How Open Ended Questions Can Help Increase Adoptions

by Kristen

How Asking Open-Ended Questions Can Help Increase Adoptions

Successful adoptions are about making a life-long match between pets and people. While trying to find the best possible homes for the pets in our care, adoption applications can sometimes unintentionally be structured to screen adopters out, rather than trying to learn more about a potential adopter and facilitate matchmaking.  As a result, some qualified adopters may inadvertently be ruled out.

How can this be avoided?  Asking the right questions and listening can help create better matches for your pets and increase adoptions. Approaching the adoption discussion as a way to find out more about a potential adopter as opposed to uncovering reasons why not to adopt, can help shift our mindset. Asking open-ended questions during the adoption process is a great approach. Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and encourage full, meaningful answers that can help you understand  more about a potential adopter and the home they could provide.  In addition to providing you with a more complete picture, they can help find those reasons why an adoption could work as opposed to focusing on finding reasons why it couldn’t.

Examples of open-ended adoption questions:

  •  What’s a typical day like in your household?
  •  What might a typical day look like for your pets?
  •  What qualities are you looking for in a companion animal?
  •  What behaviors would be difficult for you to tolerate or manage?
  •  How are your current pets? Do you need help introducing them to a newly adopted pet?


There are many resources available to help facilitate open adoptions, be sure to check out HSUS’s Adopters Welcome, Maddie’s Fund’s Removing Barriers to Adoption  learning track, and Petsmart Charities’ Report on Adoption Forum II which details best practices to boost adoptions and improve outcomes.  Keeping communications with potential adopters friendly, open and focused on great match making can not only help find those great homes, but also help build a good relationship with your supporters.