No more pick-a-pet-and-run at the D.C. Dog Pound. If you want a dog or a cat, you've got to adopt it.

Before new rules went into effect recently, "It was put $2 on the counter and off you go," said animal warden Ingrid Newkirk. "We were contributing to the problem" of pets as public nuisances, abused pets and animal overpopulation.

Now, pets must be formally adopted through a two- or three-day procedure. Officials at the pound will conduct interviews in the pet's prospective home and "inspect what would be the new living quarters," Newkirk said.

"In interviewing prospective adopters, we are asking them if their lifestyle allows them the time and patience that this pet would need for the next 10 or 15 years," she added. "We want to make sure it's a commitment and not just a spur-of-the-moment decision. We are attempting to find permanent good homes for the dogs we have here so they will never become public nuisances."

To adopt a pet, people will be asked for some identification and must agree that they will adhere to what amounts toa pets' bill of rights.

Animals will be placed as household pets only, Newkirk said, and "no dogs can be kept chained up." Chaining animals in the city is a "massive problem," she said, which "usually ruins the disposition of the animal" and results in "many cases of neck injuries" when the dog are kept improperly chained.

"It seems that it's very easy to forget a dog that's chained" Newkirk said, "so if it gets injured or sick it may take longer to notice." The fee to adopt an animal is still $2, plus an $8 license fee for District residents.

All female animals must be spayed, although male animals are not required to be neutered. "We're dealing with an enormous problem of overpopulation," Newkirk said.

It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 dogs in the city, and that more than half of them "either run loose or are stray," Newkirk said.

Because there is "no enforcement of the licensing laws" here, Newkirk said, only 12,000 dogs have licenses.

Several reduced-fee spaying programs exist in the District, Newkirk said. Information on the programs is available by calling the Washington Humane Society at 333-4010.

Prospective pet owners must also give "some assurance that all animals will be provided with immediate veterinary care if they become sick or injured," and animals must have "good nutritious food every day and fresh water at all times."

Dogs must have "an acceptable means of shelter from the weather," such as a weatherproof dog house, and "there must be provision for exercising the dog, either on a leash or in a fenced yard."

Under the new rules, some wellmeaning people won't be able to adopt pets from the pound. The pound will check with resident managers of apartments to see if pets are welcome before apartment dwellers will be able to adopt a pet. Puppies who are not housebroken cannot be adopted if no one is at home with them during the day.

The adoption procedure was established after two recent Dog Pound surveys. In one, pound officials checked on 25 previous placements and 24 of those pets were "found to be in unsuitable environments," Newkirk said. All but one pet was improperly chained, running lose, biting, dead, sick without veterinary care or could not be located. In a second check of 16 animals, only four pets were being properly cared for, she said.