The final part of the application process for adopting a pet from a shelter, rescue or individual often involves a home check. The prospective adopter may seem like a nice person who will love the pet -- and gave good answers on their application -- but you can never be assured that it's the right home situation unless you visit in person. Here are some steps for conducting a home check.
Consider the type of home, e.g. single family, apartment, multi-family home. If it's a single-family home, is there a fenced-in yard? If it's an apartment, do other tenants have pets and is it a pet-friendly property? If it's a multi-family home, do the other residents have non-aggressive pets and does the landlord or management allow pets?
Are both the exterior and interior of the house tidy and well kept? This often reflects how responsible the residents are. Responsible people are more likely to make responsible pet owners.
Note which areas of the house the pet will have access to, where the pet will sleep and where the pet will be left when the guardians aren't home, e.g. the backyard, the kitchen with a baby gate, a crate (if it's a crate, ask to see it to make sure it is large enough and has adequate ventilation). If they want to adopt a rabbit, for instance, ask to see the cage. If the prospective adopter works long hours, find out what provisions will be made for the pet, e.g. pet sitter, doggie daycare, a doggie/kitty door. If they plan to crate the pet, find out for how long at a time. Eight hours a day, five days a week is a long time for a dog to be crated without being let out. Use your judgement to determine whether it sounds excessive.
If there are children and other pet(s) in the home, observe how they interact with the pet. Will young children be supervised around the pet? Will teenagers be solely responsible for the pet's care? If they tell you that children under 21 will be responsible for the pet's care, that could be a red flag.
If there are other pet(s), observe their appearance, for instance, if the pet is overweight or underweight, if the nails are trimmed, if the pet has fleas or skin problems, what type of collar the pet has on and if there are ID tags.
Observe the behavior of the other pet(s) -- how they react to the family members and if they seem happy and content.
Note if there are toys around for the other pet(s), scratching posts for cats, windows with secure screens, a secure fenced-in yard if they plan to leave a dog unattended, and if there's a pool, check to see if it's gated.
Consider if you would feel comfortable leaving your own pet in this home. Explain that housebroken dogs may still have accidents when placed in a new environment and cats may go out of the litter box. Ask the applicant how they would react to accidents and any type of destructive behavior from their new pet. Explain that rehoming a pet can be stressful, so they should be absolutely committed before adopting the pet. See Resources below for a link to a Home Check Evaluation Form.
Never adopt a dog to anyone who plans to chain the pet outside. Never adopt a cat or dog to someone who wants an "outdoor" pet. If the pet will be living both inside and outside, make sure there will always be protection from harsh weather such as an enclosed patio or porch or an adequately insulated dog house. If it's a first-time pet owner, make sure they know the basics of caring for this type of pet -- whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit and so on.