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What to Expect When Adopting (a pet): Part 1

man and daughter with puppy at pet adoption meeting

So you want to adopt a pet? That’s great! There are many animals in need- even ones literally, dying for a home.

But there’s a few things you need to know.

Adopting a pet is not a simple process. There are a few reasons for this but in general you need to recognize a few concepts before getting started- or you will likely end up frustrated.

There is only one of each animal.

Of course. You know this. What you don't know is how many other people are looking at the same animal as you.

There’s one animal but many people applying- especially since COVID hit, so the adoption process is pretty competitive right now.

In the case of Motley Zoo’s process, in average times we fielded approximately 5 applications for each animal, which has more than doubled now. This means 4-9+ people are unlikely to get what they are after on the first try…

This kind of system is the antithesis of being able to cultivate what people expect is “good customer service”. That term is relative when you understand what you are asking for, what you will get- and when it comes to animals in general.

An animal is a living thing, not a cog or sprocket.

Quality of life and compatibility play into the matter no matter what someone wants or requests. This is not an industry where the customer is always right, nor the demanding person gets the animal.

Many times applicants want animals that are not a good fit for them- but they also don’t want to hear why, or recognize that decision is based on some very good reasons.

Often people get offended or downright mean and rude if they can’t have what they asked for- even if what we offer is something better. The reality is we don’t want to let someone take home an animal that doesn’t suit- because not only will they be unhappy later, but so will the animal.

Frankly, “disappointing” someone by telling them the dog they want isn’t a good fit, is the best service we can provide. So keep that in mind if that happens to you, be glad the organization was brave enough- even risking you being angry- to be honest. This service is in your best interest- and the animals’

You are not the customer in the adoption process, the animal is.

Our job in this equation is not to “find homes” but rather to match animals to people in a way we believe is conducive to a long-lasting, happy relationship.

It is the animals’ needs we must consider first and foremost, the people’s after that. Actually only by serving the animals well and properly, can the people also be served best.

The other reality is you may be a fantastic family, but not for that particular pet. Most organizations will suggest another pet if that becomes apparent, and you should listen.

Do not be offended nor put off because the experience and investment the organizations have into their animals, will likely yield a better choice for you than you looking at a picture of a cute pet that would not fit into your lifestyle.

This is also not “bait and switch” as some people love to believe. Frankly, rescue organizations do not have time to do anything but try to find the right homes for their animals- and many times the animal you wanted may go to another who was ahead of you in the process.

This doesn’t mean you’re not a good fit for another pet- or that you should despair because the picture you loved was really someone else’s pet.

Be invested in the process of adoption more so than the particular animal.

The reality is all you have is a picture and a bit of a story. But there’s more to it than that.

There are many times people feel a certain connection to a pet they see online. Sometimes that works out, but probably more often, it doesn’t.

This is no reason to get upset. Just remember that finding the perfect house/ apartment or your partner/ spouse was not likely not the first open house you attended, nor your first date either!

We always tell people the pet you first see, is more often the one that leads you to yours...and that no one else will go home with YOUR pet- only you.

That pet is still out there looking for you- but you won’t find him or her if you stop looking!

The nice person will always get the pet.

It is hard not to be disappointed by the animal you wanted not being a good fit or being adopted to another, but honestly, it’s what you do with/ how you handle that which matters most in determining whether you end up with a pet.

Eleven when it’s not outright rejection- when we have a perfect match, it just wasn’t what people asked for- many people get really rude, mean and frankly, act in very unbecoming ways.

It blows us away because yes, they didn’t get what they wanted, but they also wouldn’t have wanted what they got if we didn’t maintain objectivity.

There is no doubt that if someone that goes off the deep end, their application goes straight into the garbage.

Does that seem harsh?

It doesn’t when you’re looking at the little furry foster face and wondering if the irate, insane person berating you verbally because they didn’t get what they wanted is going to beat the animal because they can’t handle their anger.

Or if an organization could even imagine actually making it to an adoption meeting with this angry person- would the foster be happy to hand off their beloved foster pet they have nursed back from the brink of death to a rude, irate jerk?

Guess who would never foster a pet again if we allowed that!

The reality is the organization wants to even remotely like the person they are considering for an animal.

Be that person and you will get the right pet- perhaps not right away but in time.

Being anything but, will only make the organization sure they made the right choice and dodged a bullet with you.

Pet adoption is not about speed.

While adopting out animals is our goal, it certainly isn’t on-demand or in “prime” warp speed. We can only work as fast as we can- and quality will always take priority over speed.

This is made even more true because the most numerous of animal welfare organizations you may come across are rescues, vs shelters.

You can read about the difference between these types of organizations here- but in Washington for example, there are about 300 rescues- and 30 shelters.

One major factor that limits speed in adoptions is that rescues are typically run by a network of volunteers, not staff. People do the work (of processing applications) in their spare time and because they want to.

They are also people just like you with very busy work schedules, kids and so on. Real life will always come first, and volunteer work next.

As you can imagine then, running operations on volunteer power can be very inconsistent and maybe even inefficient- but it’s that or nothing.

The funds rescues spend are precious and they struggle to have enough for the animals they want to save- there is often nothing to pay the people. Frankly, this is how most people would prefer it anyway, especially donors.

Chances are you wouldn’t want to adopt from an organization that spent more on its people than the animals- and they’d get a horrible rating on one of the charity review sites for “inefficiency” to boot!

This is another topic, called “the overhead myth”- but frankly, for a charity to have more staff to do consistent work, it works against them in the eyes of how they are “graded” and therefore supported by donors.

Most rescues (or charities in general) don’t have a choice as to how they do things- and they do the best they can.

Even those organizations that do things well, still struggle to accomplish things in the impulsive, “right now” demand of an instant gratification society.

Keep this in mind when dealing with any charity: if they fail to do something well, or can’t do it at all, it’s because there’s no one to do that thing for them. They need someone willing to take that on- so there might hopefully be enough...

But charities always operate on scarcity- they do more with less.

They are not here to serve you either- they are there to serve a mission...and when it comes to pet adoption, the mission is the animals...

And fortunately, you are there to adopt them once they are saved!

We at Motley Zoo love what we do, but in no way is it easy. We do everything we can to find ways to make pet adoption simpler, easier and more fun- and to find more people to help us accomplish that!

But this will always be a work in progress…

If you have questions about adopting a pet or Motley Zoo’s process, please inquire at


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