Q: Why don't some of your adoptable animals have photos or descriptions?
Once an animal is available for adoption, it is immediately placed on our website. Five times each week, volunteers take the photos and write descriptions of the adoptable animals and update the website. Our old website only placed an animal online once a complete description and photo were available, therefore increasing the amount of time an animal waited before anyone knew it was available.

If you see an animal is available for adoption that you would like more information on, you can always visit the location it is at for more information. Unfortunately due to the large number of animals in adoption, we cannot usually answer phone calls about adoptable animals.

Q: I am writing a paper for a school project about the ARL - who do I contact?
We frequently get requests for interviews or information from students that are writing school papers, doing class speeches or working on projects. We are thrilled that so many students are making presentations and doing papers on animal welfare issues. To make it easy for students and as efficient as possible in meeting these requests, we have the following recommendations and procedures:

  1. Please allow a minimum of one week for response from staff at the ARL.
  2. Requests should go to the appropriate person related to the topic being covered as laid out below. Requests should be for an in-person meeting time or phone interview. Questions may be submitted ahead of time however, questions will not be answered via written form in email unless special arrangements are made with the ARL staff person to do so.

Questions relating to:

Animal Care | Statistics
Mick McAuliffe
ARL Operations Manager
(515) 473-9114

Animal Control | Cruelty Intervention
Josh Colvin
ARL ACC Operations Manager &
Cruelty Intervention Coordinator
(515) 284-6905

Behavior | Training
Mick McAuliffe
Pet Behavior &
Shelter Enrichment Coordinator
(515) 473-9114

Fundraising | Marketing | PR
Stephanie Filer
Manager of Special Gifts and Partnerships
(e-mail only)

Organizational | Careers
Tom Colvin
ARL Executive Director
Requests for meetings should be
directed to Justin Zerfas at:
(515) 473-9104

Michaela Devaney
Volunteer Coordinator
(515) 473-9110

*Any questions from media should be directed to Stephanie Filer at sfiler@arl-iowa.org.
*All other questions can be submitted here.


Q: What are your adoption fees?
View the ARL Adoption Fees. The ARL also has many adoption programs.

Q: How old do you have to be to adopt a pet from the ARL?
18 years old.

Q: How do I go about adopting a pet from the ARL?
The first thing to do is to evaluate the needs, wants and constraints of your home and family to determine what kind of pet is right for you. The ARL can help you with this.

Then, when you decide what you would like, a dog, cat or possibly a bunny, come out to one of the ARL adoption locations and visit with the animals. When you find the pet you like, an ARL staff member will bring the pet into one of the visitation rooms where you can interact with it. Then, if you decide you would like to take the pet home, you will be asked to fill out an adoption application.

On the application, the ARL will ask how you plan to care for the pet and make sure that you understand the needs of the pet. Then, if you are approved for adoption by one of the ARL's adoption counselors, the ARL medical staff will do a final examination of the pet and send you on your way with your newest family member.

View pets currently in adoption at the ARL.

Q: Wouldn't you find more homes if you gave the pets away for free?
There are many reasons the ARL doesn't give pets away for free.

The first is that it's important for people to recognize that pets have value. Also, the affordable adoption fees set by the ARL help to care for the animals the ARL takes in. The ARL spends much more per animal than is charged in the adoption fee. Each animal, which stays at the ARL anywhere from 1 day to several months, receives food, boarding, staff interaction, veterinary care (including vaccinations and spaying and neutering) and grooming, if needed. Click here to see specifics on pricing.

Q: Do you ever have purebred pets?
Yes, in fact the ARL estimates that 35% of the dogs it takes in are purpose bred.

Q: How many animals does the ARL take in each year?
In 2011, the ARL took in over 20,000 animals and that number continues to grow each year.

The ARL is working hard to reduce that number by encouraging the public to help control the crisis pet overpopulation by spaying or neutering and by making lifetime commitments to their pets.

Q: How long does the ARL keep animals?
The ARL has no set time limit for keeping animals. As long as an animal's health and temperament are good and as long as there is space, the ARL tries to find it a new home.

Q: Does the ARL have a veterinarian on staff?
A: Yes, in fact, we have two. Dr. Dan Campbell is the ARL's Chief Veterinarian. He spays and neuters thousands of pets each year. In addition, he provides general health care and emergency care for the ARL's pets. Dr. Kendall also spays and neuters animals at the ARL Main shelter and provides general health care and emergency care for ARL pets.

Q: Why are there so many “pit bulls” in adoption?
A: Short answer: “Pit bulls” are popular family dogs in Iowa, times are tough, and affordable housing is limited so that’s why we get “pit bulls” surrendered to us – and labs, beagles, mutts, etc.

Supporting Information:

  • Dogs visually identified as “pit bull” are the #5 most popular family dog in Iowa (labs are #1) – nationally “pit bull” dogs are in the top 10 most popular family dogs in 47 of 50 states.
  • The ARL’s dog population is representative of the dog community in our area (a lot of X breed in the community equals that same breed being found in the shelters).
  • The lack of pet-friendly housing is the #2 reason why we receive dogs each year – that applies to all breeds (it is nearly impossible to find an affordable rental in the metro for dogs over 20 lbs).
  • Times are tough and many people are finding themselves without jobs, homes, or other resources that force them to turn to the ARL as the last resort to find a home for their beloved pet.

Q: Are “pit bulls” harder to adopt?
A: Short answer:  No.

Supporting information:
“Pit bulls” are just dogs and all dogs are individuals.  We encourage adopters to look at each dog as an individual to see if it fits their lifestyle and family’s expectations of a canine companion.  Because of this, some individual dogs are harder to adopt than others, but that is not a breed thing, it’s about that do as an individual.  So far this year we’ve averaged a “pit bull” dog adoption every 3 days which only further demonstrates their popularity.

Q:  What about BSL (Breed Specific Legislation)?
A: People often think BSL is more prevalent than it actually is.  Nationally less than 4% of cities have bans and less than 10% of cities have regulations.  In the Metro, the only cities who have regulations on owning dogs visually identified as “pit bulls” are Des Moines proper, Altoona, and Pleasant Hill.  These cities just require some additional leashing and licensing requirements.  None of the other cities in the metro have any special regulations – they look at all dogs as dogs.  Additionally there are no breed bans in the Metro. 


Q: How old do I have to be to volunteer?
A: To handle animals, volunteers must be 10 years old. Volunteers under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Q: How do I become a volunteer at the ARL?
A: To become a volunteer, you must complete the ARL's volunteer orientation. ARL volunteer orientation is held monthly at the ARL's main shelter at 5452 NE 22nd St., Des Moines, IA. The orientation is 1.5 hours. View our events calendar to sign up for an upcoming orientation. If you have questions, please call the ARL's volunteer coordinator at (515) 473-9110.

Pet Behavior

Q: Do you offer pet training classes?
A: Yes, the ARL offers classes from puppy and beginner levels to advanced. All classes are taught highly trained ARL volunteers under the direction of the ARL's Pet Behavior & Enrichment Manager. Click here for more information.

ARL training classes emphasize positive reinforcement through clicker training.

Humane Education

Q: What is Humane Education and why is it important?
A: Humane Education is a process through which we assist children and adults in developing compassion; a sense of justice and respect for all living creatures. A primary goal of each tour is to identify animals as being worthy of kindness and to encourage people to act responsibly and be compassionate to their own pets and other animals they may encounter.

Research has repeatedly shown that children who are unkind to animals or who are raised in homes where animals are abused are particularly likely to be abusive to animals and to humans over time. In providing humane education programs, the ARL hopes to model an appropriate, respectful and mutually rewarding relationship between humans and animals.

Q: Are there any restrictions/guidelines for bringing a group to the ARL for a shelter tour?
A: Children must be at least five years old to attend a shelter tour.

Space is limited once we enter the shelter. In order for the participants to have the best experience at the ARL, groups are limited to 15 people at a time. Groups larger than 20 people will be split and will tour separately. Please allow an additional 20 minutes for these groups and please give at least four weeks notice.

Q: What kinds of animals will we see if we come for a tour?
A: The ARL receives cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, birds, ferrets, iguanas and many other species of animals. Many of these types of animals are regularly available for adoption. It should be explained to children that we are different from a pet store in that we don't "stock" animals for "sale." We receive and care for homeless animals in hopes of finding them new, forever, loving homes to "adopt" them. Because the population of the ARL changes daily, the ARL can not guarantee which species will be available in adoption on any particular day. Most every day, cats, dogs and rabbits are available for adoption.

Q: If we come for a tour, will we get to pet the animals?
A: During the tour, groups will see all of the animals in the adoption, but for safety reasons, we will not be taking animals out of the cages or handling them.

Q: How much does it cost to have a presentation/tour?
A: The ARL gratefully accepts donations to help offset the cost (staff time, materials, mileage) involved with our presentations. Donations of cash or items used in the shelter are both welcome.


Q: How long does the ARL keep animals?
A: The ARL has no set time limit for keeping animals. As long as an animal's health and temperament are good and as long as there is space, the ARL tries to find it a new home.

Q: Is the ARL a no-kill shelter?
A: The ARL is the only shelter in the area that never turns away an animal in need. We at the ARL do not refer to ourselves a "no-kill" shelter because that term is unregulated and loosely defined, and typically means that these places pick and choose who they allow in and close their doors when full.

Instead, we consider ourselves a "no-suffering" shelter because we accept and provide sanctuary to any animal that comes through our doors. We believe that every animal, even those too sick, too abused or too aggressive to be adopted deserve to be treated with compassion. So we don't pick and choose who to let in. When owners cast them aside, we offer these refugees a bed, food, clean kennels, medical care, and love. We assess all animals for health and temperament, and those we can't nurse back to health physically or mentally, we peacefully and respectfully euthanize.

Through our expanded community spay/neuter programs, our growing foster program, our creative adoption promotions, and financial support from individuals like you, we have not had to euthanize a healthy, adoptable animal for quite some time now. Every day we pull out all of the stops to keep this record, but it continues to be a daily challenge since people continue to not make a lifetime commitment to their pets and therefore they put the responsibility on us to do their job. Pet homelessness and overpopulation is a community problem that needs a community solution. It is not up to the shelters alone to make this happen, it is up to every individual and until people commit to adopt their pet from a shelter or rescue, spay or neuter their pet, and keep their pet for life, shelters will remain full.

There is no such thing as "no-kill" until we all can be "no-kill".

Here is a great article that explains many angles of animal rescue and explains why humane euthanasia is not the worst possible outcome for an animal. 

Q: What happens to the pets that don't get adopted?
A: The ARL does its best to find loving homes for the many thousands of pets that come through its doors each year. However, the pet overpopulation crisis has forced animal shelters to humanely euthanize animals because there simply aren't enough homes for them all.

The ARL keeps pets as long as their health and temperament are good and space is available. The ARL is working hard to reduce the number of pets that are euthanized by encouraging the public to spay or neuter their pets; by spaying and neutering every dog, cat, rabbit and ferret adopted from the ARL; and helping people to make lifetime commitments to their pets with pet behavior counseling and low-cost dog training classes.

Q: Does the ARL send pets that are not adopted to research?
A: No. The ARL has never sent pets for research and will not in the future.

Animal Abuse/Neglect

Q: What constitutes animal abuse/neglect.
A: When helping animals in abuse or neglect situations, it is important to first know and understand what constitutes animal abuse, neglect or torture under Iowa law. Many people have different standards of care for their pets. While someone may not love and care for their pet like you do, it may not be an abuse situation. Ultimately, it will be up to law enforcement, prosecutors, veterinarians and a judge to determine if a particular case is animal abuse/neglect or not, but the following is a basic guideline by Iowa law. View information on cruelty intervention.

Q: What should I do if I see someone neglecting or abusing an animal?
A: If you see someone abusing an animal, you may want to run over and tell the person to stop. Unless you know that confronting the person will change their behavior and not risk any harm to yourself, don't do it. You may be putting yourself at risk as well as the animal. Instead take photographs or videotape if you can. This evidence will be invaluable to investigators.

In the case of a child or children abusing an animal, the parent(s) may be unaware of the behavior. Animal abuse has been linked with other types of abuse in the home (child abuse, domestic violence). It is better to let law enforcement investigate.

If you are not successful contacting local law enforcement at (515) 283-4811, contact the ARL's cruelty intervention coordinator at (515) 284-6905.

Remember, it's important to report animal abuse/neglect. If you don't, who will? Helpless animals depend on you.