Adoption Process

How adoption works

Our friendly adoption staff will work with you to find the right dog, cat, small pet or barn pet for your home. Get started by checking our online adoption listings (updated every 15 minutes) or stop by one of our adoption locations in the Des Moines metro area.

It's important that you spend time getting to know prospective pets to ensure that they are a good fit for your family and lifestyle. If you have questions or wish to visit with an animal, just ask a staff member or volunteer for assistance. 

Once you have visited with a pet and decide you'd like to adopt, you will fill out an adoption application. The ARL's adoptions are first-come, first served, so if you wish to adopt an animal, you must be present at an ARL adoption location. We will not put animals on hold via a phone or email request. You may, however, print and fill out an adoption application form (at right) beforehand to make the paperwork process move more quickly. 

Once you turn in your application form, you will complete an interview with an ARL adoption counselor. At this time our staff will also go over the pet's medical and behavioral records, explain ARL policies, discuss services available to adopters, and help you choose the right pet supplies. After an adoption fee is collected, you can head home with your new, lovable pet!

Things to note

  • Adopters must be 18 years or older, have a valid driver’s license or picture ID, provide proof of address, and sign an adoption contract.
  • We recommend (and sometimes require) that pets be introduced to children living in the home and that dogs be introduced to any resident canines before adoption. We recommend bringing any children and dogs (if appropriate) to visit when you come to adopt. All adults living in the home must also know about the pet and agree that it can live there.
  • For safety reasons, the ARL requires that you take your pet home with a leash/collar (dogs) or carrier (cats and small pets). You may purchase these items in advance or purchase them at the time of adoption at the ARL for a reduced price.
  • Please allow at least one to two hours to complete the adoption process. It may be longer or shorter depending on how busy we are at the time.
  • All adoption services end 30 minutes before the ARL closes, so please plan to arrive at least one hour before closing if you plan to visit with the animals.
  • The ARL may require other information or require that other steps be taken prior to adoption to ensure a pet is the right match for your family. The ARL only adopts animals as family pets, not for consumption or research. The ARL reserves the right to deny any adoption for any reason.

Adoption fees

Thousands of animals come through the Animal Rescue League of Iowa's doors every year, but no matter how they got here or where they came from, they're provided with shelter, nourishing food, individualized medical treatment, behavioral rehabilitation when necessary, and most important: love.

Dogs

Your adoption fee includes a general physical exam by our medical staff, spay/neuter surgery, initial vaccinations, deworming, microchip/tag, heartworm testing, free behavior and training advice, 10% off ARL Animal House store purchases for the life of the pet, and 10% off ARL training classes. Cost to do all of the above for a "free" dog or puppy? $300-$400.

  • Puppies under 6 months old: $250 (not eligible for discounts)
  • Dogs under 6 years old and under 25 lbs: $200 (Bonded Buddy pair: $225)
  • Dogs under 6 years old and over 25 lbs: $125 (Bonded Buddy pair: $150)
  • Dogs 6 years or older: $60 (Bonded Buddy pair where one or more dogs is 6 years or older: $85)
  • Dogs in the Shelter Dog Getaway Program: $60

Cats

Your adoption fee includes a general physical exam by our medical staff, spay/neuter surgery, initial vaccinations, deworming, fecal testing, microchip/tag, feline leukemia testing, dental surgery/cleaning (if needed), and 10% off ARL Animal House store purchases for the life of the pet. Cost to do all of the above for a "free" cat or kitten? $670 minimum.

  • Kittens under 6 months old: $100
  • Cats 6 months or older: Name Your Price above $50 (Bonded Buddy pair where one or more cats is 6 months or older: $75) 

Small Pets

  • Chinchilla: $75
  • Degu: $25 (or adopt two for $35 or three for $40)
  • Ferret: $50 (Bonded Buddy pair: $75)
  • Guinea Pig: $15
  • Hamster, Gerbil, Mouse, Rat: $7.50
  • Hedgehog: $50
  • Rabbit: $50 (Bonded Buddy pair: $75)
  • Sugar Glider: $150 (or adopt two for $175)

Birds

  • Amazon: $500
  • Canary, Dove, Parakeet, Pigeon: $10
  • Cockatiel: $40 (Bonded Buddy pair: $65)
  • Conure: $150
  • Finch: $7.50
  • Lovebird: $50 (or adopt two for $75)
  • Parrotlet: $75
  • Quaker Parrot: $150
  • Senegal Parrot: $150

Reptiles & Amphibians

  • Anole: $10
  • Fire-bellied Toad: $7.50
  • Gecko: $7.50
  • Hermit Crab: $7
  • Iguana: Small (under 3 feet) $15, large (3 feet and over) $30
  • Turtle: $15 (Bonded Buddy pair: $25)

Horses & Other Barn Pets

Fees vary. Click here for more information.

Adoption programs

Pets for Seniors

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation believes in the positive power of pet companionship for seniors, so they have partnered with the ARL to make pet ownership more affordable. Through the PFE program, individuals ages 60 and older can get $50 off the adoption fee of a cat or dog of any age. The ARL's normal adoption process still applies, and adoptions cannot be combined with other offers. This program is offered as funds are available.

Rent-A-Cat

The ARL's Rent-A-Cat program allows potential adopters to "test-drive" a cat for 60 days to make sure it is the right fit before making the decision to adopt. The program gives the cat and all human and animal family members time to get to know each other to ensure that everyone is set up for success. Any time within the 60 days, the family can adopt the cat for just $55, or bring the cat back to the ARL. Cats must be 8 months or older to participate. The ARL reserves the right to deny any foster or adoption.

Happy Cat Prescription Program

Take two and you won't need to call us in the morning! Through the Happy Cat Prescription Program, adopters can adopt one cat for a regular adoption fee and adopt a second cat for just $25. Both cats must be 6 months or older and live in the same household upon adoption. The ARL has historically encouraged adopting cats/kittens in pairs or multiples because it is emotionally healthy for them to have feline friends. We have found some behavior issues can easily be solved or never occur when a cat has another cat to bond with. 

Paws for Patriots

Through this program, all U.S. veterans can adopt a dog or cat for half the normal adoption fee and get $25% off ARL dog training classes. Thank you to all who serve and have served our country!