ideal.
Whenever you create a training program you always want to keep in mind that different people learn differently.
Some adopters will absorb and retain information that was relayed to them in print but others will prefer audio messages or videos.
Providing post-adoption support to new pet adopters can feel intimidating, but it's not.
Providing post-adoption support might sound like a difficult process but it's not.
Providing post-adoption support involves simply providing support to companion animals after they've left your organization's care.
This can be done in person, by phone or online.
It's important to remember that new adopters won't always feel confident enough to handle the struggles of pet ownership alone.
The goal of your animal rescue's post-adoption support program is to provide new adopters with the special skills, tools and resources they need to be successful.
The SCIS does a great job of making post-adoption support accessible to all of their community members online.
Here are some reasons why your animal rescue should be providing post-adoption support to new adopters.
Post-adoption support decreases your failed adoption rate.
Nobody adopts a pet intending to return them to a shelter. Unfortunately sometimes it happens.
This usually occurs in instances where new adopters encountered situations they were not equipped to handle.
If your animal rescue can maintain your presence during the post-adoption stage then adopters will be more likely to receive the additional skills, resources and expertise needed to be successful at giving their pet a forever home.
Even in the absence of a 'new adopters training guide' your team can still lessen the chances of an animal being returned by simply keeping in touch with the recent adopter by telephone or email.
Here are some examples of potential problems new adopters may experience post-adoption.
Bella is a one-year-old black Labrador. Bella was returned to an animal shelter because she walked too strongly for her new adopter.
The animal shelter could have directed her adopter to a good dog trainer - had they touched base with the recent adopter prior to Bella being returned.
Instead in the absence of support, Bella's adopter continued trying to walk her until he inevitably fell.
After his fall, Bella's owner grew fearful that he may end up injured from walking her so he made the difficult decision to return Bella to the shelter he adopted her from.
Post adoption support could have kept Bella in her forever home.
Here's a second example that involves a cat named Cuddles.
Cuddles was brought back to the shelter after spending only three weeks in his new home because he was urinating and defecating outside of his litter box.
The new adopter could not figure out how to train Cuddles. This inevitably lead to Cuddles being returned to the shelter he had been adopted from.
In both of these instances post-adoption support could have kept each of these animals in their 'forever homes.'
Post-adoption support prevents unnecessary re-homing.
In most instances, animals are returned to animal shelters because they suffer from medical or behavioural concerns that their adopters are ill-equipped to handle.
That is very unfortunate because we know your adoption team has the skillset to easily educate adopters on how to handle each of these concerns.
You just need to find a way to make sure your team stays in some sort of communication with these adopters after their adoptions.
Once that communication begins your adoption team can easily equip these adopters with the resources, skills and expertise needed to handle these concerns.
This will help your animal rescue keep more companion animals in their forever homes.
Providing post-adoption support is part of providing good customer service.
Even if you choose not to offer post-adoption support, adopters already expect your adoption team to provide them with the post-adoption support they need.
Think about it, who else would they call if something went wrong?
They adopted the animal from your animal rescue.
If they forgot something you said, then they're going to come back to you.
Making sure you meet all of your new adopter's expectations is part of providing great customer service.
If your animal rescue wants to be successful at achieving your organizational goals long term then having a great customer service experience will be essential!
Post-adoption support should be delivered by the experts and you're the experts.
Even if you don't think you're the experts - new adopters do.
Adopters know that your animal rescue is full of knowledgeable pet owners with years of expertise.
They also know that your organization spends countless hours educating community members on how to care for animals. That makes you the experts right?
Maintaining this perception is important and you can maintain this perception by showing recent adopters exactly how knowledgeable your team is.
The adoption stage is the perfect place to showcase your adoption team's knowledge.
If your animal rescue is not available to provide adopters with your expertise then where will these adopters turn?
The truth is, you have no way of knowing.
Where do people turn when they need information? Often times Google.
Once your recent adopter starts to Google information you'll have no way of knowing whether the information they're receiving is correct.
This can result in companion animals being placed in very dangerous situations.
Post-adoption support safe guards your animal rescue's reputation.
When people have bad experiences they tell their family and friends.
The last thing you want is for a failed adopter to spread negative views of your animal rescue.
If your animal rescue is dependent on donations - as many are, then you can't afford for your reputation to take these kinds of hits.
Failing to provide post-adoption support can impact more than just your failed adoption rate. In most instances, it will affects your organization as a whole.
Post-adoption support increases client satisfaction.
When a new adopter receives post-adoption support from your adoption team, they feel like you care about them.
This creates a positive experience for adopters.
Adopters who have had positive experiences with your adoption team are more likely to adopt an animal from your organization in the future.
Post-adoption support strengthens your animal rescue's reputation.
Adopters who feel supported are more likely to be happy adopters.
Happy adopters are more likely to tell others what an amazing experience they had with your animal rescue.
This will lead to your animal rescue having a stronger reputation in your community.
You can learn to design amazing post-adoption programs.
Our adoption course 'the Power of Adoption' can teach you how to design strong post-adoption support programs.
You can also subscribe to Rescue Corner for more information on how to provide quality post-adoption support to pet owners in your community! #letssaveanimals