This post is meant to be my personal thoughts and experiences with adopting a rescue dog. It is NOT an attack or reflective of all rescues – I personally know some amazing rescues that are fair and ethical in their placements and do not have such strict policies – they just did not have a good match for my family at this time.
If you do not want to read the whole post – skip to the IN SUMMARY section below to get the overview!
I have been in the rescue/shelter world for many years – I have photographed adoptable dogs and cats, I have volunteered at fundraisers, I have donated time to build websites and I have spent time being a part of various adoption marketing campaigns like this calendar fundraiser. I love doing these things and always enjoyed being a part of this world.
I knew overall there were a lot of kinks in the rescue system and I had seen stories of potential adopter frustrations with rescues – but now, I have first hand experience with rescues as a potential adopter and what I am seeing is definitely not a good thing for our homeless pets.
For almost 14.5 years I have had 2 dogs that we adopted in 2001 from our local SPCA – back then I did not even know “rescues” existed. I had seen an ad somewhere for the SPCA and just went there to find our fur kids.
Ginger & Riley were litter mates and we fell head over heels in love with them the moment we saw them. We had just moved into our first house and we had never owned dogs before. Even as a kid, I never had dogs. But I knew I was ready!
We went to the front desk of the SPCA stated we wanted to adopt 2 puppies. They gave us an application – asked for personal references (which they did check) an adoption fee and about an hour later we were on our way with our new fur kids.
NO DRAMA. NO INQUISITION. NO STRESS
Fast forward 15 years. My girls Ginger & Riley have both moved on to Rainbow Bridge. They passed within 7 months of each other and my heart aches for them everyday, but I know they would want me to help another fur friend. So, I started my search for a new family member – maybe 2 if we found the right fit.
The Rescue Experiences
Rescue Number One – Three
This is where things get interesting – and upsetting for me. I swore I wanted to support a rescue – and I picked a few to specifically look for dogs since I was already familiar with them and knew they were good and reputable rescues. There are a few other rescues in this article that I did not have any affiliation with as well but saw dogs with them that were interesting to me.
I look on Facebook everyday for potential dogs to bring home.
I note the ones I am interested in and do more research to find out additional information about those that seem to be a fit. (Yes, I do MY homework before I even contact the rescues – I read comments, look at web pages, PetFinder and any other resource to learn more about the dog and the rescue themselves if I am not familiar with them.)
Then, if I find I am interested in a dog I go back to Facebook and leave a comment on the pets post stating my interest- and follow up with an email if they have an email or website.
I did that THREE times this week – THREE different dogs – THREE different rescue groups.
You know how many responses I received either through Facebook or email. ZERO. NADA. NILCH.
Now let me say – I get it, they are busy – I have seen it first hand. New cats, new dogs, vet bills, transportation, adoptions, fosters – yes, there is a lot of work to do.
Rescues are usually run by volunteers – women and men who have full time jobs and families and animals of their own. I GET IT. But I strongly believe responding to a potential adopters inquiry be one of the top tasks on a long list?
Even a “hey we are busy but will get back to you” email would be great. Or a “hey that pooch is no longer available how about this dog instead who is similar to what you are looking for”. Or even “hey you suck go away”.
GIVE ME SOMETHING.
Rescue Number Four – This Makes Me Sad
Now we will move on to the FOURTH rescue I reached out to. This was a dog I REALLY thought might be the absolute perfect match so I jumped right on their website and submitted an online application for her.
Now let me preface that this is a BIG rescue and I know they do amazing work. This is NOT AT ALL a bash on them – it is just about bringing awareness to some big issues in this process – and no, I will not mention any names.
So let’s begin on the application that has over 100 questions, yes I actually counted them – I stopped at 100.
The field I had the most trouble with was the Drivers License number field. There should be no reason for me to have to give such personal information on an initial application ….. but I did. (When I later told them about my issues with their process and privacy concerns they noted the DL was not required – although on the form it is marked as required. They also let me know they process over 1500 applications a year and have few people complain about these issues, so clearly I am not the norm, although my FB friends tell me I am the norm.)
So I submit the super long application and wait.
Surprisingly, someone got back to me the same day – welcomed me to the rescue and sent along ANOTHER form for me to complete – they are really nice! But seriously, you need more than what those 100 questions can provide?
So I open the attachment and here are some of the questions:
- Because I am self-employed they may have to see my tax return – yeah, um no way!
- They need my husbands employer and contact name and number to verify employment – um no way!
- Because we own a home they require a copy BOTH of our drivers license numbers and utility bill.
OK, I get it – you need to do your due diligence. But you know what, there is NO REASON to need any of my financial documents. If you are not the IRS, my mortgage company or my accountant – you are not touching it in this day and age of fraud and theft.
Oh, and if you take maybe 10 minutes, you can look us up online. You can look on LinkedIn to verify our employment. You can look on Facebook to see our lifestyle and how we live – and even jump on Twitter to see what we enjoy tweeting about. You can even check to verify if we actually own the home where we live – it is public record!
Then there are our references we supplied and the vet to whom I have paid probably over 5K dollars in the last year to care for our senior girls and get them cremated and brought home with us.
They stated that “financial stability” is why they ask for these things. Seriously? Call my vet. That is proof of my “financial stability”.
I also had a FB friend write this on my post about this issue with this reply which I thought was a great point – and she is also very active in animal rescue:
“…but I’ve seen some financially stable people, not turn out to be the best adopters and the ones that may be living pay check to pay check, are awesome and provide everything they can for their babies. Point is, financially stable doesn’t guarantee anything. Id be looking into other things besides that.”
So there is a lot more to consider than how much money I make – which is really none of a rescues business.
So instead of doing their own bit of research and reaching out to my references – they lost a great adopter for a dog who has been in foster for almost a year. Who suffers? The dog and the dogs that are all missing opportunities for families because of these crazy requirements.
Rescue Number Five
Then there is the FIFTH rescue I reached out to.
Another dog that I really thought may be right for us, although the dog from rescue FOUR above was my first pick – this one was a close second. But this was a rescue I had no familiarity with — so my guard was up.
Their application was MUCH less annoying – only about 30 or so questions and nothing overly personal. It was a good application process. Although I am realizing how frustrating it is to have to complete an application for EVERY rescue. There needs to be a simpler way.
I was emailed back the next day.
I was declined right away because I only have a 4 foot chain link fence securing my yard. Yes – because I wanted a pit bull, they require a 6 foot wood fence, you know because pit bulls are such great climbers on chain link fences. Really? Even though I clearly noted I would not leave them un-attended on my application? Even though I have lived in my home for 8 years with my 2 pit bull girls and not once did they ever get out.
Rescue Number Six
Then there is the SIXTH rescue I WANTED to reach out to.
But I did not because of this line on their application:
“By signing this application we understand that XXXXX Rescue has the right at any time to visit the home of the adopter to ensure the dog is well cared for and still in the home.”
Ummm…….no……..not…..never! I will send you a video if you ask, but you will not police my home. They also noted that they would not adopt a pit bull to a home with a child under the age of 18! Really?
Rescue Number Seven
This one was the strangest in my opinion. I emailed an inquiry about a dog who was said to be kid and cat friendly to a rescue and they responded right away with information and wanted to know if the dog would ever be around children. I advised that my daughter is 13 and that occasionally we have friends with toddlers over – but day to day it is just my daughter.
We were DENIED.
I responded back asking why – but have yet to receive a response.
I GIVE UP!
See Why I Think Rescues May Be Helping Breeders?
Yeah I know, it sounds like a stretch – but it is the truth. I have been doing some research to see just how big an issue this is, I mean I knew there were issues but I never imagined it was as big as it is. I have seen so many get turned down by so many rescues and even shelters – that they just went to a breeder or pet store where they can buy a dog in less than a half hour.
These are just a few of the comments I found from just one article:
“I tried for 18 months to adopt a dog when I moved to New Jersey. I already had a dog, who was happy and healthy who I’ve had for 11 years, but I wanted a companion for him while I worked all day. Every single agency said they couldn’t let me have a dog because the dog would be home alone all day. I tried to explain that no, they wouldn’t be alone…they would have a companion there in my dog. When I told them I had to work to support myself AND my dog, they just denied the applications. So I bought a dog from a private seller.”
“So after 1-1/2 years I gave up and bought my second dog from a private seller. She is, believe it or not, exactly as healthy and happy as my older dog!”
I’m getting very fed up with rescue organizations and will probably end up buying from a breeder though it’s the last thing I want to do. By all means, check out the adopters, but be a little realistic.”
“This is spot on for our animal shelter. We tried to adopt a dog about two months ago and we were denied. Their reason was because we have a 12 year old dog that isn’t spayed and we work during the day. We really wanted another dog so we bought a puppy instead.”
Even people like Nathan Winograd have seen firsthand the difficulties in finding a rescue dog when he was denied because he did not have a doggie door. Really? I would think most would NOT want you to have a doggie door.
So you have a man who has dedicated his life to animal welfare reform – you have me who has lovingly cared for her own and spent countless hours helping homeless animals – aren’t we the type of people rescues WANT?
Where I Am Going From Here
Well, clearly rescuing a dog is a process that I am already frustrated with and I am only a week in. Next week I will be going to several shelters to visit some dogs and expect a much less stressing and intrusive experience. Two of the shelters I plan to visit I already know people there and assure me due diligence is done in prospective adopters – but it is not as intrusive as I have seen in rescues.
Because of my strong no buy attitude – I of course will not resort to a pet store or breeder, but if I was not so involved in rescue – I probably would. Even some people who think the akcmarketplace is safe – may think again after they read the post we wrote about them. Buying a dog just should not be an option!
I know this was long but I wanted to give a full picture of what I went through to adopt a dog.
But here it is in a nutshell:
About me: animal advocate working in rescue for over 10 years – mom of 2 pitties who passed at 14 and 14.5 years of age. Wanted to adopt a new pittie into a home with a teenager, husband and 1 cat.
- Reached out to 3 rescues via email or FB about potential dogs I am interested in – got no response from any.
- Rescue #4 I submitted an application that had over 100 fields – I was responded to the same day with ANOTHER form to complete asking for financials, job references and other personal details.
- Rescue #5 – denied because of chain link fence.
- Rescue #6 – wants to come to my house whenever they want to visit the dog after adoption.
- Rescue #7 – denied because I “sometimes” had kids over even though the dog I wanted was listed as dog friendly.
Reasons people get turned down for dogs that I have seen that seem extreme:
- Lack of fence – one women noted she had 150 acres, how do you fence that?
- Children in the home – most homes have kids this is blocking a lot of adoptions. If a dog says KID friendly then there should be an adoption allowed.
- Existing pet is not neutered – this is mostly an education issue – if a rescue can educate a potential adopter and just make sure the pet they adopt is neutered, what is the problem? Many first time dog owners do no even know the benefits of neutering.
- Requisite of a doggy door – like Nathan above where the rescue noted the dog should have the ability to go in and out at whim
- Someone will not be home full time – Most people do have to work – and how will adopters afford a dog if they do not work. Most dogs do fine home alone – and many people will even bring in a dog walker. So you would rather have a dog languish in a shelter or boarding than have them in a home where the parents work?
The rescue world needs a big shape up if there is ever going to be a chance to get dogs into homes. I UNDERSTAND wanting every dog in a “PERFECT” home, but it is rare to find a perfect home. How about we just find good homes?
By blocking people for what you “think” is a good reason – is just preventing great adopters from getting dogs they want and taking the easy route and buying a puppy.
Here are a few more threads I came across where people had similar issues – this is just a really small sampling:
Have you had an experience like mine?
Do you agree or disagree that we need some change in the world of rescue?
5 thoughts on “How Rescues Are Failing Our Homeless Animals & Supporting Breeders”
Yep. Been looking for a month and a half now. Put in several applications. Heard back from 1-2. Have now been looking at purebreds. I would hate to do it but I’ve been without a dog for a year now. (my husband wanted to wait) So I am over ready. I am retired so I do have all day to be online and I am. So reading your article makes me lean towards shelters and rescues. I will try but can’t promise that I won’t buy a dog. Had to laugh though some rescues are charging more than breeders. Because they say they save the dogs from China eating them. I am definitely getting an education. Just signed up for your newsletter. I like your thinking. :):)
So-called dog rescues are the number one customer of puppy Farms, puppy mills, and breeders overseas. The only way to stop this is to buy a purebred dog from a reputable, ethical dog breeder in your home country
Thanks for your view Roy. Can you back up your comment with any data? The rescues I am involved with are definitely not getting puppies from puppy mills or breeders. If anything they are saving them from these places when a breeder deems a dog “damaged” and cannot sell them. If you can back up your view with actual data I would love to do a post about it in more detail. Jill
This is very interesting. My husband and I bought our first dog from a Siberian Husky rescue 20 years ago. It was a great experience. We had the best dog for 13 years. Fast forward to today. We bought a house on 5 acres with a 10,000sq.ft fenced area and a sheltered kennel, attached to a doggie door. It was our dream to own three dogs, and this was the perfect house and the perfect lot. We didn’t have kids. I work from home all day, and we don’t have cats. How could we be rejected by a rescue organization? I decided that the first dog would be a German Shepherd. There were so many available for adoption, yet every time I tried to adopt one I was rejected: no breed experience, no 6 foot fence. I tried for 6 months until I said ‘the hell with it.’ I got a GS puppy from a back yard breeder. She’s so happy. So then I wanted to find her a companion. This time I’m not being breed specific. Just give me a nice dog that get along with mine. Nope. They all want 6 foot fences, unless it’s a small dog. AND. My dog must be spayed. Now, we have all intentions of spaying. We believe in it. However, our vet recommended waiting until she’s had her first heat. So, I’m looking for a female rescue dog. No chance of a female rescue dog getting my female pregnant. Nope. Nope. Nope. The hell with it. I’m going to find a breeder. I don’t have time for this non-sense.
Hi Christine, thanks for sharing your story – but I really hope you will wait it out. I ultimately got my girl through a city shelter – but I really hate the idea of anyone supporting a backyard breeder. There are options if you can be patient!