Ashley Holbert

(Fort Mill, S.C.) — The Humane Society of York County now requires all people applying to adopt a dog to host a home visit, before paperwork is finalized, to ensure the new family will be a compatible fit for the animal.

The decision was made after many dogs were returned to the Humane Society, because the new owners said the animal was unable to adapt to the family’s lifestyle.

The group had been testing the practice for a few years, but just recently decided to make the home visits mandatory.

All of the 35 dogs currently at the shelter were surrendered by previous owners or rescued from abandonment or abuse.

As a result, home visit specialists are tasked with making sure this same cycle does not repeat itself after a dog is adopted from the Humane Society.

“I think the first thing I think about is the dog and what his or her needs are. The dog and I typically have a little conversation on the way to the home where I say, ‘please help me determine if this is a good fit for you.’” said Bethany Clark, who has volunteered as a home visit specialist for two years.

“For all of our animals, this is their second chance or their third chance and we are looking to do our very best to find their forever.”

The home visit process has evolved over years of research and is operated primarily by a team of six volunteers.

Humane Society Cats
The Humane Society says it doesn’t require home visits for cats, because they are typically more independent and require less attention (photo: Ashley Holbert).

Specialists consider a number of factors, including the age of children in the house, hours that can be devoted a week to care and the disposition of other animals in the home.

“People come in with certain expectations and perceived notions when they want to adopt. Sometimes they walk out thinking a completely different thing, and that’s our job for the good of the pet,” said Mary Beth Knapp, who has served as a board member at the rescue shelter for 10 years.

“We ask all the questions we can, but we rely on the transparency of the potential adopter.”

The adoption process takes five to seven days and includes an initial phone interview and a meet and greet with the animal before a home visit is scheduled.

A third of home visits do not end in adoption, because of incompatibility, but the adoption rates for the Humane Society have not slowed down, said Knapp.

According to the Humane Society of York County’s yearly report, 258 dogs and 477 cats were adopted from the shelter in 2019.

The group said it doesn’t require home visits for cats, because they are typically more independent and require less attention.

“We are blessed to be a no-kill environment and no one is ever going to die in our shelter, because they weren’t adopted that day. That is an amazing thing for each of us home visitors to know when we’re going out and we’re trying to talk to potential adopters,” said Clark.

“This animal is not going to lose its life because we’re overcrowded. If you could see the tears that happen sometimes when one (dog) does get adopted, or when we see pictures later of an animal in their happy, forever home,” said Clark. “That’s why we exist here.”