Home checks have been part and parcel of rescue processes for many organisations, for many years. But are home checks helping or hindering happy-ever-afters for homeless pets?
There is increasing evidence that, despite being carried out with the best intentions, home checks can create a barrier to adoption, sending prospective adopters elsewhere to obtain their new furry family member.
At a time when we wholeheartedly want more people to choose rescue as their first option for sourcing a pet, it makes sense to look at ways to encourage more adoptions, and to place pets more quickly in order to free up space for incoming animals.
The move towards progressive, adopter-friendly ‘open adoptions’, which incorporates flexible policies around home checks, is taking hold with happy outcomes for pets.
So if your organisation is looking to save more lives, here’s some food for thought from Animal Sheltering’s article Forget the Fairy Tale:
Lori Rolnick, cat program director at the US-based Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, said letting go of home checks was “one of the best things we’ve ever done in helping to save more cats.”
The Homeward Trails cat team moved from compulsory home checks to case-by-case home checks, which dramatically decreased length of stay, and has opened up the lifesaving potential of adoption events.
“I realised that in 10 years [of home visits], I have denied two homes out of thousands. And neither situation would have been worse than dying in a shelter,” Lori said.
Prior to this game-changing move, home checks had increased adoption turnaround time by days or even weeks, depending on where a potential adopter lived.
PetRescue member Maneki Neko Cat Rescue, based in Victoria, has also taken a progressive approach to home checks.
“Our process is that we ask all our applicants if they object to a home check. If they do object then we decline the application. If they do not object, we do not conduct a home check unless we have concerns based on the information provided in the application and a telephone conversation. To date we have never done a home check unless requested by the applicant,” said Maneki Neko Cat Rescue founder and adoption coordinator Samantha McKernan.
“It is our view that if a person or family have made the decision to adopt a cat, are willing to pay an adoption fee as well as for ongoing care, then it is highly unlikely that their home would be unsuitable,” Samantha said.
“We choose to talk to our applicants about their property, we encourage all cats to be indoors permanently and provide them with options and solutions if there are any areas of concern - for example, boredom can be addressed through the provision of toys and indoor trees. We love www.funkycat.com.au!
“Here in Melbourne, we have an ever increasing number of applications from families living in high rise apartments, many with balconies that present a danger to cats. We talk to them about available netting solutions for these types of areas and the importance of providing a safe environment, such as keeping doors closed.
“We recognise that there are all sorts of living arrangements, and cats are very adaptable. We have even adopted out a cat to a factory with a manager living on site, and to a number of retail stores with seven day trading.”
For more game-changing ideas to help your rescue group save more lives, check out Animal Sheltering’s Rescue Group Best Practices - Progressive Adoptions article.
Has your rescue group made the move towards open adoptions? We’d love to hear about your experience. You can email your feedback to email@example.com.