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Dog Walker

Admissions Policy

What is Pets Lifeline's animal admissions policy?

Open vs. Limited Admission:

'Open admission’ typically means that a shelter takes in any animal in need, including very elderly, ill, aggressive, or injured animals that it might not be possible to rehome. Frequently these are municipal animal control agencies, although some private organizations also choose to be Open Admission.


‘Limited admission’ shelters usually accept animals that match their organization’s unique skills or mission – some focus on only adoptable animals that they can rehome quickly, while others might concentrate on special needs animals that their local open admission shelter doesn’t have the resources to care for. Many private shelters are limited admission. Depending on their governing laws some municipal agency shelters may also restrict owned animals that come in.


While PLL is categorized as a limited admission shelter, In reality this issue isn’t cut and dried, and in our approach, it’s nuanced by the individual circumstances of each animal and what is best for them. We work hard with all our local and state partners to try and ensure that there is a place for every animal in need within our communities, working together to save as many lives as possible.

Our Policy

  1. Stray animals - We accept all strays from Sonoma Valley.

    1. Stray animals without tags or microchip - held for 7 consecutive days (starting the day after intake)

    2. Stray animals with identification - held 14 consecutive days (starting the day after intake)

    3. After a stray hold is complete the animal becomes property of PLL and by law, must be spay/neutered

    4. PLL must refer potential animal abuse cases to animal control, which for both City and County is under the jurisdiction of SCAS

    5. PLL is required by law to microchip all stray animals who are brought in.

    6. If an animal is deemed dangerous, we call upon our SCAS partners expertise.

  2. Owned animals support and rehoming - Our goal is to provide resources so that the animal does not need to spend time in a shelter.

    1. In the first instance we will help to resolve financial or behavioral issues that led to the need for rehoming.

    2. We will work with owners to give advice on rehoming and offer an opportunity to post animals on the rehoming page of our website.

    3. We accept owner surrenders from within the Sonoma Valley on a case-by-case basis depending on available space at our shelter and a behavioral evaluation.

  3. Transferred Animals

    1. All Transferred animals are held for 3 days for evaluation.​

    2. They are put up for adoption once health check is cleared and the are spayed/neutered.

  4. Community cats - We accept community cats for health checks and spay/neuter. These animals are then returned to the location where they were found. If, for animal welfare reasons, they cannot be returned to the place they were found, we will work to adopt them out or transfer them to another organization that specializes in placing community cats.

  5. Animal transfers into PLL - We will bring animals into PLL from other shelters in the following circumstances: (see transfer and transports for more info)

  1. We have a partnership with the organization looking to transfer the animal

  2. We have available space / staff and can maintain additional space for incoming community strays

  3. The animal is not deemed dangerous or severely ill


For a full list of our partners, visit our Policies and Positions page. 

Dog Habitat Configuration


Pets Lifeline’s shelter and dog habitat was designed with the guidance of UC Davis and expert shelter and kennel designers to serve the needs of the Sonoma Valley animal population and meet the quality of care each animal deserves.


The dog kennel area is designed with configurable kennel walls that can create a maximum of 19 individual smaller kennels.  The Kennels are re-configurable to adjust to the size of dogs that we have - in order to provide each dog with the best quality of care.  They are divided into 3 distinct holding areas that serve specific purposes.   It is important to segregate dogs to maintain a healthy and safe shelter environment. 

  • Typically, we are configured with 16 total kennels reserving space for several large dogs.

  • All kennels have both indoor and outdoor areas connected by a gate.

  • Smaller bonded pairs can sometimes share a kennel.


1 – Adoptable animals – 8 Kennels 

  • These are dogs that are available for adoption and available for the public to see online and meet in person with a submitted application. Canine Adopter Survey  PLL Adoptable Dogs  Fear Free Shelters

  • Additional adoptable dogs may be in foster homes and require an appointment to meet and greet with potential adopters. PLL Foster Program.  We need to maintain some available kennels for dogs that are in foster should they need to come to us. 

  • Some newly adoptable dogs may already have a potential owner waitlisted for interview and not posted online


2 – Stray Holds – 5 Kennels 

  • These are stray dogs that we are working to reunite with their owners.  

  • Strays are not posted online as available.

  • Most strays are reunited with owners, but after a legally required stray hold period they become property of PLL.  Admissions Policy 

  • They then move into our adoptable kennels and are posted for adoption unless we already have a match for an adopter in our waitlist. (See below)


3 – Medical Isolation – 3 Kennels

  • Reserved for dogs that are under medical care and observation.  

  • Situations could include surgery, illness, or infectious diseases like Kennel Cough where we must be extremely careful to isolate them from all other dogs in the kennel.  If one dog is contagious then no other dogs can be put into medical isolation at that time. 

  • These dogs are not posted for adoption until they are fully recovered.


These are all in our Admissions Policy


Capacity Limits:

Our shelter was designed to support the needs of the local Sonoma Valley Animal Population.  In rare cases where capacity reaches high levels we engage in several strategies to keep open space for our community:

1 – We call on our foster program members:  PLL Foster Program

2 - We reach out to our local shelter partners:  Transfers and Transport  

3 - We may allocate stray or medical isolation kennels for holding adoptable animals.  However, this is not a best practice as it limits our ability to handle illness, outbreaks, and take in new strays from our local community.


Waiting Lists:

Many times, we have a waiting list for dogs and applications on file that fit profiles of new dogs.  These dogs may go directly to the waiting applicants for a match and hopefully into their new home.  They spend little time in the shelter and may never show up online for adoption.  This is always the best-case scenario when animals move quickly through the shelter to their new home.   


Shelter Utilization:

There is no exact percentage a shelter should be occupied.  The most important thing is the animals are receiving the best quality of care and moved as quickly as possible into new homes / foster with minimal time spent in the shelter.  Our #1 goal is always to support the mission of serving our local Sonoma Valley community but when resources allow, we utilize excess capacity to help our network of shelter partners in times of need.  Transfer and Transport

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