Has Adopting Pets Become Too Difficult?

Stacks of paperwork, proof of good credit and homeownership, sit-down interviews and home visits by agency representatives are all part of the game when it comes to adoption.

Even the four-legged, furry, slobbery kind.

While many may expect to have to jump through hoops to adopt a child, pet adoption agencies use similar protocols to ensure each orphaned pooch finds a safe and loving home.

Ellen DeGeneres recently came under fire after she gave Iggy, the dog she adopted from California-based Mutts and Moms animal shelter to her hairdresser. During an emotional segment on her show "Ellen," DeGeneres said that the pup had too much energy to coexist with her cats, and her hairdresser, who is also a friend of DeGeneres', was in the market for a new pet anyway.

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It was a match made in heaven, or so she thought.

When people at the animal shelter got news of Iggy's new living arrangements, they were furious and took the puppy back, claiming that DeGeneres had broken one of the rules of the contract that states that if owners can no longer care for an animal, they must return it to the shelter and not take it upon themselves to find it a new home.

And so began a war of words between DeGeneres and Mutts and Moms, both believing they did the right thing for the dog.

"I'm sure she reads the seven-figure contract she signs, and [the pet contract] says clearly there is no right to transfer," Keith Fink, the attorney representing the animal shelter, told ABCNEWS.com. "The [animal shelter] must approve the new adopter."

Fink, who said both he and his clients have received death threats since DeGeneres' on-air announcement, said the dog shelter has these rules in place so it can be certain the dog is getting the best care.

Mutts and Moms also has a policy, Fink said, that says children under the age of 14 cannot adopt small dogs like Iggy, due to the increased risk that they leave a door open or play with the puppy too roughly. So the family that Ellen had given the dog to -- which includes two young girls -- probably wouldn't have been approved as suitable pet owners in the first place.

"Ellen admits she made a mistake, but she really innocently thought she was doing a good thing," DeGeneres' publicist, Kelly Bush, told ABCNEWS.com. "Instead of the dog going back to a crate in a shelter, she found a great home for it."

The days when just about anyone could walk into a shelter and leave minutes later with a new best friend are over, but some may wonder if these animal shelters are going a little overboard with their contracts and screening ordeals. But ever since more rules were put into effect at shelters, pet adoption experts told ABCNEWS.com, more animals have been put in more stable homes. After all, they say, the rules and paperwork are in the best interest of the animals.

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"Five years ago, we didn't have an application process," said Paula Werner, program manager at Lake County Animal Care and Control in California. "It used to be that if you could breathe and cough up the money, you had a pet. It created a revolving door."

"Today we have better-qualified adopters," said Werner, who said her shelter does require paperwork and sometimes even home visits. "If you're not willing to spend the time on a three-page application, how are you going to spend time on a pet?"

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