After you finish screening an adoption application for your pet and want to proceed, click "Contact Adopter" on the top of their application to see their phone number. Call the adopter and speak on the phone.
Suggested phone call questions:
"Are all your current pets spayed or neutered?"
If your pet is spayed or neutered, but the adopter’s current pets are not, be aware that unaltered pets can be more prone to be territorial aggression. Most likely, your pet is spayed or neutered, but it bears saying anyway: never adopt an unaltered pet to a home with other unaltered pets!
"Are all your dogs and cats up-to-date on vaccinations and heartworm preventive?"
If the applicant’s current pets aren’t up-to-date on shots, on heartworm preventive (more critical in some areas of the US), or spayed/neutered, ask them to explain why. There are medical conditions that prevent some animals from being safely altered or vaccinated. Also, relating to vaccines, some people choose to do titer testing, rather than annual booster shots. Titer tests determine whether your pet still has immunity to a disease. Note that in most areas, dog rabies vaccines are mandatory, whereas other vaccines are not. You can ask to see copies of their pet's medical history if you feel unsure about their answers.
"What pets have you owned in the past and what happened to them?"
According to many animal rescuers, this is very important. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions.
Good signs: The applicant’s pets lived a long life. If not, they died of an illness, like cancer. The owner provided veterinary care. The applicant speaks lovingly of their former pets and expresses that they were part of the family. You can ask them to email you photos of their current and past pets.
Red flags: Pets died of something preventable, like heartworm. Pets were killed by cars. More than one pet was lost (as in literally got lost and weren’t recovered), ran away, or was stolen. Pets were given away, whether to friends, family members, or strangers.
"How would you discipline the pet and what for?"
You'd be surprised what people think is okay - like swatting a pet with a newspaper, which is terrifying for many pets. Even if your pet has always been super well-behaved with you, or is totally house-trained, there’s always a chance that new behaviors will surface as part of the transition to the new home. If the answer "I don't know" ask how they plan to get the guidance they need if a behavior issue comes up. It’s a good idea to encourage them to seek out positive–reinforcement methods like clicker training - as opposed to punishment-based methods, which can cause trust issues between owner and pet.
"What would cause you to rehome this pet?"
Of course you know, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that cause someone to give up a beloved companion animal. Use your best judgment on this one. If the applicant states that they would have to give up this pet if he or she bit their young child, that may be an acceptable answer for you. But answers like “having accidents in the house” or “chewing belongings” can indicate a lack of commitment to making it work when minor problems arise. Especially since your pet will be going through a change of home right now, it’s important to be as sure as you can be that the next situation will be a permanent one.
"If you can no longer care for this pet, what would you do?"
If the applicant insists that this would never happen, push for an answer. Things happen. You want to be assured that there’s a humane plan for rehoming your pet in the event of an emergency. Above all, the applicant should not plan to relinquish the pet to an animal shelter. Specific friends or family members are good; using Rehome by Adopt-a-Pet.com is also good.
For cats: "Do you plan to declaw?
The answer to this should ALWAYS be a no. If they’re considering it, it could be because they’re not aware of what declawing actually is. Please direct your adopter to this article www.adoptapet.com/blog/declawing-your-cat/ to learn just how cruel it is to declaw a cat.
"Do you rent or own?"
The most important thing here is to make sure that, if the applicant rents their home, that they have permission to have a pet like yours in their home. Ask the applicant if they have spoken to the landlord or have it in writing in their lease for the TYPE (and for dogs, size and breed) of pet they want to adopt. This is so important; many pets end up in shelters because their well-meaning adopter erroneously thought they could hide their new dog or cat from their landlord, or they just didn’t realize they weren’t allowed to have pets in their rental home. Many rentals that do allow pets require a monetary pet deposit; make sure the adopter is prepared to pay that fee. Some have restrictions on the type or size of pets allowed.
"Can we have a video call at your home with your family? Many people have phones or iPads that can easily do a video call with you using Facetime or Zoom. This is a great safe way for an applicant to show you their home, pets, yard and fence.
"Does anyone in your household (or who visits frequently) have allergies to pets?"
Sometimes adopters don't think about how having a pet will affect others in their home.
Bottom line: Ask questions! Don't be shy! Your pet is relying on you to find them a safe loving home.
After the phone call:
After the phone call, you and the adopter decide if you want to set up an in-person "meet and greet" with the potential adopter and your pet. If you have any doubts, trust your instincts. You can use the internet to search for that person. If all signs point to “go”, it’s time to set up a safe in-person meeting! Read: Where should we have a meet and greet?