Adopting a Puppy or Dog From a Rescue Group
Our definition of a rescue group is basically any formal or informal organization that takes in homeless pets and places them into foster homes until they can be adopted into their forever homes. These groups can vary anywhere from a large non-profit breed rescue that serves the entire nation with multiple regional coordinators, to one or two individuals who simply go to animal shelters and pull selected animals from there to bring into their own homes to foster until they can find permanant homes for these animals. Their goals are similar to animal shelters, but they function in very different ways. The biggest difference is that the animals live in foster homes instead of in cages inside a shelter. Because these groups vary so much from each other, some of the pros and cons listed below only apply to some of these groups.
- Feedback From Foster Homes - When a dog is living inside a foster home, the foster family gets to know the dog very well and can give you a lot of information about the dog's temperament, likes, dislikes, or any possible behavioral issues. These are very valuable information when you are choosing a dog, especially if you are adopting a mixed breed. With pure breeds, even though there are individual variations within the breed, at least you have a rough idea what the temperament is likely to be for the given breed.
Happier/Healthier Dogs - As you can probably imagine, these dogs living inside real homes tend to be happier and more relaxed than their counterparts in shelters. There is also a smaller chance of them picking up contagious diseases from other dogs as might happen inside a shelter. The resident dogs living in the foster homes tend to all be up-to-date on their shots and heartworm and parasite preventives. Add to that the fact that a less stressed dog will have a stronger immune system, and you can see how these dogs are more likely to be healthy and happy. In addition, people who go to the trouble of caring for a foster dog tend to be loving and experienced dog owners. This creates a very positive experience for these dogs and can help them settle into their new permanent homes more smoothly.
- Purebreds Available - If you would like to adopt a purebred dog, you are much more likely to find one through a breed-specific rescue group than through your local animal shelter. There are fewer purebred dogs that are brought to shelters to begin with, plus many purebred dogs get pulled out of shelters by these rescue groups. Because all the volunteers who work with these breed-specific rescue groups have a special affection for their chosen breed, and tend to be very knowledgeable about the breed's specific needs, they can take much better care of these dogs and have a better chance of finding the right homes for them than animal shelters can.
- Mentorship - When you adopt from a breed-specific rescue group, you get the additional benefit of mentorship from the rescue volunteers who are experienced with the breed. Similarly, if you adopt a mixed breed dog, the volunteers who are experienced with dogs in general are usually happy to answer any questions and provide any guidelines you might need. Almost all rescue groups will take back their dogs if the adoption does not work out. But they make every effort to improve the chances of the adoptions working out, and part of that equation is to help the new dog owners in every way that they can.
- Higher Adoption Fees - The adoption fees charged by rescue groups tend to be higher than animal shelters, especially by breed-specific rescues. These groups spend a lot of money, time, and effort to take care of these dogs and prepare them for adoption, and are certainly not making money off of these adoptions. They simply need to cover their expenses, since they are not subsidized by the local governments the way many animal shelters are, nor do they have the financial backings of large humane organizations such as the ASPCA. The positive side of this is that because you are likely getting a happier and healthier dog, you might be saving money in the long run in the form of reduced medical expenses and reduced need for costly intervention for behavioral issues. Of course this is only what is typical, and there can be exceptions.
- Inconvenient - It takes more effort to contact a rescue group, go through their application process, and arrange to meet the dogs than to simply walk into an animal shelter or pet store anytime you feel like it. There is no argument that there is more work involved when you adopt a dog this way. However, bringing a dog into your life is a huge decision and a huge responsibility. Slowing down the process and making you work for it is actually a blessing in disguise. The best things in life don't come easily. Going through this process will help you understand what pet ownership is all about and help you become a better pet owner.
- Application Process - The application process can be tough with many of these rescue groups. You might sometimes feel like you need to give up your first-born in order to get a dog from them.
Most of them require a lengthy questionnaire, a telephone interview, a vet reference (if you have had a pet before) and several personal references who can vouch for your fitness as a dog owner, and a home visit by a rescue volunteer to make sure you are able to provide a good home for a dog. In this process, the volunteers will also try to get an idea which of their dogs might be the best match for you. In the end, the dog they recommend for you might not be the one you thought you wanted from browsing through the description of the available dogs on their website. A certain level of trust needs to be built between you and the rescue group in order to achieve a succesful adoption. Please try not to be offended if some of these rescue groups seem too demanding. Remember that they have poured a lot of love and time and money into these dogs, and are only trying to ensure a good outcome for everyone involved, including you.
Page Last Updated: October 4, 2021