Adoption Process

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) rescues and shelters all kinds of animals including dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, bunny rabbits, birds, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and more. See all of our dogs, cats, and small companion animals for adoption.

Learn more about adopting:

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is a great place to visit when considering animal adoption. We aren’t just your local animal shelter, we will help you find the right pet and understand how to care for your new companion, and are always available to offer advice even after your adoption is complete.

The League adopts animals to residents of Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.

All pets up for adoption receive basic health exams, tests and vaccinations. Plus, dogs are evaluated by shelter staff to better match dogs to adopters.

The Animal Adoption Process

Our pet adoption process is friendly and thorough, to ensure a lifetime of love and companionship. The adoption process begins when you visit our animals. Everyone in the household should help decide which animal is best suited for your home. Our trained staff and volunteers are always on hand to help you choose a pet that is right for you.

Plan to spend at least an hour- this is a big decision!

Once you have met your pet, you will complete an application and an adoption counselor will review it with you. The entire process may take an hour or a few days, depending on the animal.
Animal Adoption Requirements

Adoption Application: Address Verification & Rental Permission

Anything with your current name and address will do, such as a driver’s license, checkbook, utility bill or lease.

Also, if you rent, your landlord or management office must confirm that pets are allowed and any restrictions, such as weight limits, type and number of pets allowed, etc. We prefer written confirmation such as a lease or a statement on letterhead from the management office or owner.

Adoption Application: Family or Roommates Approval

Everyone in your home including all family members and/or roommates, must meet the animal so we know they all agree on size, breed, color, temperament, etc., and that no one is allergic. Even if the animal will belong solely to you, it will have an impact on each person in the house, so everyone must be comfortable with the adoption.

Adoption Application: Current Dog(s) Meeting

If you are adopting a second dog, both dogs must meet each other in a staff-supervised meeting at the shelter. This is to see how they interact with each other: do they play, fight, or ignore each other? Not all dogs like all other dogs; it’s better to find out first.

Adoption Application: Animal Stray Period

The law requires the shelter to keep strays on the premises for at least 5 to 10 days to give owners the time to find them. You cannot adopt a stray until this period is complete.

Adoption Application: First-come, First-served

Applications are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. If others are ahead of you, we will notify you if you become first in line, if someone else adopts the animal, or if its owner reclaims it. If you are unable to adopt your first choice, we will hold your application on file for three months.

Adoption Application: Home Visits/Pre-adoption Counseling

Pre-adoption counseling sessions are required for all dogs and some small companion animals. The visit, done only for the first fully approved applicant, is an educational session in which an adoption counselor will review helpful equipment and tools, the animal’s personality and behavior, and give the adopter an opportunity to ask any questions.

In some cases in-home visits may be required and/or other requirements may be necessary prior to adoption.

Adoption Application: Housing/cage Requirements

There may be other requirements, such as buying a cage or special housing if you are adopting a small companion animal.

Adoption Application: Spay/Neuter Requirement

Virginia law requires that all dogs and cats adopted from shelters be spayed or neutered. We also require that rabbits, ferrets (most ferrets are already sterilized), and chinchillas be spayed or neutered. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are neutered or spayed prior to adoption unless an animal has a medical condition that requires the surgery to be postponed.