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How to Prepare for an Adoption Home Visit

7 tips for acing your inspection and bringing your new pup home.

by Tim Barribeau
July 11, 2022
A woman with dark curly hair lifting a box with a plant in a pot balanced on top to another area in the home
MixMedia / iStock

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You’ve visited the shelter, played with the pup, and filled out the paperwork. You’ve picked up all the most important supplies. You’re so close to bringing home the newest member of your family that you can almost feel how soft and floppy their ears are. But there’s one more step: the home visit. It’s hard to shake the nerves at letting someone in your home and having them decide the fate of you and a dog you’re eager to adopt — but with a bit of preparation, you can go in ready and sure to pass with flying colors.

We chatted to Melissa Giordano, Adoption Coordinator of the Sato Project, an organization that works to find homes for Puerto Rican rescue dogs, about why they do home visits and how to prepare for them. “We want to ensure that the adoption of our dog is going to be successful,” she says. “We want to make sure that the adopters are a hundred percent on board and willing to put in the time, the effort, and the training to make sure that our dogs are gonna have a safe, happy, healthy, loving life forever with their family.” Here are some tips to make sure your home is as ready as possible for your new family member.

1. It’s all about state of mind

Again and again, Giordano emphasized to us that they’re looking for people who want to do best by the animals. They’re not looking for a perfect house; they’re looking for someone who is willing to listen, to take on their suggestions, and to provide the animal with their forever home. “We’re not looking for you to have a spotless home with perfect everything, because that doesn’t exist. We just want to make sure that the dog is going to be safe, and that the people are open to suggestions and are going to be thinking through things that could potentially cause a problem.” So the first thing you can do is take a deep breath and frame the visit in your mind as a chance to have a better and safer environment for a pet.

2. Think like a nervous dog

One of the most important things to try to prevent is an adoptee escape. Animals, both dogs and cats, may try and make a break for it if they’re in a new space and spooked. Giordano emphasized that a major part of their work is making sure there are no easy ways for the pet to escape. That means making sure that all windows and doors close securely and that you’re not relying on a screen for preventing an escape; that any air conditioning units are properly anchored, and the soft closures around them held firmly in place; that fences and gates (if present) are fully secure; and that there are no easily accessible tables or chairs for them to get high enough to jump over.

3. Tidy up

Your space doesn’t need to be spotless, but you do need to do a decent clean up. You want the shelter to know that you’re capable of keeping your home clean and that there’s not anything obviously worrying for the dog to get into easily. That means securing any garbage containers so they’re not easy to knock over and rifle through; making sure any plants you have around are pet safe; and if you have cat litter, making sure the dog can’t get into it. Giordano pointed out that things you might not even think of could be a problem: “Kids toys — sometimes you don’t even think about it, but puppies will chew those apart and could potentially get injured or swallow something that could get stuck.”

4. But don’t be too precious with your belongings

Animals, unfortunately, can be destructive — even if they don’t mean to be. A newly introduced dog may make messes regardless of how house trained they are as they struggle to get used to a new place. And they may chew or scratch if they’re particularly nervous. So go into this with the knowledge that there might be some damage around your home, and if you have any rugs, furniture, or extremely precious belongings that you can’t stand to see possibly hurt, put them away until the animal is totally settled and you know how they’ll behave.

5. Introductions, please!

The agency will also want to meet whoever currently lives in your house — people and animals. Not every animal is suited to every living situation, so this helps them ensure that the pet is going into an environment where they will be comfortable. They’ll probably want an introduction to your family members/roommates and any other animals onsite.

6. Be prepared for in-person or over video

The last few years of the pandemic have changed a lot about how the world works, and that includes much of animal support and rescue. Depending on where you are, local laws, and how safe everyone feels, you may be asked to do a video home visit rather than one in person. This entails dialing in to a video chat where a staff member can talk to you as you walk around the house and reveal anything they need a closer look at. Or they might just want you to video a home tour on your own and send it in, which can be easier to coordinate with everyone’s schedules.

7. Be open to change

But above all else, remember that this isn’t an adversarial visit. They want you and the animal to be the best possible combination, so that everyone can be happy and fulfilled with one another. Any suggestions they give are so that an animal you adopt will be safer and happier — so go into the process with an open mind and willingness to adapt, and you’ll be fine. As Giordano puts it, “the people that are coming to do the home visits are not gonna judge them. We are not looking for a perfect house. We are just getting a sense for the person or the family, to make sure that it’s a match for our dog and that they’re able to give our dog the best, safest, and most loving home.”

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tim barribeau

Tim Barribeau

Tim Barribeau is a freelance writer, editor, cat dad, and “help your boyfriend buy a suit that actually fits for once” consultant. He was previously the Style and Pets editor at Wirecutter, and has bylines at a bunch of publications that don't exist anymore (and a couple that still do).