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San Diego Humane Society

Adoption Policy


San Diego Humane Society’s mission to inspire compassion for people and animals is reflected in our adoption philosophy: Every pet has the right to a continuous and nurturing relationship with people who convey an enduring sense of love and care.

SDHS will care for over 40,000 companion animals in the upcoming year; pets who come to us from the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista for a variety of reasons:

  1. Owners are no longer able to care for them.
  2. Other animal welfare partners needing assistance, transfer them.
  3. Pets are involved in cruelty cases.
  4. Pets are lost or abandoned.
Our adoption policy is designed to provide the best care for all animals in need of shelter, foster care, medical treatment and behavior rehabilitation.

The Fundamental Principles Guiding Our Approach

We promote a respectful, conversation-based adoption program that strives to: provide exceptional guest services; educate prospective adopters; and assist in matching people with a pet who best suits their lifestyle expectations. SDHS’s trained adoption counselors are knowledgeable in animal behavior and offer their expertise in the successful matchmaking process for both the adopter and pet. The primary goal is to assist the adopter in choosing a pet who best fits their lifestyle, home environment and individual preferences. Ultimately it is the adopter who will choose their new pet under the guidance of our counselors and in accordance with SDHS adoption policy

We ensure all pets receive special care and service. Each pet entering our shelters receives an examination by our professionally trained staff members. The exam may include:

  1. Vaccinations according to SDHS protocol.
  2. De-wormer.
  3. Flea treatment.
  4. Microchip identification – most pets are microchipped; not small animals such as hamsters.
  5. Spay or neuter surgery - All dogs, cats, rabbits and male chinchillas are spayed or neutered prior to adoption. Guinea pigs, rats, hamsters and female chinchillas are not surgically sterilized due to the heightened anesthetic risk.
  6. Diagnostic services such as X-rays, ultrasounds and various types of surgeries through our campus hospitals.
  7. Licensing – first-year licenses are provided (for adopters who reside within our Jurisdictions) at no additional cost for dogs over three months of age who have received their rabies vaccine.

We make every attempt to determine if an animal has any medical conditions while in our care. There may be instances when an adoptable pet requires a medical consultation prior to being adopted in order to inform adopters of any known medical conditions. When available, we will include seven days of medications or prescription diets. For those medical conditions not detected while in our care, we encourage adopters to take advantage of the complimentary wellness exam provided by many community veterinarians and the worry-free pet insurance offered by MetLife.

Incoming pets are evaluated according to the Asilomar Conditions Definitions for the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition of local animal shelters as well as their known history, health and observed temperament. Pets determined unhealthy and untreatable may also be placed up for adoption unless they are irremediably suffering or pose a safety risk to the community. Examples of unhealthy/untreatable pets who can be adopted by the community include hospice adoptions, pets with chronic health conditions or animals requiring complicated surgeries or behavior modification. There is no time limit for how long a healthy/treatable pet may remain available for adoption.

We collect adoption fees to assist in the daily care and on-going needs of each pet admitted to SDHS. Adoption fees vary according to the type and age of the pet. Fees also are discounted or sometimes waived for special adoption events, senior citizens and military personnel. Based on research conducted by the ASPCA, fee-waived and conversation-based adoptions do not adversely impact pets. Their study showed that pet retention was 97 percent. Fees are also waived when pets are transferred from SDHS to one of our Rescue Partners.

“Love your new pet...or let us know. We're committed to finding adopters their best pet match.” SDHS is proud to offer an Adoption Guarantee. If for any reason the adopter decides the adopted pet is not a successful addition to their home, we positively encourage the adopter to return their pet to any of our campuses without judgment or criticism.Debriefing with the adopter is critical as the information provided by the adopter at the time of return enables us to better understand the needs of the pet, determine a treatment plan and better anticipate expectations for successfully matching the pet with a future adopter. As a complimentary service, adopters are offered behavior assistance prior to returning the pet in hopes that we may help resolve issues.

Special Consideration

If you are adopting a puppy/dog:

Dogs in our care have been exposed to Kennel Cough, which is contagious and could be described as a “dog cold.” Symptoms can include watery eyes, watery nose and/or coughing. Similar to a child that is exposed to extra germs in a school environment, your dog may or may not contract kennel cough. If your dog does come down with kennel cough, it will be your responsibility to take them to a vet to get them the proper treatment.

If you are adopting a kitten /cat:

Cats in our care have been exposed to Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) which is contagious and could be described as a “cat cold.” Symptoms can include watery eyes, watery nose and/or sneezing. Like a child that is exposed to extra germs in a school environment, your cat may or may not contract URI. If your cat does come down with URI, it will be your responsibility to take them to a vet to get them the proper treatment.

Your dog/cat/rabbit has been microchipped:

If your pet is microchipped with a company other than Home Again, you will be given a registration form to complete. Please provide your current contact information. If your pet has a Home Again microchip, you will be contacted by the microchip company in the next few days, welcoming you. If you need to change your address or phone number, you will do that with the microchip company directly. If your animal ever gets lost, the animal’s microchip number will be linked to you, so the animal can be returned to you.

Your kitten /cat or puppy /dog has been spayed or neutered:

Your animal may have been recently spayed or neutered. If the animal was recently spayed or neutered, we ask that you wait 10 days from the time of the surgery to bathe your animal. You can find the date of spay/neuter in the animal’s Medical History Record that will be emailed to you. Surgical glue was used to seal the surgery site and we don’t want to prematurely dissolve that glue by bathing the animal before 10 days. If you notice your animal bothering the surgery site, you may need to purchase an e-collar and contact your own vet for additional information.

Your adopted animal is currently up to date on all of their vaccines:

Each animal is current on all the necessary vaccines when they are adopted. You can find the vaccine history in the animal’s Medical History Record that will be emailed to you the day you adopt. We suggest continuing a flea treatment and necessary vaccines after adoption. After adoption, future vaccination needs may change. Please speak to your vet regarding your pet’s health and lifestyle to determine what future vaccinations are needed and when.

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