Our Adoption Process
Step 1: Browse our online listings to see which pets are available for adoption.
Step 2: Visit the shelter to spend some time with the pet(s) you're interested in adopting.
Step 3: Submit an application in person.
Step 4: Attend a scheduled meeting with an adoption counselor.
Step 5: Bring your new pet home!
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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 a Pre-Adoption Application.
There is a non-refundable application fee of $5 for each application. 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 application will be applied to both; you will not be charged an additional application fee. The application fee will be waived for same day adoptions at off-site adoption events such as our monthly PetSmart Adopt-a-thons.
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Submitting an Application
Each application is animal specific, so you must have a particular animal in mind, and have met and spent time with that animal, to submit an application. To help expedite the processing of your application, please try to obtain all relevant documentation in advance and bring it with you when you visit the shelter, even if you are not yet interested in a particular animal. You can also download a pre-application and fill it out in advance. Faxed or emailed applications cannot be accepted at this time.
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 one to two business days to let you know whether your application has been approved. Processing of applications received within 30 minutes before the shelter closes will not begin until the following business day.
Approved applicants will be asked to schedule a return visit within one to two days for an Adoption Counseling Session. If you cannot schedule an appointment within that time frame and someone else applies for the same animal, we may need to “bump” your appointment and move on to someone else.
If your application is approved but our staff determines that the animal you have applied for is not the best match, your application can be held and applied to a different animal for up to 6 months without requiring you to reapply and pay an additional application fee.
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 an applications. If the animal you applied for is adopted by someone else, we will contact you to let you know. Approved applications can be held and applied to a different animal for up to 6 months without requiring you to reapply and pay an additional application fee.
All resident animals in your household must be up to date with core vaccinations and spayed/neutered. If we cannot verify this prior to your counseling session from your documentation or by contacting your veterinarian, you will be asked to bring relevant documentation with you when you return. Exceptions to this rule can only be made if there is a medical reason why an animal cannot be vaccinated or spayed/neutered, or (for spaying/neutering only) if you are actively showing the animal. Written proof will be required in either case.
All of the members of the household must meet the animal you are applying for either before or at the counseling session. There are rarely any exceptions to this rule, and any exceptions must 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.
If you are planning on giving a pet as a gift, consider downloading Petfinder’s Pet Promise Certificate, which allows the recipient to adopt the pet of their choice while the 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 meet. This typically takes place at the beginning of the counseling session. This can only be done by appointment because a counselor must be available to supervise the meeting.
If the dogs do not get along at the meeting, we will be unable to send
that dog home with you. 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 you want to adopt
responds. If the dog does not pass this test, we will be unable to send
that dog home with you.
Love at first sight? A pre-adoption dog meeting in progress.
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. Please allow up to an additional half hour per resident dog. 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.
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.
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. Approval of your adoption is up to the discretion of the adoption counselor. If your adoption is approved, your counselor will have you fill out an adoption contract and other important paperwork.
Once your counseling session is complete, you will receive a folder with copies of all relevant paperwork, including the animal’s medical Exit Exam and microchip information, your adoption contract, a coupon for a free veterinary exam, and other relevant materials. The counselor will also take your payment at that time. You should be prepared to pay the adoption fee and take the animal home with you at the end of the counseling session.
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. All Delaware residents can learn more about obtaining a dog license online or from our Client Services staff.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any remaining questions or concerns, or if you experience any post-adoption issues. A staff member or shelter volunteer will contact you by phone or email two to three weeks after the adoption to conduct a brief follow-up survey. We also encourage you to submit your adoption Success Stories, 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!
Please bring the following documents with you when you visit the shelter or to your adoption counseling session, if applicable:
- Proof of home ownership (e.g. title/deed, mortgage bill, or tax payment receipt)
- Landlord permission (signed letter on letterhead, signed and notarized letter on plain paper, or lease/ lease addendum specifying number and type of permitted animals and any size or breed restrictions)
- Proof of pet deposit payment if one was required by your lease/landlord
- Address verification (e.g. lease, utility bill, driver’s license, or other photo ID with current address)
- Veterinary records for resident animals (e.g. current rabies vaccination certificate, proof of spay/neuter)
- Letter from veterinarian explaining why resident animal cannot be vaccinated or spayed/neutered, or proof that he/she is being actively shown
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