Why Special Adoptions?
The Special Adoptions Program is designed to facilitate the placement of dogs with manageable problem behaviors. In this program, special attention is given to find suitable adopters and special counseling is given to the adopters to that they may safely integrate the dog into the new home. This special counseling will also maximize the likelihood of the dog having a long-lasting relationship with the adopter. In general, the Special Adoptions Program has five components:
- IDENTIFYING problem behaviors through intake questionnaires, observation of behavior in the shelter, the Match-Up II Behavior Evaluation.
- MODIFYING problem behaviors through enrichment and training programs to give the dog the best chance of success in the home.
- FINDING the right adopters who are able to handle the specific problem behaviors of the dog.
- COUNSELING the adopters, paying particular attention to management of problem behaviors in the new home.
- FOLLOWING-UP with the adopters to ensure that the dog and his new family have the right fit.
How do you get Started?
Before implementing a Special Adoptions Program in your shelter, make sure to have the following:
- An agreement among shelter staff about what kinds of problem behaviors you are comfortable placing.
- A training for staff about management of the problem behaviors and the types of owners who can safely manage the behaviors. Visit our CSD webinar archives for some great training resources.
- A way to collect behavioral history about the dog in the previous home.
- A formal behavioral evaluation.
- A method to record behavior while dogs are in the shelter. If you are providing behavior modification programs, make sure you are recording the dog’s progress.
- Ability to do adoption follow-up at one week, one month, and two months.
- A list of trainers or behaviorists that can help adopters if they have problems after adoption.
- Enrichment programs such as walking, playgroups, or obedience training to benefit each individual dog.
What is the Protocol?
- Train adoption staff to discuss problem behaviors with adopters and on the requirements of adopters to manage each type of problem behavior.
- Adoption staff interviews potential adopters.
- Adoption staff completes Pre-Adoption Behavior Consult Form if recommending the adopter.
- Form is given to Special Adoption Counselor (either a dog trainer or behaviorist) who has experience with the dog.
- The Special Adoption Counselor interviews the potential adopter by phone.
- If approved, the adopter comes in for a behavioral release appointment with the Special Adoption Counselor.
- At the appointment, the adopter is given a written explanation of the dog’s behavior history, behavior evaluation, and behavior in the shelter. Use the Adoption Consult Form.
- Written recommendations are given to the adopter on how to manage the individual problem behaviors.
- The Special Adoption Counselor follows up with the adopter at one week, one month, and two months post-adoption. Use the Follow-Up Questionnaire.
Who should conduct special adoption appointments?
All special adoption counselors should attend special training for the program (see the CSD Webinar Archive) and be familiar with the adoption protocols and philosophies of the organization. We recommend that the special adoption counselors be members of the behavior or training departments or be staff members with at least two years' experience with behavior evaluations, adoptions and follow-up consultations with adopters.
It is beneficial if the special adoption counselors have one of the following credentials:
- CAAB or ACAAB (Certified or associate certified applied animal behaviorist)
- DACVB (Diplomat American College of Veterinary Behavior)
How successful is this program?
The Animal Rescue League of Boston implemented the Special Adoptions Program in June 2003. The League followed up with the families of 20 dogs from their Special Adoptions Program by phone between six months and one year after adoption. Of the 20 owners that they reached:
- 19 of 20 dogs were still in their adoptive homes
- None of the 20 dogs had bitten any person or animal
- All owners were pleased with their dogs and with the services received from the Animal Rescue League of Boston
During that same period, the Animal Rescue League of Boston saw a slight decrease in return rate and euthanasia for behavior reasons decreased, resulting in a decrease in overall euthanasia rate.