We’ve done a couple of homechecks recently for A Dog’s Life and West Cork Animal Welfare Group – one for a dog and one for a puss. And, of course, I’ve done homechecks all through the years for myself and the other organisations I volunteer for. I often get asked why we homecheck and thought I’d take the opportunity to write some of my thoughts on the process.
Firstly, let me just say the home check is not intended to intimidate the potential adopter! It’s no reflection on them and is standard practice in most reputable rescue centres. The home visit allows us to double check details the potential adopter gave us – and gives us an opportunity to make animal safety suggestions relevant to the new home.
Some people take great offence at the suggestion of a homecheck – but they just don’t realise that we can’t trust a stranger’s phone call assurances – you may well be the most honest person around, but we simply can’t tell. And we want the best option for our tiny charges – so we have to check.
So, why do we homecheck?
The biggest and most scarey one. People lie for a variety of reasons. Dog fighters will look for cats and dogs going ‘free to a good home’ for use in training and fights. Some snake owners look for small animals to feed their snakes. People who have abused and/or neglected animals in the past will look to adopt again. The list goes on. And all these people can be perfectly capable of sounding like excellent prospects for a new home. Sometimes suggesting a home visit is sufficient to make these people back off. If they agree to a home check their lies can usually be spotted.
Okay, not quite as bad as a lie, but massaging the truth can mislead us about the appropriateness of a home. Most dog rescues insist on an enclosed outside area being available to any adopted dog – often people will say they’ve a secure, enclosed area when they simply don’t. This isn’t necessarily intentional – it may just be a lack of understanding of what the rescue is looking for. Maybe the fence is only 3ft high, maybe there’s gaps in it, maybe it doesn’t exist at all. We have to check these things in person to be sure our adoptee is getting what they need.
Sometime We Ask the Wrong Questions
‘Do you have any animals already?’ would be a standard query of mine – sometimes my fosterees need to be homed with other animals, sometimes they need their own space. But I recently did a homecheck where the family, who had no animals of their own, lived on the same land as another family who had both a dog and a cat who visited – the cat’s proximity was directly relevant to rehoming a lurcher dog whose reaction to cats wasn’t known! So, sometimes a visit can highlight an issue neither the rescue, not the potential adopters, were aware of.
Visiting an adopter’s home gives us the opportunity to spot potential problems and difficulties within the home environment. And to suggest solutions! We’ve years of experience with rescue animals, and many things that your average adopter may not even think of are immediately apparent to us – it doesn’t mean the animal can’t be adopted, but it does mean problems can be addressed and solved before they arise. In addition, it gives us an opportunity to answer any questions the adopter may have – and to give advice on responsible guardianship that is relevant to the particular situation.
The last thing any of us wants is more unwanted companion animals. One of the biggest problems in animal welfare can be the return of adopted animals to the rescue. Why are they returned? Most often it’s because the animal didn’t fit the household. This can be for a number of reasons – the household isn’t suitable for an animal in the first place, the animal is too boisterous/too quiet, etc. A home visit can mean the difference between happy homing and unhappy return – problems are spotted in advance and, if the selected animal isn’t going to fit in quite right there may be another animal who will. Rescues that home check have fewer returns than rescues who don’t. It’s as simple as that.
While some people may be insulted or intimidated by a home check, it’s important to realise that it’s not about you – it’s about being sure the companion you are thinking of adopting is right for you and that your home is right for her. It’s about what’s best for everyone.
I’d be very suspicious of anyone who strongly objects to a home check. No home check, no adoption. Hopefully you now understand why.