Adoption – The Other Half of the Contract

Since we organized our non-profit adoption group five years ago, we’ve gone through some growing pains and have made some greyt changes over that period to help us operate better and work better on behalf of the greyhounds placed in our care.

We feel that we have been extremely successful in placing most greyhounds into good and forever homes. We are proud to report that we have consistently maintained a low return rate. That is because we screen adoption applications carefully, conduct home visits, talk to prospective adopters at length, provide lots of reading materials and other information to help an adopter learn more about the greyhound breed, profile and foster all of our hounds and make sure that the being placed fits into the adoptive home. The point is to find the dog its “forever” home.

All adopters must sign an Adoption Contract. The dictionary defines the word contract as : an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration. Since the law of contracts is at the heart of most business dealings, it is one of the three or four most significant areas of legal concern and can involve variations on circumstances and complexities. The existence of a contract requires finding the following factual elements: a) an offer; b) an acceptance of that offer which results in a meeting of the minds; c) a promise to perform; d) a valuable consideration (which can be a promise or payment in some form); e) a time or event when performance must be made (meet commitments); f) terms and conditions for performance, including fulfilling promises; g) performance.

We offer a lot to adopters. Our half of the adoption contract is to provide the adopter with a dog that will fit their application as well as the following:

Transportation of the dog to our group from our suppliers and/or foster caregivers
Spaying or Neutering
All up-to-date immunizations
All available veterinarian records
Worming and Flea/Tick treatment
Heartworm test
Track records/pedigree if available
Greyhound collar and lead
Greyhound muzzle
FFGR, Inc. Identification Tag and Number
A Copy of Retired Racing Greyhounds
for Dummies OR Adopting The Racing
Fast Friends Adopter’s Guide
Food to last through a period of transition
AND Lots of Surprises (like toys, bones, treats etc.)
Membership invitation to our private on line forum
Adoption folder with lots of special greyhound related handouts

AND we provide support for the adopter. We do not take the adoption fee and disappear. We feel that what we offer is an excellent package. The profiling we do is so precise, that we can find a dog for adopters with specific requirements (cat safe and child safe). We make sure that every dog that needs to be cat and child safe actually lives in a foster home with cats and children so that we know the dog will be a great fit.

We spend so much time trying to work with adopters to find the perfect dog for them, that sometimes we don’t think seriously enough about the other half of the contract! What should an adopter commit to the dog and our group in return for trusting them with a dog! What is their obligation which is outlined in the other half of the adoption contract? What does the adopter have to do to make the contract valid and work for both parties?

Here are the requirements we ask of adopters when they adopt. These are the elements of the contract that they are required to fulfill:

Adopter will provide all necessary care and kind treatment for the dog throughout its life
Adopter will always use a leash and not allow the greyhound to run free
Adopter will not abuse or neglect the greyhound; FFGR, Inc. can investigate any reports
Adopter will return the greyhound only to FFGR, Inc. (fee not returnable)
Adopter will train the dog to live in the home (i.e., alone training, behavioral training)
Adopter will not use the dog for business, medical or experimental purposes
Adopter will complete house training started by FFGR, Inc. in foster care
Adopter will keep all other animals in the house up to date with vaccinations
Adopter will monitor and keep safe all small animals coming in contact with the greyhound and provide proper training
Adopter will inform FFGR, Inc. if the greyhound is lost or injured

While the elements of the adoption contract are excellent and we feel attainable by all adopters, we often have no way of knowing for sure if the other half of the adoption contract is being fulfilled. Since we cannot go into every home and monitor what is happening, we can only encourage people to keep in touch with us and let us know how the dog is doing. We have no other way of proving that the dog is getting the proper food, medical care, and if people are even complying with the laws in their communities regarding animals.

It seems like the “other half of the contract” becomes unenforceable. While we fulfill our half of the contract (we will hear about it if someone has a problem), we seldom know what is going wrong until we receive word that a dog is being returned.

We have been pondering how to make sure that the other half of the contract is being fulfilled. We have tightened up our adoption requirements and are more careful about where we place dogs. We are now in the process of making sure that a dog that is not being properly cared for will be found and those returning dogs will have to return them in the condition they were in when adopted. That means: up to date with shots, clean teeth, etc. We are developing a more stringent and enforceable return policy that will become a part of the adoption contract that will have to be reviewed and agreed upon prior to adoption. By signing the adoption contract, the adopter will know what is expected when they adopt a greyhound. There will also be no uncertainties about what is expected at the time of a return. Adopters will be given the chance to “opt out” of the adoption if they feel that they cannot meet the requirements set forth in the adoption contract. Those signing the contract will be held accountable, legally, financially and morally.

The mission of our organization is to find forever homes for greyhounds retiring from the tracks when they are done racing. Our organization was never set up to pay for the responsibilities that the adopter agreed to when they adopted a dog from our organization. We know that sometimes there is a good reason for a return. But when we have a dog returned with vet care required, we must spend our hard earned funds fulfilling some one else’s half of the adoption contract. We are working hard to make sure this will not happen. We are making preparations to make sure that no returning dog will have to endure the trauma of being returned but also require vet care to make it healthy again. Our obligation is to the dogs first. And we will meet this goal head on.

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