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What is the correct way to screen a potential new owner?

Discussion in 'Rescue & Adoption' started by DocReverto, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    I totally get what you are saying but let me ask one question...

    At what point is lack of screening to move more dogs unacceptable?

    If you don't take your time and dogs end up in bad situations and in rescue again, aren't you just creating more problems for your rescue?

    I guess in looking for a perfect answer to an imperfect problem.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. TX_dobe

    TX_dobe Member

    We could have 101 question when screening but that would not make the screening any better. I would say 90% of the screening is done in person. I have show people one dog that they though they wanted but after seeing it they ask me who I think would be a better pick. Do me the screening we do is more for me to give me an idea what/who they may like. Let me pick one dog we have right now. The family can not have any small kids because the dog like to go after your heel when you run. No other dogs. She can not be trusted 100% with any dog. Needs a strong owner that can read her before she goes over the top. After all this she will be a problem to get out. I am telling you everyone wants this dog. She looks great but they can not handle her. I see the only problem with the lack of screening is if you are putting your dogs in a spot were you run the risk of endangering them or someone else because you just wanted to make room for another. Rescues should never be about number of dogs they got out but the number of good matches they got out.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    That's a big problem though, wouldn't you agree?

    I also don't agree that more questions does not improve the screening process.

    Key questions do.

    Do you have experience with potty training?
    Do you have a fence?
    Do you use heartworm preventative?
    Do you work less than 12 hours a day?

    There are a lot of things you can avoid by just asking some questions that take only a little time.
  4. Dobs4ever

    Dobs4ever Hot Topics Subscriber

    I am not sure you will ever hit a correct balance as each and every situation is different and must be evaluated on that individuals level of actual responsibility.

    Responsibility being the optimum word. Most shelters are running at a bare minimum so I think home visit would be a little over the top and not really necessary. I do think you have to look at the type of people more likely to go to a shelter and I think you will find a higher # of not as responsible people so that adds to the problems. Again I believe most are trying but it does increase the odds of getting someone not as responsible simply due to the nature of the situation.

    Most shelter workers are not really trained to work with dogs or how to properly evaluate them for placement. I agree that spending time at the shelter with the dog and watching the interaction is good if they person knows what they are looking for. Maybe have the dog come back once a week for evaluations and training tips for the first month would help.

    I thought most shelters today required this interaction and time to see if the dog responds to them???

    I think for the most part breeders are used to dealing with people , better are reading them and screening them and dealing with a better educated client. Not trying to sound uppity but I think it does play a role. Shelters and breeders are dealing with totally different situations on totally different levels.

    You can do the best job out there and yet you can't foresee the future and things can go wrong. So you can only do the best you can and work from there and evaluate each case on its individual merits. I am not saying all shelters folks are not suitable but I do think more of them are suitable than apply to breeders.

    If you try to set up hard fast rules then no one would be able to get a dog that lived in an apt .....yet there are many dog owners who are responsible and caring who live in apts. What if no one was allowed to get two dogs at the same time....yep Crow or Raven would not have gone to you and look what they would have missed.............So as in breeding you can't be successful with hard fast rules, I think you must evaluate each and every case on it own merits in placing dogs and if you place enough dogs things will go wrong.

    I am also not for making it harder for good folks because of one jerk!!! JMHO

    I remember years and years ago I adopted a dog from a shelter and had to go through a screening process and answer a questionnaire. Are you saying this shelter had no questionnaire??? I do remember there were penalties if I did not take care of the dog.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    I 100% agree that breeders are ten times better at placing then these all breed rescues.

    Let me clarify that I am not talking about breed specific rescue. IMO the ones I have seen all have detailed checks, and when they place a dog it is forever, just like with a breeder.

    This all breed rescue I speak about has a questionnaire but it is this generic ten question form. You fill that out, then pick the dog.

    While I agree, there will never be a perfect balance surely there has to be something that can be close to this.

    You are correct that we can shun everyone because of one mans actions, and this thread is most certainly directed towards the idiot who lost cupcake twice.
    It more just opened my eyes, which made me do some digging on this shelters background checks, or should I say lack there of.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    I agree with all you have said D4E, I just think somewhere there has to be an inkling of balance. Even though it may not be perfect.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Dobs4ever

    Dobs4ever Hot Topics Subscriber

    Good info TxDobe....

    Matt bless you heart I hope you are very very strong and don't burn yourself out trying to make things perfect. This is just not a perfect world. We have so many serious fights on our hands right now - all which stem around loosing our freedom on just about every level including what we can or should eat and that is not just dogs but what people eat. I can't believe with all the problems the government has time to worry about what we eat.

    Did the shelter have a questionnaire??? I did not read where you said so forgive me if I missed it. Unless shelters can bring in more money they can't even train their own personnel which would help tremendously. You can ask the questions but they also have to give honest answers. It would drive anyone nuts trying to get it all right and I call it mission impossible. You just can't control everything and you just can't make it so hard that even the good folks don't get a chance just because of one idiot.

    Things I think help.... 1. Been on job longer than 3 years
    2. Home owner or renter If renter how to you plan to exercise and potty your dog
    3. fenced yard
    4. checking account
    3 day cooling off period ( means the shelter has to house and feed longer AND might turn someone away who would have been perfect if the folks do not follow through so back to the drawing board)
    5. Tell about your pets in the past of is this your first. How long did you have them what happened to them
    6. Provide 2 references of people who do not live with you
    7. Provide vet info if you have one
    8. Have you ever trained a dog for any reason .or ever taken a training class
    9. Where will the dog spend most of its time when you are home
    10. Where will the dog spend most of its time when you are gone
    11. What are you willing to do to insure your dog will be well mannered and not a neighborhood pest
    12. Observe the dog with the people for an hour and have the put the dog on leash and walk the dog and have them go through some commands with the dog or see how they would teach it to sit, down etc. This could give you a little insight to their patience and willingness to work with the dog.

    which are all signs of responsible people. I think much more than that and you will not be placing any dogs.

    Then Matt how would you handle it when someone like yourself comes and wants something against the normal rules??? If you want to err on the side of caution and best for the dog they would have had to tell you no. Do you think think would be right or how would you allow for the flexibility in a case like yours??? I just don't think you can make it perfect or even better unless you train the shelter workers and give them both better people skills and dog skills.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. dh8

    dh8 Hot Topics Subscriber

    The ASPCA did a study a few years ago that showed a waiting period did nothing for the adoption success rate. People can "think" about it or be made to wait for months on end but if they are basing their thinking on incorrect ideas on dog ownership and training, it will fail no matter how many hoops you throw at them. I've always found this to be true.

    Assessing the prospective owner's realistic expectations is the most important way to assure a good fit and then check references. When you do it enough you get very good at sensing the liars early on. The reference calls should be to a landlord if they have one, a neighbor and animal control even if they say they never had a dog. You find out a lot that way about the entire family of the prospective new owner which is important. People can try to set up phony references but it's pretty easy to ferret those out with all the info available on the net. you could get all this done in about 10 minutes if you don't have to leave messages.

    I'm not so big on vet checks as they seldom give you much info. The vet is looking to keep the customer and wants the business of new pets. They also don't see much of any of the potential abuses as abusive owners seldom bring their pets in for care. If the other refs are good, I won't hold an adoption to hear from a vet.

    You may find the owner had unrealistic expectations but is very willing to make changes as needed if you talk with them about their expectations long enough. Still a good adoption. Too often the person adopting out the animal spends most of their time telling the prospective owner how great the pet they want is. Simple basic questions like "How long will you leave the dog alone for during the day or at night?" "Where will the dog sleep and where will the dog be when you are at work?" "How do you train a dog not to run out the door?" "What do you do if your dog runs away?" "How do you scold a dog for running away?" A few trick questions are great to get you the info you really want.

    Also great to try to talk with husband and wife separately in a casual way if possible.

    For the most part I like home checks but you have to have nice, reasonable and knowledgeable people doing them or you can screw up a potentially good adoption. You are assessing dog ownership potential, not interviewing someone to be your neighbor or design stylist. There may be a deficiency in a fence or something but it may also be a pretty cheap and easy fix. Criticisms are taken much better if presented as the small but important change that's needed for safety than the terrible lacking neglectful thing you have that will result in the death of everyone...

    Fences are important but there are a few exceptions I've made for different people who are great owners. For example-People who live at the beach are prohibited from having fences and obstructing the views. It doesn't mean they are bad owners or can't keep a healthy, happy and safe dog. People on houseboats, in condos and apartments are in the same category without fences and millions of them keep safe, healthy and happy dogs until very old ages, so there are some cases where a fence breaking a adoption is a sad and wasteful thing. It all falls back to realistic expectations and dog training/ownership knowledge.

    I've been turned away from shelters and rescues just because I live in Alaska, which is royally stupid if you ask me. I have stellar references and have worked with all kinds of dog behavior issues and retraining for 20+ years. Never, ever rehomed a pet in my life and never will. One shelter insisted I come meet the dog, wait at least 2 or 3 days, then come meet the dog again and then wait around for 1-2 weeks while they look at my application. Can you say gate keeper syndrome?

    I also find it's very helpful for your adoption success to let the adopters have contacts for training info if needed. Encourage them to call with questions before things get to be big problems and are easier to fix. Periodically call them for a little while and arrange 1 or 2 post adoption home visits to check in on how things are going so you can nip problems in the bud before they mushroom or in the worst cases may clue you in to go take the dog back before any real harm is done.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    I get what your saying.

    Disagree with some.

    Agree with a lot.

    Here's one thing that erked me.

    That "study" from the ASPCA does no good for me.

    They are a money hungry for profit company, that could care less about animals, but sure likes to make people think so.

    Any study coming from them can almost certainly be ruled as a lie with a hidden agenda?

    Perhaps getting rid of pets faster to increase their "success" rate.
  10. dh8

    dh8 Hot Topics Subscriber

    Not a fan of many things at the aspca or hsus but in years of rescue and shelter work I have found assessing realistic expectations is the #1, #2 and #3 things in going for successful adoptions. I knew that before I ever heard of any studies from anywhere. Wait periods mean nothing if the adopters don't have realistic expectations and the ability/willingness to train as needed. The only way to find that out is asking a lot of the right questions, really watching answers and body language and checking the right references.

    It's like the idea that if someone spends a lot of money on a pet, they will take better care and be more reluctant to get rid of them. Not always true by any means. I've seen people spend hundreds or thousands on a puppy or kitten and dump them because they didn't realize how big they could get or they were "difficult" and "spiteful" or other nonsense that wouldn't have happened if they had realistic expectations.

    There's just not one concrete formula for good adoptions. There has to be some flexibility in your program or you will be turning away good homes too. Still big on good home checks and post adoption checks. They help catch anything that could have been missing as life is just not 100% with guarantees for everything no matter how hard you try.

    I don't knock numbers straight away. I evaluate programs based on permanent loving homes for each pet. It becomes a bit of numbers after that is evaluated for each individual because the goal is to get that great loving home for every animal. Then you develop more programs for different groups with different needs to focus on the same goal.

    Watching potential adopters with dogs is important but it's also a bit like watching someone on a first date. Everything is glossy and new and no one has peed on your rug yet.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. TX_dobe

    TX_dobe Member

    I do not understand how vet checks are not any good. Most of the do not adopted list come from vets. Most of the ones down here tell use if they think they are good owners or not. I do understand what you said about fencing and we have done the same thing.
  12. ZeldaRules

    ZeldaRules Hot Topics Subscriber

    Shelters are overflowing and they just want to move dogs. Their "screening" is akin to what you would find with a BYB. IE you can lie to look good on paper, put on a smile, and take a new pet home in the same day. A good chunk of dogs adopted from shelters will end up back at the shelter, on the streets, on Craigslist, or given away.

    There would be zero need for shelters and rescues if proper screening was implemented in the first place. This would mean that many people would never be allowed to own a dog and I'm pretty fine with that but that will never be reality.
    • Like Like x 3
  13. dh8

    dh8 Hot Topics Subscriber

    I didn't say vet checks are no good but they don't yield a fraction of the info you are seeking to obtain. It's easier to get a vet check done than contact all the other people as the vet has staff paid to sit and answer the phone but how many bad vet references have you actually received? Do you believe that if an owner is chronically delinquent in paying their vet or just difficult to work with that it won't color the reference you get from your vet's business? Sometimes no but sometimes yes.

    If the owners are really bad, they generally don't bring their pet to the vet so how would yet get any info there? You may get some info but a fraction of what you get calling the other ones like animal control or neighbors. People can swear they never had a dog or just not use a vet for anything more than shots (and a decent vet reference) but leave their dead dog in the street and pull the collar off to reuse on the new pet. Owners may swear they treated their dog like a baby but left him barking his head off all day long outside rain or shine. Vets will not have that kind of info. Animal control and neighbors do.

    I like them as a backup reference, especially if there is anything on the others that make my spidey-sense tingle. I just haven't found many vets that will adamantly say they would not adopt to a potential owner and they don't have a lot of the info I want to know when adopting. Vets always say they are happy to give refs but they are also in business to make money. Some vets are purely for the money and use animals like cash cows. AC and neighbors almost always have more of the info that you're seeking and are eager to tell you about it when you're evaluating an adopter.

    For me it's all a general guide on what gets you the most important info you're seeking and then there has to be room for individual situations that don't fit the mold to get and keep the most pets in great homes. It's why I'm so in favor of asking the right detailed questions-like "How many times a day would you walk the dog and how far?" instead of just "How much would you walk the dog?" One tells you what they expect to be doing and the other lets people answer "as much as they need" which can fall back to them thinking they only need to be let out the back door 2 or 3 times a day from puppy to old age. It doesn't have to be done as a grilling of the adopter but can easily come out in conversation if you direct the conversation.

    I've seen lots of animals lose out on good homes because of crazy rigid screening that doesn't tell people what they really need to know to try to ensure a good adoption-like no fence/no pet, you must live within a certain boundary, shots were late (maybe only by a week which I couldn't care less about), adoption or rescue staff being rude and condescending and similar.

    I had a family come in looking for a dog with a mom who was so scared she had a minor panic attack in the kennel. The dad and son desperately wanted a dog and mom knew it was fear based on one bad experience she was trying to overcome. Can't tell you how the staff ridiculed the poor woman but I worked with them. The staff then tried to ridicule me as well.

    They adopted a 5 yr old lab/dane mix that had been sheltered for almost 2 years without anyone ever giving him a chance. They took him on an overnight trial and were waiting for the doors of the shelter to open the next day to make sure they got to adopt him before anyone else had the chance. GREAT lifelong home. It's hundreds of situations like this that make me so adamant on individual situations, assessing realistic expectations and checking references.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    To me a vet reference is extremely necessary for one thing.

    You find out if the person gives basic veterinary care. Such as flea/tick, and heartworm.

    Also every vet check I have done they have given me valuable information on what their client pays for with their previous dogs.

    No vet reference, no home in my eyes.
    I wont place a dog with no, or a bad reference. Just my opinion though.
  15. Dobs4ever

    Dobs4ever Hot Topics Subscriber

    hey Matt - I have it!!! They must walk hot coals to prove they are responsible and dedicated to this dog!!!! Now go have a great weekend!!!
  16. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    What have I mentioned that is not even a little reasonable?

    These are all things almost every breed rescue asks.
  17. Dobs4ever

    Dobs4ever Hot Topics Subscriber

    Matt - it was a JOKE!!!! I was KIDDING> I just thought of it and it made me laugh so I shared it. NOW go have a great weekend.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. dh8

    dh8 Hot Topics Subscriber

    have to maintain vet checks aren't always my primary thing when checking references. They are the easiest reference to check but rarely give you much information. Great the people pick up their heartworm/flea meds but they are still a business and will rarely say anything that will hurt their business. Some may even give poor references if the owners didn't let their pets be exploited as a cash cow, others may give a more positive than reality one to get more business; so I need a lot more than a vet reference.

    The vet sees them for less than .0001% of the dog's life over the course of a year, if they spent a solid few hours with the vet. Pretty difficult to pick up much pertinent info that way and you only see the interactions of the person who brings the dog in to see the vet. There could be really bad people at the home the vet knows nothing about. Not unusual at all.

    In adopting I need to speak with people who know a heck of lot more about the potential adopters than someone who might see them .0001% of the time during the year. I want the neighbors who see everything day after day and I want to double check with animal control that they (or anyone living with them) aren't a real horror story. I need to know they don't leave animals in the sun outside during the day with no shade, that they don't let dogs ride in the open back of pickup trucks, I want to know they exercised their pets and trained them with positive reinforcement instead of constant harmful scolding and I want to make sure they don't let their pet roam free even if the pet stayed near the home. The vet will know nothing about any of that stuff unless the bad owners had a dog bounce out of the pickup bed and they brought them in for care.

    Also have to maintain that wait periods make adoption and rescue workers feel better but they do nothing in reality. Great that someone believes they will do everything for the dog but if their idea of "everything" has nothing to do with what the dog needs in reality; they could come in 12 times to see the dog and wait a year and the adoption is still very likely to fail. Taking the time to speak with all of the people who come in for the adoption and really assessing their idea of realistic expectations will enable you to see if they are a good candidate or not.

    Have to disagree with the idea that no vet reference = no adoption. It scares me. :eek: That would bring about an ever decreasing pool of potential adopters, many of whom may turn out to provide great homes. I'd think we'd want more adopters, not less. Of course newbies should only be geared away from any difficult or special needs cases...like my Duke...or Lexi...or most of the dogs and cats I've taken in over the years.
  19. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    I totally get what your saying, and like I said before I agree with most all of it.

    A vet reference is one of many things that need to be done in my eyes.

    I have certain things that I will turn an owner down for. Just as I have things that can be overlooked if other conditions are great.

    Vet check being one of them.
    I understand your speculation, and agree with it.

    At a bare minimum a vet check tells me this person indeed does take his/her dogs to the vet.
    That in itself means a world of information.

    We may not get all the perfect information, but for a 2 minute phone call I can easily weed out people who don't give veterinary care.

    Now If that vet check passed, and something else came up that was important, I would also possibly turn down a new owner.

    For me personally I can be as picky as I want, this way I insure perfect homes for my fosters.
    Almost all of my beliefs on the application process come from my local Doberman rescue I am fostering for. They do a fantastic job, and have an incredibly high success rate.

    I think dobs4ever and Ingrid mentioned at one point that dogs were even being imported from Mexico to meet demands.

    If this is indeed true, surely we can slow down just a tad to allow proper checks to be done, so multiple rehoming would be less of an occurrence.

    Just like a business can't succeed if all of their work comes back for mistakes, rescues put more time and energy by not completing the process with time and diligence.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. DocReverto

    DocReverto Formerly CRD

    My goal here isn't to reduce good owners.
    My goal is to improve the efficiency behind this process. So the bad owners don't break the dogs that the good owners want.

    I hate to bring up Cupcake again but I will.

    Cupcake still hasn't been placed since being found for the 2nd time.

    Her last adventure has turned her into an even more skiddish needy dog than she was before.
    To the point where potential adopters are a rarity for her.

    This all could have been avoided with a little more checking like what you have mentioned.
    The vet check couldn't fix this problem, or could a lot of things.

    I know for sure that this could have been easily avoided by a few more questions/character observement. Which makes me wonder how many more cases like this could be avoided by taking a little more time to do things right.

    I don't expect anyone to walk through coals(using this to continue the joke), or any other insanely ridiculous processes, but at some point everyone just has to sit down and think "hey, this works well but how can we make it better"

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