Dogs, cats, and other companion animals are an important part of many people’s lives. In 2021, more than half (51%) of UK adults owned a pet and 26% of UK adults had a dog, with an estimated population of 9.6 million pet dogs.
At PACT we are often asked if owning a pet is a barrier to adopting a child. Some people are anxious that they will be asked to rehome their pets before they can be approved to adopt, but the reality is that this rarely happens.
When you are embarking on the adoption process, there are some things that you will need to be mindful of when it comes to owning a pet, but usually having a domesticated animal in the home can be a positive, enriching experience for the whole family.
Will my pets be taken into consideration during the adoption process?
At stage two of the adoption assessment process, there will be seven to eight home visits from your allocated PACT social worker. Your social worker will be finding out a great deal about you, your life, your past and your home, including your pets. If you do currently have any, there will be a pet evaluation carried out as part of the assessment.
During this process, the social worker will be looking for evidence that your pets are well cared for, trained, not dangerous to children and have an appropriate status within the home.
All pets will be considered in the assessments – from dogs, cats, rabbits and small furries, to exotic pets such as reptiles and snakes!
Clearly, some animals are easier than others to keep out of the way of children, but animals that roam the house will by their nature, have more interaction with a child and need to have a more thorough assessment.
Dog assessments are the most complex because the risk to children from a dog is greater than a pet like a rabbit. If you have several dogs or own a breed that is considered riskier, you may have to pay for a specialist assessment.
You will be asked where your dog sleeps, how often they are walked, where they go to the toilet, how they behave with other people including children, and if you have more than one pet, how they interact with each other.
Cats are rarely an issue, but your social worker will want to check that they are not likely to bite or scratch a child.
What else should I consider during the adoption process?
When you are in the linking and matching stage of the adoption process, you will need to consider if the child or children has been around pets, or if this is likely to be a new experience for them. If their foster carer doesn’t have pets, you should find out if they visit other households where pets are present.
Another thing to think about is the impact the arrival of a child may have on your pet, and how they might react to the changes that will occur in your home.
Some useful tips are:
- If you think you won’t be able to manage long dog walks when you first have your child placed, introduce a dog-walker before the child arrives so your dog can adapt.
- If your pet is used to having the freedom of the whole house but you want to limit their access to certain areas when your child arrives, start introducing this well in advance.
- Depending on the location of your child or children, you may be away from home for lengthy periods of time – ensure you have made arrangements for your pets during this period.
- Get your pets used to the noise of a child or children by playing video clips, having some noisy toys around the house, or spending time with friends’ children.
- If your dog does have some behaviours that might be an issue in an assessment, it may be worth investing in some specialist training in advance.
- Teach your child or children how to behave around animals and to respect their needs.
There will be many benefits of owning a pet as well as becoming a parent. Children who have suffered trauma or loss can really thrive on having a pet as a companion, and there is evidence that owning a pet can boost confidence, self-esteem, compassion and empathy.
Being a pet owner is certainly not a barrier to adoption, but it’s important to plan ahead and to know that the adoption process is designed to ensure that you, your adopted child or children, and your pet can live safely and happily together.