Create lasting adoptions – help adopters find a good match

Our goal is never just adoptions, it’s lasting adoptions. Not all animals are a fit for all homes. In this article, we will talk about what makes a good match and how you can help adopters find their right match with any level of resources available to your organization.

What makes a good match?

Before you help an adopter find their next animal, let’s walk through the steps of determining what that really means for your organization.

  1. Determine what is considered successful for any given animal in your rescue or shelter. If you don’t already have a definitive guide for this, sit down with your team to discuss one. It’s important to remember that this is specific to each organization and each community, however, all should meet the minimum Five Freedoms:

    Freedom from hunger and thirst 
    Freedom from discomfort
    Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
    Freedom to express normal behavior
    Freedom from fear and distress
  2. After you have what you considered necessary for a successful adoption, review them and make sure they aren’t just adoption barriers. A few common adoption barriers to avoid are: fenced yard, home ownership, prior experience, no kids, etc. If you aren’t sure if something is a requirement, feel free to contact us and we can chat through it with you.
  3. Now that you have the minimum definition of success for all animals, consider what this looks like for each animal individually. Animals should only have additional requirements if there are extenuating circumstances such as: medical issues, high energy breed, history of abuse, etc. It can help to ask yourself these questions:
    • What is the training requirement for this animal to be successful?
    • What is the medical care requirement for this animal to be successful?
    • What is the exercise / enrichment requirement of this animal to be successful?
  4. Write down your definition of success and refer back to it often.

How to help adopters find a good match

We’ve all seen adopters who come in with a very specific animal in mind based off a childhood toy or a recent movie. Often times these animals require a lot of exercise and training to be successful which means not all adopters are a good fit.

Additionally, all rescues and shelters have a different level of involvement with placements. Some offer personalized 1:1 matching services, while others don’t have the staff to attend to each adopter so adopters are given much more autonomy. Let’s walk through how you can help your adopters find a good match with any level of staff participation.

Low Involvement Matching

  1. Organize your animals by types of homes they could be a good fit for. Social dogs that could be with kids should be in one area, high energy working breeds should be in another. It’s ideal to have these animals physically be organized throughout your shelter to prevent someone from passing a juvenile husky on their way to the social small breed puppies. However, if you can’t organize like this, consider using a visual differentiator. This could be color coding (though be sure to avoid colors like red or black that could indicate an animal is “bad”) or have keys on your kennel cards that indicate common scenarios like “kid friendly”, “cat friendly”, or “dog friendly”. All of this information allows adopters to make a decision that works best with their home.
  2. Make your shelter interactive. Especially if you often have a wait, provide some interactive education around your shelter. This can be as simple as a “What animal is right for you?” quiz on the wall or you could make it more involved like a QR code scavenger hunt.
  3. Hand out a guide when they come in. Outline important factors to consider when adopting and help paint a picture of what it means to adopt. Sometimes this helps point adopters in the right direction if you discuss things they may not have considered before like training requirements and exercise needs.
  4. Be available for questions. Even if you don’t have the staff to help each adopter individually, make sure you have someone available who knows enough about any individual animal to answer questions if adopters have them. Of course you won’t know the answers to all of them but do your best to accommodate inquiries.

High Involvement Matching

If you have the privilege of being more involved with placements of animals in your organization, be sure to keep these things in mind:

  1. Start with getting to know the adopter. Rather than starting off with talking about your organization and the animals you have available, ask some questions about their home, their lifestyle, and what they picture their lives will look like. Always ask these questions as open ended questions. This way you aren’t leading them towards any specific answer and you have the best opportunity of getting the most accurate description.
  2. Use the initial conversation as an education opportunity. These questions shouldn’t be a test. If someone is expecting a house trained 8 week old puppy, take this time to explain that most dogs will need to be house trained, even if coming from a foster home.
  3. Create a relationship. The matching process can be very personal, especially when you’re talking about their home and their family. Use this as an opportunity to create a lasting relationship so they will be more likely to come to you if they hit speed bumps in the future. Additionally, this creates a loyal adopter who may donate or volunteer for you in the future.


Matching not only gives you an opportunity to make adoptions more successful, but it also gives you the option to bring forward long stay animals which can help get them adopted and create lasting relationships with adopters in your community. If you need any help putting together a program, contact us! Happy rescuing.

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