How To Become A Pet Adoption Counselor

By: Jill Caren / Last Updated: 01/04/2022
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How To Become A Pet Adoption Counselor

If the idea of matching homeless pets with families looking to adopt is exciting, then you may be interested in a career as a pet adoption counselor.

There is much more to this career option, but making sure adoptions of animals go smoothly is at the top of the list. You will work closely with your shelter manager to ensure that all processes for adopting a pet are completed for every adoption.

Having great people skills is a must as well! You will be working closely with families looking to adopt so having patience and an ability to “read people” will be key to making adoptions a success.

What Is A Pet Adoption Counselor?

A pet adoption counselor, sometimes also called an animal adoption counselor, helps match adopters with shelter animals. Their main responsibility is to best match a shelter pet with a family that can meet that pets needs.

For example, a young active family is not going to want a senior dog. And a senior couple is not typically going to want a young active dog.

This is the kind of evaluation a counselor will do. They will assess a families lifestyle and personality and help them find the best pet for their unique lifestyle!

Related: Find more jobs for animals lovers!

What Does A Pet Adoption Counselor Do?

Every day might be a little different, but your general daily duties will include:

  • Checking emails
  • Answer calls
  • Reviewing online applications from families looking to adopt
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Joining in on meet and greets to assess pet and family behaviors and interactions
  • Education on pet care for future pet parents
  • Work with volunteers and shelter managers
  • Process fees for adoption
  • Complete and file required adoption paperwork

When placing pets you will start with a conversation and possibly a survey to get a feel for the family looking to adopt. Assessing their home type, income, level of activity, are just some of the many things you will consider before introducing a family to the available pets in your shelter.

You may also have to answer a lot of questions the potential adopters have as well. We have a dog adoption checklist on our website that we recommend every adopter use when considering adopting a dog. You should be able to answer many – if not all of these questions! This will help ensure that a family understand everything they need to about a dog they are considering.

After a match is made and a pet leaves for their new home you may also be responsible for follow up calls to make sure everything is going well!

On the flip side, you might be reviewing online applications and find “signals” that one may not be a good home and decide to deny their application. You will need to be able to professionally let the family know why they were denied.

It is also recommended you spend some time with the animals in your shelter so you get to “know them” well. Since it is up to you to make a successful match, it is important to understand each pets quirks and personalities.

While the above may be the core roles the position will be responsible for, there is never a shortage of work to be done in a shelter or rescue. You may also need to chip in and assist with other things as well including:

  • Dog walking
  • Kennel cleaning
  • Feeding animals
  • Preparing fundraising campaigns
  • Organizing events
  • Attending off-site adoption events

The more flexible you can be with your skillset and want to help, the better asset you will be to the team – and the animal that are looking for homes. In a shelter or rescue environment, teamwork is everything!

Pet Adoption Counselor Salary

The salary range for this position can vary tremendously based on location, education and experience. A good pet adoption counselor can be such a huge asset as every shelter wants their animals to not be returned! A good counselor will be able to assess families in a way that will minimize animals being returned – which in turn can result in higher pay.

There are no salary data research done on pet adoption counselors, but below are some rates I was able to find on various job boards.

Salaries noted below are as of December 2021.

  • Adoption Coordinator in Petaluma, CA – $15-$16 per hour
  • Animal Adoption Counselor in Bedford, NH – $14 per hour
  • Animal Adoption Coordinator in Louisville, KY – $16.14 per hour
  • Adoptions Counselor in Washington, DC – $16.90 per hour

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect from a salary perspective.

How To Become A Pet Adoption Counselor

There are no educational requirements for becoming a pet adoption counselor, but most facilities will require a GED or high school diploma.

Having some higher education in animal behavior and psychology can be a great asset for this job though! Understanding animals and people is critical for being a success.

Having some type of dog training skills can also be an asset to helping dogs get adopted.

Volunteering or working for a shelter as a kennel assistant or pet caretaker is a great first step to becoming a counselor. It is important you understand how a shelter works and what to look for in a family before placing any animal with them.

Typical qualifications required:

  • High school diploma/GED
  • Associate’s or Bachelor’s preferred
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Experience in animal sheltering
  • Foster care or adoption experience
  • Ability to work weekends and holidays
  • Exceptional people skills
  • Positive attitude

Pros and Cons of Pet Adoption Work

As with any job out there, there are some good things and some bad things you need to deal with. Below are just some of the most common pros and cons of a job as a pet adoption counselor.

THE GOOD

Animal as co-workers

Everyday is something different

Feel good factor when finding a pet a home

Making families happy

Educating children to help create a better future for animals

Offsite adoption events are an opportunity to build awareness

THE NOT SO GOOD

Salaries are often low

Weekends and nights are typical

Watching animals be returned can be hard emotionally

Not much opportunity for growth

Jobs can be hard to find

Dogs can be scared or aggressive

People can be difficult

Recommended Skills

While there is no real education or experience required, having certain skills will greatly benefit someone in this position.

Some of these skills can be learned, but others may be a trait that some people have and some do not. This does not mean you cannot apply for or be successful in the career if you do not have them all, but they might help you be more successful!

  • Human behavior: Reading people is key to adoption success. Matching the right pet with the right family is not always easy, but if you can understand human behaviors it can help you tremendously. Being able to read body movements, eyes and listening to what they say can tell you a lot about a person. Having these skills is a huge benefit – but taking courses in psychology can also be a big help.
  • Animal behavior: Understanding animals is so important. Some people are able to connect with animals better than others – the better you are able to connect, the better you can understand their needs.
  • Communication skills: Dealing with all types of people can be a challenge. Having exceptional communication skills will alleviate misunderstandings and help families understand why you are making the recommendations you are.
  • Passion: Because the job typically doesn’t offer a lot in terms of compensation, they must have passion for their work that carries them forward.

Work Environment

Pet adoption counselors most often work an animal shelters, rescues and off-site adoption events.

There may be opportunities to work with your local community as well. Educating people on the benefits of adoption at events and in schools is also a common practice shelters explore.

Work Schedule

Hours will usually be based on when your shelter is open for adoptions. This will often include weekends and evenings.

Holidays are not always a requirement with this job as most shelters and rescues will be closed for adoptions. You might be asked to care for animals on holidays if staff is short on those days, but it is not required.

If you are asked to do off-site event adoptions or school engagements additional hours may be required.

Final Thoughts

So, are you ready to take the challenge of playing matchmaker with pets and people? You now have all the information you need to take a leap into a new job where you get to enjoy animals as your coworkers!

While there are many pros and cons to working as an adoption counselor, for animal lovers it can be a good move.

Below are some links to finding an pet adoption counselor job near you to get you started on your search.

Also, be sure to reach out to your local animal shelters! They may not have a job listed on these job boards, but might be looking.

If you work in this field, we would love to hear from you so please drop your thoughts below!

Jill Caren CharityPaws

Jill Caren

Jill is an avid animal lover who spends her time helping animal rescues by photographing homeless pets and through her work on CharityPaws.

She is currently owned by Cleo, an American Pit Bull Terrier and Snoopy Cat. Her inspiration comes from her girls Ginger and Riley (RIP) – pit mix sisters who were loved family members for almost 15 years.

You can find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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