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Pets as Gifts: How to Handle Logistics of Third-Party Adoptions
You've read the research that confirms letting people adopt pets for others does not increase returns or decrease the new owner's attachment to the gifted pet.
But what are the mechanics for actually implementing these adoptions?
Third-party adoptions create logistical issues that need to be addressed, including helping the giver select the right animal for a loved one, recording the adoption and developing relationships with unknown owners.
Guiding the Giver
The approach to assisting gift givers varies from agency to agency, but the overall goal is the same: to make effective matches.
In addition to pairing gift givers with adoption counselors, Arizona Humane Society (AHS) in Phoenix, AZ, provides them with a helpful list of considerations to ponder before selecting a pet for a loved one. The list includes things like asking givers about the recipient's allergy status, activity level and available time and resources for a pet.
In an effort to decrease the already minimal chance that a pet who was adopted as a gift may be returned to the shelter, adoption counselors at Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) in Jacksonville, FL, ask gift givers if they would consider keeping the animal if the person receiving the gift is unable or unwilling to keep the pet.
Recording the Adoption
Some agencies use the same adoption paperwork they use for regular adoptions – simply making notations in the file that the adoption is a gift.
Debbie Suttles, a senior adoption counselor at JHS, says they process the paperwork in the name of the person who is doing the adoption – and then ask that the new owner contact them with their information so they can do a transfer of ownership. The microchip can be assigned to either the adopter or owner, depending on the timing.
At AHS, staff members created a process for inputting gift adoptions into the agency's Chameleon data base. According to Bretta Nelson, public relations manager for AHS, "The process works great because the gift-giver and the recipient both get a personal ID number so that both always appear in our system." At the Phoenix agency, the gift recipient is named on the microchip paperwork.
Many agencies already do routine follow-up calls or emails after every adoption, so this would be a time that agencies implementing pets as gifts could explain their services and how they might provide continued support to new owners.
Follow-up is a priority for AHS since the agency has a 100% adoption satisfaction guarantee, promising new owners a full refund if they need to return a pet. AHS' Nelson notes that it's especially easy to foster relationships with new owners whose pets were delivered to them for promotional holiday deliveries.
For example, AHS does Valentine's Day and Mother's Day Kitty-grams where one staff member acts as the adoption matchmaker, assisting each giver individually to really help lead them through the process. That same staff person delivers the kitten and establishes the ongoing relationship with the gift recipient.
Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center in Pittsburgh, PA, supports pets as gifts and has "an unwritten adoption requirement that new owners have to send us photos, updates – and we especially love when kids send drawings of their new pet in their new home," says Janice Barnard, program director for the agency.
Dorothy Reddick, Canine Coordinator for Kitty's Pet Foundation in The Colony, TX, a foster-based rescue group that allows pets as gifts, adds, "We have found that the new owners are more than happy to share the growth and ever-growing relationship with their pets."