Why animal welfares have adoption fees and home checks


Right now, thousands of animals all over South Africa are in shelters and foster care waiting for homes. Why, then, do animal welfare organisations insist on home checks and adoption fees? Why not just give them away for free to anyone?

The answer is simple: animal welfares are responsible for each life in their care. Their aim is to ensure that the animals are healthy and to find the right home where both animal and adopter will be happy. Adoption procedures help organisations to achieve this.

Why home checks?

It can feel a little invasive to have someone come to your home. However, a home check is not designed to ‘catch you out’ or invade your privacy. In a nutshell, a home check helps to ensure that your home is a safe, loving place, suited to the animal you’re interested in, and that the animal is suited to you. Animal welfares like FAW understand that people may be nervous about completing forms or having home checks.  We try our best to get these done with as little fuss and as conveniently for the potential adopter as possible but it helps if you try to keep the reasons for these procedures in mind: they are there to benefit the animals and you.

Be aware that, when someone is rude or becomes aggressive or overly defensive over completing a form or having a home check, this is seen as a red flag. After all, if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn’t you be happy to provide info or have a home check? 

First: A home check is to try and ensure that the animal will be safe and happy. Sadly, not everyone who says that they love animals is telling the truth. There are people who take ‘free to a good home’ animals and use them as bait in dog fight rings, film other people abusing them, experiment on them, or simply use them to practice their psychopathic behaviour. Then there are the people who love animals deeply but simply lack the resources or a safe environment for them, yet keeping taking them on (such as animal hoarders).

You are not one of these people… but how will the animal welfare know that? The only way for them to find out what a great home you’re offering is by meeting you and visiting your home to see if it’s safe and to get a feel for the situation.

Things they look for include boundary fences/walls so that dogs can’t get onto the road, size of property relative to the dog, shelter provided when they’re outside, open swimming pools/ponds (puppies or blind animals), and how existing pets seem around you and each other. They are not looking for how fancy the home is, if it is a mansion, or if you live in an expensive neighbourhood.

Second: a home check helps to ensure that the animal will make YOU happy! It gives the animal welfare a chance to see if the animal will actually fit in or not. They want the adopter to be as happy as the animal and the home check is the ideal time to ‘get a read’ on whether the home and the animal are a good match or not. For example, if a home has pristine, manicured landscaping  but the dog they want is a digger, or there’s someone frail in the home but the dog is a jumper who knocks people over.

It also gives the organisation a chance to chat with you to find out what your expectations are and provide any advice you may need. At FAW, we go out of our way to try and get to know all the animals in our care so that we can advise you on the best way to help them fit in. We try to set up a situation where you feel comfortable asking us questions about the animal or the adoption process – an open dialogue.

Remember that animal welfares usually know that animal better than you do and they may have years of experience in adoptions. Therefore, if they suggest that it will not be a good match or if they give you specific instructions when it comes to an animal, you should consider listening. 

If a home is declined, we will usually explain why. If the animal welfare you’ve applied to does not tell you, ask them! It could be something easy to resolve or perhaps the animal you wanted wouldn’t have fitted in and they can suggest a different one. 

Don’t give up looking; anything truly worth having is worth waiting and working for – and those animals need you.

Why should we pay a fee for an animal that nobody wants?

You’re not paying for an animal that nobody wants – what you’re paying for is the care that went into looking after that animal and the other animals in need that the organisation helps. At FAW, the animal is vet checked, vaccinated and dewormed up to date (in cases where the animal has been with us for some time, they may have had multiple vaccinations), sterilised, and microchipped; feeding and care while they wait for homes is also very expensive. Welfares don’t get all those things for free – the costs run into the thousands. People think we make money but the reality is that most animal welfares don’t profit from adoption fees; in fact, most LOSE money. 

We recommend that, wherever you are adopting from, you find out what an adoption package includes. Then give your local vet a call and ask how much those things would cost you. Chances are, you would be paying in the thousands. A sterilisation alone will set you back at least R1000, depending on where you have it done and what size, sex, and age the animal is. 

And don’t assume that nobody wants the animal, that it is ‘faulty’ or bad, or that all are ‘mongrels’. Many animals in shelters are strays that got lost and just never found their families, or were surrendered because owners had a change in circumstance. Then there are the ‘accidental’ litters from unsterilised animals, pets whose owners just got tired of them, or had a child, or had to move, or…the list goes on. (Find out why dogs and cats end up in animal welfare here: Where do dogs in animal welfare come from and Where do cats in animal welfare come from.)

There are even hundreds of pure-bred animals in need of new homes, and breed-specific rescue organisations for just about every breed out there. So, if you have a specific type in mind, adopting does not mean you can’t have one.  

These are wonderful animals from good, loving homes, with nothing wrong with them. So, no, you are not ‘paying for an animal nobody wants’. 

Bringing home a new pet

An important part of adoption happens once the animal has left the organisation’s care – and that is where you step in. We all need time to settle in when we move somewhere new; the same goes for animals, regardless of age or where you got it. Your new pet doesn’t know it’s adopted or what you expect of them. Accept that it won’t be perfect from the word go and be calm, patient, and consistent. A routine is the best way to help new animals fit in – knowing what to expect each day helps them understand their new home and what’s expected of them.

Choosing the right pet is important because they will fit in faster – and the great thing about adopting is that you can find your perfect match. Ask the welfare to recommend animals to suit your needs (e.g. energy, size, sex, coat type, sex, breed, etc.) Many will provide advice and assistance after adoption, and they will be happy to hear from you with updates later on – you won’t get that when you buy from a pet shop or most breeders. 

The bottom line is that you can find the most amazing animals at an animal welfare organisation. The application, home check, fee, and discussions are absolutely worth it if you consider that you are welcoming a new family member who could be with you for the next decade or more.  

© Copyright reserved Jennifer Davies 2021


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