Before starting a Petfinder search, it's good to consider everything from your schedule and obligations to what colors and coat textures appeal to you. Although it's easy to search widely on Petfinder, it's better to have an idea of what you're looking for. The sad reality is that there are so many animals in need of a home, most adopters can imagine and then locate their dream pet.
Let's follow "Jane Doe" through the Petfinder process.
Jane is looking for a dog. She had dogs as a child and enjoyed the companionship. Jane wants a dog that looks intimidating because she lives alone, but it must also be good with strangers because she often has visitors. Jane jogs regularly and wants a dog that can go with her. Jane works full-time and doesn't have a lot of time to spend on housebreaking or training a new puppy. She also decides that she doesn't want to deal with a lot of grooming, so she'd like a dog with short hair. Jane looks through some dog books and decides she likes the look and style of greyhounds, but wants something a little more rugged. Armed with this information, Jane heads to Petfinder.com.
There is a basic search bar on the left side of the page. If Jane decides to do a more elaborate search, she can click the "advanced search" link beneath the basic search form. The first step is to enter her zip code. Jane lives in Lexington, Kentucky, so she starts looking locally. Jane specifies "greyhound" and hits search. Immediately, she gets a list. Some of these dogs are purebred greyhounds, and some of them are mixes. They vary a lot in size and age.
There are also a fair number of Italian greyhound mixes, but these are all smaller than what Jane is looking for. Jane looks at a few pictures but there are too many choices. She decides to refine her search so that it only includes adult dogs, then she decides to use the "advanced search" function so she can limit the search to exact breed matches for "Greyhound." This time she gets fewer listings.
If Jane had been searching Labradors or another very popular breed, she might have needed to refine her search further, but since greyhounds are not as common, she gets a manageable number. Also, all searches begin with animals closest to the entered zip code and work their way outward. Jane clicks on the photo or listing to read more about each animal. She can click on the group name to see the group's home page and read about their policies.
Jane likes the look of a dog named Danny Boy.
He's a year-old greyhound mix who is good with other dogs. He likes playtime and quiet time -- Jane likes that idea, so she puts in an application.
This step varies from group to group, but in this case she can use the contact information listed in Danny Boy's biography to get an application, or she can go to the rescue's Web page and submit one online. The shelter then screens the application and decides that Jane would be a good match for Danny Boy. They arrange to meet with her, Jane adopts Danny Boy, and they live happily ever after.
As mentioned above, adoption policies vary by group; most groups list them on the group's home page. (NOTE: Danny Boy is a real dog, but alas, Jane is not a real person.)
We'll look at Petfinder's effect on pet adoption in the next section.