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Our Adoption Process

paw print icon


paw print iconGetting Started

paw print iconSubmitting an Application

paw print iconAdoption Prerequisites

paw print iconAdoption Counseling

paw print iconStay In Touch!

Looking for your next best friend?


Step 1: Browse our online listings to see which pets are available for adoption.

Step 2: Visit our animal care and adoption center to spend some time with the pet(s) you're interested in adopting.

Step 3: Submit an adoption application in person.

Step 4: Attend a scheduled meeting with an adoption counselor.

Step 5: Bring your new pet home!

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Getting Started

The first step in the adoption process is to spend time interacting with the animal(s) that you are interested in adopting. You can view our adoptable pets online, or you are welcome to visit our adoption center during normal visitation hours. Staff members are available to help you find the cat or dog that will be the best match for you and your family. Out-of-state adopters are welcome, but you must come meet the animal you are interested in adopting. If you decide you would like to adopt from DHA, the next step is to fill out an adoption application.

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Application Fee

There is a $5 non-refundable application fee. This fee is separate from the Adoption Fee and cannot be deducted from it. If you are adopting two animals at the same time, the $5 application fee will be applied to both animals. The application fee will be waived for same day adoptions at off-site adoption events.

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Submitting an Application

Adoption applications are required to be animal specific. You must have a particular animal in mind and must have spent time with that animal prior to submitting an application. To help expedite the processing of your application, we recommend bringing any relevant documentation when you visit the shelter. You can also download an application and fill it out in advance. Faxed or emailed applications will not be processed until you come in and spend time with the animal.

Once submitted and processed, your application will be reviewed to ensure that both the animal and the adopter are the best match for each other. You will be contacted within two business days to let you know whether your application has been approved. Contact time may be longer in cases where multiple applications received for a particular animal.

Approved applicants will be contacted to schedule an Adoption Counseling Session. If you cannot schedule an appointment within two business days, and the animal has multiple applications received, we may need to “bump” your application and move on to another adopter.

If your application is approvable but management determines the animal you have applied for is not the best match, your application and the $5 fee can be held and applied to a different animal for up to six months.

Since applications are not guaranteed to result in adoption, we encourage you to apply for an animal you are interested in even if he/she has already received one or more applications. If the animal you applied for is adopted by someone else, you will be advised. Approved applications can be held and applied to a different animal for up to six months. No additional application fee is required to change an application to a different animal

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Adoption Prerequisites

Delaware State Law requires that all resident animals are up-to-date with their rabies vaccination. Verification may be performed by providing relevant documentation from your veterinarian or a DHA staff member may contact your veterinarian. DHA also advocates that all resident animals are spayed or neutered. Exceptions to this rule can be made if there is a medical reason why an animal cannot be vaccinated or spayed/neutered or if you are actively showing the animal. Written proof may be required in either case.

Primary Caretakers in the household must meet the animal you are applying for either before or at the counseling session. Any exceptions to this rule will be made by management and should be arranged in advance. You cannot adopt an animal to give to someone else as a surprise; that person must be involved in the adoption process and meet the animal before or at the counseling session.  DHA strongly recommends that ALL members of the household meet the animal you are considering for adoption and all agree it’s the best choice.

If you are planning on giving a pet as a gift, consider downloading a Pet Promise Certificate, which allows the recipient to adopt the pet of their choice while giver promises to cover all adoption fees for the new pet.

If you are adopting a dog and you have one or more resident dogs, all the dogs must have a current rabies vaccination and all must be introduced. Dog meetings must be done by appointment and typically take place at the beginning of the counseling session. If the dogs do not get along at the meeting, we will be unable to send the dog home. If you are adopting a dog and have one or more resident cats, we will conduct a test with one of our on-site cats prior to your counseling session to see how the dog responds. If the dog does not pass this test, we will be unable to send that dog home with you.

Dog meeting  prior to adoption
Love at first sight? A pre-adoption dog meeting in progress.

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Adoption Counseling

When you arrive for your counseling session, you will meet with one of our adoption counselors. Counseling sessions typically last about 45 minutes. If a dog meeting is necessary, this will take place at the beginning of the session. If any members of the household need to meet the animal you have applied for, please plan to arrive early so there is time for the meeting to take place before your counseling session. Please remember to bring any documentation that is still needed to your counseling session.

During the session, your counselor will review the animal’s medical history, microchip information, and feeding requirements with you, and answer any questions you may have. If your adoption is approved, your counselor will have you fill out an adoption contract and other essential paperwork. The counselor will also take your payment at that time (acceptable payment types are cash, check, Visa, Mastercard or American Express).

To transport your adopted animal home safely, bring a collar and leash if you are adopting a dog or puppy, or a carrier if you are adopting a cat or kitten.

Dog adopters are strongly encouraged to get your dog licensed. New Castle County and City of Wilmington licenses can be purchased at the time of adoption by Delaware residents. Information about obtaining a license for all Delaware residents is available on our dog licensing web page or from our Client Services staff.

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Stay In Touch!

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any remaining questions or concerns, or if you experience any post-adoption issues. We also encourage you to submit your adoption Success Stories, tag us on social media when you post photos of your DHA alumni, stop by the shelter for a visit with your adopted pet(s), or attend one of our many pet-friendly events. We love to know how our alumni are doing in their new homes!

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