Screening Potential Homes

Interviewing Callers

“First come, first served” does not apply here. You are under no obligation to give your dog to the first person who says he wants him or her. You have every right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new owner. Don’t let anyone rush you or intimidate you.

To help you along, we’ve included a list of questions that rescuers ask potential applicants. Make copies of this list and fill in answers as you speak to people who contact you about your dog. Get out the list you made with your requirements for a new home and compare it to the answers the applicants give.

First of all, get your applicant’s name, address and phone number. Deceitful people may call you from a phone booth or give you a fake address. Ask for information that you can verify. Does the applicant’s family know about and approve of their plans to get a pit bull? If not, suggest they talk it over with their spouse and call you back. The same applies to people living with a companion or roommate. When one person adopts a dog without the full approval of the rest of the family, the adoption often fails.

Do they own or rent their home? If renting, does their landlord approve? You’d be surprised how many people haven’t checked with their landlord before contacting you. If you have doubts, ask for the landlord’s name and number, then call him yourself. Be cautious about renters – they’re quicker to move than people who own their homes and movers often leave their pets behind. Remember, you’re looking for a permanent home for your dog.

Does the caller have children? How many and how old are they? If your dog isn’t good with kids, say so up front. How many children can make a difference depending on your dog’s personality. A shy dog may not be able to cope with several children and their friends. Very young children may not be old enough to treat the dog properly. If the applicants don’t have children, ask them if they’re thinking of having any in the near future. Many people get rid of their dogs when they start a family.

Have they had dogs, especially pit bulls, before? If yes, how long did they keep them?

These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they’ve had in the past will tell you how they might treat your dog. The following answers should raise a red flag and make you suspicious: “We gave him away when we moved.” Unless they had to because of unavoidable problems, moving is a poor excuse for giving up a pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there’s a good chance they’ll give yours up someday, too.” We gave him away because he had behavior problems.” Most behavior problems such as poor housebreaking, chewing, barking, digging, running away result from a lack of training and attention. If the applicant wasn’t willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he probably won’t try very hard with your dog either.

“Oh, we’ve had lots of dogs!” Watch out for people who’ve had several different dogs in just a few years’ time. They have never kept any of them for very long.

Do they have pets now? What kinds? Obviously, if your dog isn’t good with cats or other animals and your applicant has them, the adoption’s not going to work. Be up front. It’s better to turn people away now than have to take the dog back later. The gender of their other dogs is an important consideration too. For pit bulls, dog-to-dog aggression issues can arise in both male and female dogs. Pit bulls often do not get along with other dogs of the same sex. Dog fights can be serious problems and one dog can hurt or even kill the other. We recommend that you don’t place your pit bull in a home with a dog of the same sex or multiple dogs. If you place your dog in a home with a dog of the opposite sex, be absolutely sure that the potential adopter could break up a dog fight if one were to occur and advise that they never leave the dogs alone unsupervised.

Do they have a yard? Is it fenced? Your dog will need daily exercise. Without a yard, how will he get it? Can the applicant provide it with regular walks? If the yard isn’t fenced, ask how he plans to keep the dog from leaving his property. Did the applicant’s last dog wander off or get hit by a car? If so, how will he keep this from happening to his next dog? Does he understand that our adventurous pit bulls will wander off if left unsupervised? Does he know that keeping a pit bull tied up can have a bad effect on the dog’s temperament?

Where will the dog spend most of its time? Although most pit bulls don’t mind spending time outside unless it’s too hot or too cold, an entire life outdoors probably isn’t what you have in mind for your dog. Dogs always kept outside are sometimes neglected, lonely and may develop behavior problems.

Why is the caller interested in a pit bull? What do they like about them? Find out what kind of dog “personality” they’re looking for. Many people are attracted by the pit bull’s beauty but don’t know anything else about them. They might not have the slightest idea what a pit bull is all about and might not like its temperament and characteristics. If their expectations don’t match your dog’s disposition, the adoption’s not going to work. Be honest about your dog’s good and bad points. Is a pit bull really what they’re looking for or would they do better with another type of dog?

References: Get the phone number of their vet (if they’ve had pets before) and three other personal references. Call those references! For a vet reference, explain that John Doe is interested in adopting your dog and you want to confirm care, annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were they in good condition and happy? General reference questions include asking how long have they known the applicant. If they were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person? If the applicant has owned a pet before, call animal control in their town and inquire whether there have been any complaints about their dogs. If they have had to pay fines for “dog at large,” do not adopt your dog to them.

The In-Person Interview

Once you’ve chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, make an appointment for them to see the dog, and one for you to see their home. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there. It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back home with you if things aren’t as represented, if you think there’ll be problems or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing. For home visit guidelines, click here.

If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on “neutral” territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog at home. They may be hostile toward the new dog or even start a fight. It is best to first introduce two dogs through a chainlink fence where they will be off leash and can’t harm each other. In this situation, they can act naturally as if they were in the wild.

If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview. You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the dog. Some allowance should be made for kids’ natural enthusiasm but if children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by their parents, your dog could be mistreated in its new home and someone could get bitten.

Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don’t give them your dog. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn’t seem quite right, even if you can’t explain what it is, don’t take a chance on your dog’s future. Wait for another family!

On a final note: Ask the potential adopters if you can visit with your dog on occasion. If they say “no”, be very leery and reevaluate this person’s potential for being a good owner.

Saying Goodbye

After the interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide if they really want to adopt your dog. Make sure they have a chance to think over the commitment they’re making. While they’re deciding, get a package ready to send along with your dog. This package should include:

• Your dog’s medical records and the name, address & phone number of your vet.

• Your name, address & phone (new address if you’re moving)

• Your dog’s toys and belongings (dog bed, blanket, etc.), a supply of dog food & special treats he loves

• An instruction sheet on feeding, special needs, etc.; some educational reading material about pit bulls.

• Collar and leash; ID and rabies tags

• If your dog is not neutered/spayed, do not release the AKC papers until proof of surgery has been supplied

Set aside a special time for you and your dog to take a last walk together and say good-bye. We know you’ll cry. Do it now, in private, so you’re clear headed when he has to leave. He may be confused about being left with strangers and you won’t want your emotions to upset him even more.

There are some things you need to explain to the new family before they take your dog home: The dog will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new people, learns new rules and mourns the loss of his old family. Most dogs adjust within a few days, but others may take longer. During this time, they should avoid forcing the dog to do anything stressful – taking a bath, obedience training classes, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. – until he’s had a chance to settle in. Suggest that they take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them. The dog might not eat for the first day or two. Not to worry – he’ll eat when he’s ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken dog may have an accident during the first day in his new home. This isn’t unusual and rarely happens more than once.


Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. We’ve included a sample contract you can use. Keep a copy for your records. A contract will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don’t have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember – a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the dog to his new owners.

Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn’t work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the dog back home if things don’t work out the way you both expected.

Courtesy of Pit Bull Rescue Central: Screening Potential Homes

Adapted from “When You Can’t Keep Your Chow Chow” by Karen Privitello, Lisa Hrico & Barbara Malone