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How does RAPS’ adoption process work?

Ever wonder about RAPS’ adoption process? How do animals come to us? How do we decide which home they will be adopted to? What do we do with challenging animals, such as those with behavioural issues?

First of all, you may or may not know that RAPS uses the online platform Petfinder.com for our adoptable pet listings. Of course we have our own website, but when you click “Adopt a Dog,” “Adopt a Cat” or other options, it takes you straight to our page on the larger Petfinder platform. Why?

Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals who need homes. It is also a directory used by nearly 11,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. if you live in, say, Maple Ridge and want to see what cats are available for adoption within a few hours’ drive of home, you might have to check a dozen or more independent shelters in each municipality. Because so many shelters use Petfinder, you can apply a search and find all who fit your criteria within a geographic area.

For us, this is especially helpful. Sometimes we get animals that require very specific kinds of people, those with experience handling large dogs that have not received necessary socialization, say, or a cat that exhibits extreme behaviours like aversion to human touch. Thankfully, there are many super-special human beings who make it their labour of love to take on challenging animals. By opening up the window of potential adopters, we can find the perfect people for special animals.

Even for those animals who do not have particularly challenging characteristics, it is always better to have the widest range of potential adopters, which allows us to consider the best possible situation for a particular animal.

Do we grant adoptions on a first-come, first-served basis? No. While we do consider precedence of application if all other things are equal, our first priority is always to match the best person with the right animal. If two equally qualified and prepared potential adopters seek the same animal, we will choose the one who applied first. But usually we consider the family size (some social animals fit best with large families, some prefer the quiet life with a sole human), presence of other pets (this can be an advantage or a disadvantage in the process as the adoptable pet might love other animals or not), the people’s schedules (some animals want people who are home a lot, some can stand more alone time). We look to match certain personalities with certain animals, and for some animals require experience and understanding.

These considerations are often impacted by the manner in which the animal came to us. By and large, animals at the RAPS City Shelter are surrendered, strays or returns. While adopting a pet is a commitment for the lifetime of the animal, extreme circumstances are understandable. Family situations, economic crises and other unforeseeable events mean some animals need to be rehomed. We emphasize to everyone: if you are unable to care for a pet, please surrender them. Too often, animals are abandoned in heartbreaking stories of cruelty.

Similarly, despite our best efforts to place animals in the right homes, there are occasions where it simply doesn’t work out. The animal might not get along with other animals or otherwise not fit in to the family. These returns are disappointing for all involved, but we also have so many stories of animals that have been returned only to find their perfect happy endings in the next home.

Strays are another way animals come to us. When an animal is brought in by a member of the public or by one of our Animal Control Officers, we make every effort to reunite them with their people. A dog license or a contact tag is the speediest way to reconnect the animal with their people but we also immediately check for a chip. (Make sure that the contact in your pet’s chip is always up-to-date!) Sometimes we are not able to make contact and the pet remains with us for seven days and then, if they are not reclaimed, they are prepared for adoption. There are so many surprising stories of the most wonderful cats, dogs and other pets who have come to us, clearly cared for, healthy, groomed and well behaved but, incredibly to us, are never claimed by their people. These mysteries almost always result in a happy ending for the family who adopts one of these extraordinary animals.

However the animal comes to us, there is a process each one goes through before we present them for adoption. The animals each undergo a medical exam at the RAPS Animal Hospital and any identified conditions or issues are noted and, if required, treated. If they are intact, they are spayed or neutered. Our staff observes the animal’s behavior and characteristics to help us determine the sort of home that would be ideally suited for them. For dogs, we do a behaviour assessment, and sometimes have a professional trainer come in if need be.

Years ago, the tendency among animal shelters was to allow the public generally easy access to the kennels so people could wander through and look at the animals available for adoption. This approach did not recognize the fact that some animals, possibly already anxious by their unfamiliar surroundings, were further disconcerted by the presence of unfamiliar people. The way we operate is that people can look online to see what animals are available for adoption (Petfinders again!) and then complete an application. Suitable applications will be followed up with a phone call (in cases where an animal has a large number of applications, an email notification may be sent, noting that the application will be kept on file for future adoption opportunities). After a preliminary telephone interview, a personal meet-and-greet will be set up for the potential adoptee and the animal to get to know each other. So often, these meetings are the start of lifelong love affairs and a new happy family! Sometimes it’s not a match. And sometimes it takes a few visits to build the trust and bonds that are needed to ensure a successful adoption.

We hope this answers some questions you may have had about adoptions at RAPS. If you have any questions we haven’t answered, shoot us an email at info@rapsbc.com.