If you have never adopted a pet before some of the requirements can be a little confusing and can often put people off. In this post we will break down the adoption contract and the reasons why you should always have one, even if you are rehoming a pet privately. 

A pet adoption contract is an agreement signed between two parties where they give details regarding the standard of care that the adopter should provide to the pet. The both parties should receive and retain a signed copy of this agreement for their records. The adopter agrees that as the pet’s owner they are responsible for his or her actions at all times. 

Pets don’t get the same protection that people do under the law. The adoption contract will keep the pet that’s being rehomed safe to some extent, while also protecting both parties involved in the adoption. Adoption contracts can cover a lot more than just the basic terms of adoptions. The contract may contain many different requirements, including vaccinations, legal ownership clauses, pet registration requirements, neutering requirements, training and more. Everyone taking part in an adoption should ensure that their bases are covered by using an adoption contract.

Adoption Contract

We will explain the various areas often covered in the adoption agreement or contracts terms and conditions further below. 

Legal Ownership Of The Animal

When you adopt an animal, you understand that you are agreeing to be responsible for this animal for the rest of its life. The adoption agreement is proof of this and is the main reason it is important to have one signed when transferring ownership of the animal. 

Example Text: I understand that I become the legal owner of the Dog on signature of this form. I acknowledge that as owner I will have sole responsibility for all costs of care for the Dog, and for all actions of the Dog and any damage or injury it causes.

In some cases when adopting from an animal rescue, they ask that the animal is returned to them if you no longer want the animal for whatever reason. Some may stipulate that they must be notified on transfer of ownership or will assist with rehoming but cannot take the dog back in every circumstance. 

Example Text: I will not part with ownership or custody of the Dog, save to return him/her to the rescue if I am no longer able to care for them. I am adopting the dog for myself, and I agree not to give away, sell, or trade my dog, even as a gift to a friend or family member.  I will neither take the dog to a shelter nor abandon the dog.

You may be agreeing to be a guardian of the animal and the legal ownership will remain with the rescue at all times. You would need to keep in contact with the rescue and notify them of any changes with the animal. 

Example Text: Dogs adopted remain the legal property of Rehoming Group for their entire lives. You agree not to give away, sell or otherwise dispose of your dog.In the event that your dog passes away, you must notify the Rehoming Group so that records can be updated. You may be asked to provide proof of this from your veterinary practice. 

General Care And Welfare Of The Animal

By signing the agreement you agree that as the animal's owner you are fully responsible for keeping the animal safe. You must cover the feeding and grooming of the animal. If a specific grooming schedule is required the rescue should let you know this. Depending on the animal some rescues may require the animal to be indoors only or require a secure boundary if the animal is to go outside at times. 

Example Text: The Dog’s welfare is our priority. The Adopter agrees to comply with all relevant regulations, legislation and laws concerning the welfare, control, responsible ownership and protection of animals. 

The welfare needs of the Dog mean providing for the Dog’s health, happiness and taking measures to ensure the Dog is properly housed, fed, watered, socialised and exercised and receives appropriate veterinary care, including vaccination, regular worming and flea treatment.

You have a responsibility to maintain a secure boundary in your garden to prevent your dog from escaping and/or injuring themselves.

adoption contract

Medical Care and Spay or Neuter Agreement

Once the animal leaves the rescue any medical expenses they might incur should now be the responsibility of the new owner. 

Example Text: The Dog is believed to be in normal health on leaving our care except where specific conditions have been made known to the Adopter. The cost for any future veterinary or other treatment is the sole responsibility of the Adopter.

Most rescue animals will be spayed or neutered prior to rehoming. In the event that they are too young to do so this should be done as soon as they are medically able to do so unless there are overriding veterinary reasons for it not being possible. The spaying/neutering agreement may be included in the terms and conditions of adoption or it may be a second agreement that you need to sign.

Example Text: If the Dog is unneutered at the time of rehoming, the Adopter agrees to have the Dog neutered as soon as possible. You understand that this will be at YOUR cost. Rehoming Group is not responsible for the cost of neutering dogs post adoption. Breeding your dog under any circumstances is NOT permitted. Breeding your dog will result in his/her immediate removal.

Behaviour Issues And Training

A rescue should assess an animal's behaviour prior to rehoming. They should make it known to you if there are any issues you should be aware of. They should have a space where this can be detailed on the form. 

Example Text: Any information concerning the habits and past history of the Dog is passed on by the Rescue Group in good faith. This information is provided to assist with the successful rehoming of the Dog. The information we provide you may be based on statements made by the previous owner and/or assessments of the Dog whilst in Rescue Groups care. We cannot guarantee that this information is correct despite every effort being made.

You should expect that some problems may arise with your new dog. It is unsettling for them to move to a new home. Some rescues may require you to agree to complete some training classes after adoption. 

Example Text: You agree to participate in pre and post adoption consultations with our qualified and experienced trainers. 

Pet Safety and Insurance

Legally all dogs are required to be microchipped and these details will be changed to reflect the change of ownership. Some rescues will microchip other animals also. 

Example Text: The Adopter agrees for their personal data to be passed to the microchip database by Rescue Group for the purposes of registering the microchip. The Adopter agrees to inform the microchip database of any changes of his/her address or telephone numbers.

As for pet insurance some rescues will insist on insurance whereas others will suggest it as a recommendation. Different insurance may be required depending on what you are covering for. Insurance for dog bite claims can be covered under house insurance. Always contact your insurance provider for the correct information. 

Example Text: Note that you, as Adopter, may have liability for damage and/or injury which the Dog causes to third parties or their property. There is also the possibility of a legal claim against you, the Adopter, as a result of the Dog’s actions or behaviour. Rescue Group strongly recommends the Adopter to arrange appropriate insurance cover against risk and the cost of veterinary treatment.

The most important advice is to read the contract BEFORE signing! Make sure you fully understand the wording of the document and that you are happy with the ownership requirements detailed in it. If you have signed one previously from one rescue do not assume the next rescue will be the same. Ask for a copy of the adoption contract in advance of signing it as it may be hard to read through fully on the day. As with any agreement or contract that you will sign, unless you are fully happy with it do not sign.

About Rescue Animals Ireland

Rescue Animals Ireland aims to provide valuable resources and educational materials on responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, and the benefits of adopting from shelters. It also aims to raise awareness about the importance of adopting rather than buying pets, emphasizing the positive impact it has on both animals and their new owners.