Pet Adoption and Pet Protection Agreements

Pet Adoption and Pet Protection Agreements

by Brette Sember, J.D., April 2019

Adopting a dog or cat (or other pet) brings such happiness into your life. Seeing those sweet eyes asking you to take them home and then being able to make it a reality is so joyous.

Father, mother, and son smiling and petting a dog

Adopting a furry friend is about more than snuggles, play, and treats, though. When you adopt your pet, you'll need to sign a pet adoption agreement that legally transfers ownership and sets out some conditions. You'll also want to set up a pet protection agreement so that you can plan for your pet's care should something happen to you during your pet's lifetime.

Pet Adoption Contract

Adopting a pet isn't as easy as walking into a shelter and saying, "I choose you." Most shelters and rescue organizations want to make sure that their animals go to homes that are appropriate for the pet, and that the new pet's adoptive owners understand the responsibility they're undertaking.

Because of this, if you decide to adopt a furry family member, you'll likely be asked to sign a pet adoption contract. This legally transfers ownership, and also usually sets out some requirements about what you and the shelter or rescue agree to do.

Pet Adoption Contract vs. Bill of Sale

A cat bill of sale or dog bill of sale is a legal document that legally transfers ownership from one person to another. It describes the pet, the sale price, and any warranties the seller is making. An adoption contract is more extensive than a bill of sale because rescues and shelters are very protective of the furry friends they care for.

What a Pet Adoption Contract Contains

The pet adoption agreement may include the following:

  • A description of the pet
  • Names and addresses of the rescue or shelter and of the new owner
  • A statement that legal ownership of the pet is being transferred
  • An agreement that the shelter or rescue will provide a certificate of health for your pet
  • An agreement that the pet will be vaccinated or dewormed before the transfer
  • An agreement that you will spay or neuter your pet (some may require that this be done before you take the pet home)
  • A requirement for a home visit, so the shelter or rescue can make sure your home is suitable and to see how the pet is adapting to the new environment
  • A requirement that you register the pet with a kennel or cat club
  • A requirement that you won't leave your pet outside in inclement weather for extensive amounts of time
  • A statement that, if the pet cannot stay with the new owner, it will be returned to the shelter or rescue
  • A discussion of any fees involved in the adoption

Pet Protection Agreement

Adopting a pet is a forever situation, which is why you should make plans for your pet's care should you pass away or become incapacitated during your pet's lifetime.

Part of a pet owner's rights is deciding what will happen to the pet in these scenarios. A pet protection agreement chooses who will care for your adopted fur baby and could also set aside some money for their care.

How to Write a Pet Protection Agreement

You can write a pet protection agreement yourself or work with a legal expert. Describe your doggo or kitty in detail and name a person to be their guardian if anything happens to you (be sure to ask the guardian first!). Name an alternate guardian as well. You may choose to pay the guardian for taking on the responsibility. You also can select a distribution representative, who will make sure the pet guardian gets any money you set aside for the pet.

Details to Include in a Pet Protection Agreement

The agreement also can talk about things like who your vet is, what food to give your pet, the pet's daily schedule and needs, what kind of medical care you hope will be maintained, when euthanasia may be appropriate, and what should happen with your pet's remains. It's also a good idea to name a rescue organization where your pet could go if the guardian or alternate can no longer care for them.

Executing the Pet Protection Agreement

Make sure the agreement is in writing. Sign it in front of two witnesses and a notary. Be sure to give copies to your guardian, heirs, and distribution representative.

Pet adoption contracts and pet protection agreements are important legal protections for both you and your pet. Making sure you have all the right paperwork in place will mean you can focus on enjoying your time as a pet owner.