How to Adopt
Thank you for choosing to adopt an animal. By choosing to adopt a pet, you have already joined the ranks of those saving lives and for that we thank you. Through this process we hope that your life with your new pet will be happy and fulfilling. Because adopting a pet is a life-long commitment and not one to be entered into lightly, adopters must be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license or state ID card. Please read the below adoption process carefully.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
Sharing life with a pet can bring happiness, comfort, and plenty of fun for an individual or family. With a little forethought and planning, you can find the ideal pet and begin to enjoy all the benefits that pet parenthood can bring!
Before selecting a pet, consider your lifestyle. Are you away from home for long periods of time? Some pets get lonely by themselves while others are content with the solitude. If you wish to travel a lot, who will care for the pet while you are away? How much yard space is there and is it fenced? If you rent, what will your landlord think about a pet? If you need to see a list of pet-friendly rentals, click here.
Reflect on your resources. Are you prepared for the expense of adoption, routine veterinary care, training, grooming, a healthy diet and supplies? If the animal becomes ill, it may need emergency hospitalization or a specialist.
Determine if the time is right. Getting a pet of your own is a big commitment. Dogs and cats can live up to 20 years and some birds can reach 70. Parents should be prepared to step in to take care of the pet if a child begins to lose interest or just gets too busy.
Before you visit, check out our shelter hours.
SELECTING A PET
When you come to the shelter to select a pet, keep an open mind. Put old biases aside and use your head and your heart. Your pet will be a part of your family for years, so base your decision on your objective observations. Talk to our staff members. They are very familiar with each animal and can give you good insight into which pet is right for you.
You might want to prepare a list of questions to ask the shelter staff. How would you describe his personality and behavior? Does he like children? How is he with cats? Ask any and all questions that are pertinent to your needs.
Some of the animals you see might be on their “stray hold” which means they are waiting for an owner to come forward and reclaim them and aren’t available to be adopted just yet (click here to view our stray hold periods and learn how to reclaim a pet). In the event that an owner doesn’t come forward by the time the stray hold is up, the animal will be adopted on a first come, first served basis.
APPLYING FOR A PET
Once you have selected a pet you would like to meet, you will need to fill out an adoption application. Simply click on one of the application types below, fill it out ahead of time, and bring it with you.
Anyone who wishes to submit an application must do so in person. Applications submitted via fax, email or any other means will be filed for 30 days, but will not be considered a potential adoption application for the animal. Unfortunately, we sometimes must deny an applicant for adoption when it is in the best interest of the animal.
Spend time with the pet(s) you are considering. Take them out of their cage and hold them. If it’s a dog, go for a walk. Talk to the staff about your needs and expectations.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a match on your first visit. Be patient and visit often. The shelter receives new animals every day and your special friend will come along.
Pets are living, breathing creatures and as such, we cannot make any guarantees as to the health, age, and/or temperament of any pet we adopt out.
We do not adopt pets out as gifts. If you’d like to give someone the gift of pet ownership, please ask them to visit the shelter and pick out their pet and that you will cover the adoption cost. You might want to create your own gift certificate!
THE MEET & GREET (Dogs only)
After you’ve selected a dog that you’re interested in adopting and have completed an adoption application so you can meet him or her, you must bring all members of your household as well as any current dogs to our facilities to meet the potential new addition with one of our Adoptions Counselors. Here’s what you should expect for the meeting:
- Dress your dog in a sturdy collar or harness, but no correction collars or retractable leashes, please – they can affect the meeting!
- Remember that your dog is likely to be excited meeting new friends in a new location, and expect him or her to act that way. We’re okay with that!
- We’ll start with parallel walking and we may let one dog lead so the other can sniff and vice versa. This lets them adjust to the other dog and get used to their scent and behavior without being confrontational.
- If things feel right, next we’ll move into our play yard where the dogs will get to spend some time together off-leash.
- You’ll have plenty of time to talk with our staff and explain how you’re feeling about the meeting. Please, if you’re having any reservations, now is a good time to voice any concerns or ask any questions. If you’re a little nervous about how your new friend will do once at home, we have a Foster to Adopt program. Simply pay the adoption fee and you may take your new friend home for 72 hours. Please remember that pets have their own personalities and it can take some time for their true selves to emerge. The pet has been through a lot of changes in a short period of time!
- At the end of the 3 days, come back to finalize the adoption or if your chosen pet is not the right match, bring the animal back for a full refund. Don’t feel bad, but we ask that you provide us with information about the pet’s behavior at home, which will help us make a better match with another family.
After completing all the above steps, completing the adoption application and paying the adoption fee (we accept cash or a major credit card), you are able to take your new pet home! Please bring a collar and leash for dogs and a carrier for cats and small animals. If you don’t have these items, no worries, we’ll sell you one.
To make sure you’re prepared for the first night at home, we recommend having the following items:
- Food (wet or dry, it’s your choice)
- Bowls (one for food, one for water)
- Collar & Leash (an ID tag when you’ve decided on a name)
- Litter box and litter
- Crate for your dog
- Cat Carrier
Spay & Neuter
If the animal you’ve chosen is not already spayed or neutered, we will collect a $50 “good faith” deposit from you. You will be given a HASP (Harford Animal Sterilization Program) certificate and a list of veterinarians who accept our certificate. Please read the certificate carefully and discuss with your vet so you are aware of what the certificate covers. You have 60 days (or 60 days after the animal is 6 months old) to get your buddy spayed or neutered. Once you have gotten the procedure done and can provide a receipt from your veterinarian, your $50 deposit will be refunded to you (or you may choose to donate it back to the shelter to help us get other pets spayed or neutered).
Every dog in Harford County MUST be licensed. There is an $8 charge for a temporary dog license when you adopt. Our staff will submit your license application to the Harford County Department of Licensing & Permits and in 6-8 weeks you’ll receive your dog’s permanent license in the mail.
For residents of Baltimore County, visit the Baltimore County Animal Shelter in Baldwin or visit any Baltimore County full service library. A current rabies vaccination certificate is required.
Fees & Applications
Puppies 8 weeks-11 months: $250
Dogs 1-5 years: $160
Dogs 6-9 years: $95
Dogs 10 years and older: $35
Includes: Distemper vaccination (DHPP for dogs), rabies vaccination (if 3 months of age or older), canine kennel cough vaccination, de-wormer, heartworm test, flea & tick preventative, microchip, free sample of Hill’s Science Diet food and general exam
Kittens 8 weeks-6 months: $125
Cats 7 months-5 years: $95
Cats 6 years or older: $45
Includes: Distemper vaccination (FVRCP for cats), rabies vaccination (if 3 months of age or older), FeLV (feline leukemia & FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) testing, de-wormer, flea & tick preventative, microchip, free sample of Hill’s Science Diet food and general exam
Small & Barnyard Animals
Guinea Pigs: $20*
Hamsters, Gerbils & Mice: $5
Note: Guinea pigs may not be adopted for breeding purposes. Female guinea pigs who are not spayed may only be adopted to homes where they will NOT have contact with intact guinea pigs of the opposite gender.