Shelters vs. Rescues: Where to Find Your Rescue Dog

Thinking of adoption, but are unsure of where to adopt a dog? You’re not alone. Where to actually find a dog is one of the most common questions that I get from clients looking to adopt. There are many different places that you can adopt a dog from, and no two places are created equal. Whether a dog ends up in a shelter, a rescue organization, or in a newspaper ad is complete chance, so it’s important not to judge the dog based on where it landed, but to instead look at the particular personality of the dog.

There is a common misconception that rescue dogs are “messed up” or “tainted”. This mentality is so far from the truth that it’s laughable. Dogs react to the situations that they are placed in. Often times a dog may appear to have behavior issues prior to adoption when really it is just a response to the living situation that they are in. While it is so important to look at the dog’s personality, it’s also important to judge the place that the dog is being kept, so that you can get as much information as possible before adoption. There are so many amazing dogs that are just sitting, waiting to find a home. The dog that you see in the shelter may turn out to be a completely different dog when brought into a home setting, and typically for the better.

When looking at where to adopt a dog, ask these questions:

  1. Is the facility clean?

  2. Are the dogs needs being taken care of?

  3. Do the staff have knowledge of the dog and its behaviors?

  4. Does the organization offer any support after the adoption?

  5. What does the organization offer in terms of enrichment for the dogs?

Shelter (sometimes known as a pound)

A shelter is a place where stray, lost, abandoned and surrendered animals are housed. It is a physical location, and the animals are mostly housed in kennels. Some shelters have veterinarians to provide medical care, and dog behaviorists to supervise enrichment. Shelters may either be government funded, or privately owned. Many shelters are thus able to provide thorough care for the dogs while they are staying there, as well as offer support to you after the adoption.

There are 2 different types of shelters: kill and no-kill. In a kill shelter, the dogs may be euthanized based on a variety of factors including temperament, space at the facility, or length of stay at the shelter. Whereas a no-kill shelter will allow the dogs to remain at the shelter until they are adopted, however long it takes.

The fabulous thing about a shelter is that if you’re interested in one particular dog, but would like to take time to think before adopting, they will put the dog on hold until you’ve made your decision.

General Cost: $200-$500 Canadian. The cost may vary depending on the size of the dog. All dogs from a shelter will be spayed or neutered before adoption and will undergo a medical clearance.

The Process:

  1. Visit the dogs

  2. Fill out an application

  3. Undergo an interview

  4. Reference check

  5. Bring home your new doggo!

*The length of time that the adoption process takes care vary from shelter to shelter. Generally, expect to wait anywhere from 2-7 days from the process to be completed.

Rescue Organization

When looking at where to adopt a dog, a rescue is a great place to search. A rescue organization is different from a shelter in that it is often founded and run by volunteers, and typically does not have a physical location to house the dogs. They fund their work with fundraising and donations from the community. Most often the animals are housed in the volunteer's homes, which are called fosters.

There are also breed specific rescues, so if you’re looking for a specific breed to adopt that would be a great place to start looking.

Some rescues will allow you to foster the dog before adopting. This means that you’ll be able to have the dog live with you as a “trial run” in order to better determine if your lifestyle matches that of the dog. It’s important to remember that some dogs take time to settle in, so try not to make a decision based on one night of the dog being with you.

General Cost: $200-$400 Canadian. Dogs from a rescue will be spayed or neutered before being adopted.

The Process:

  1. Apply to meet a specific dog

  2. Visit with the dog

  3. Interview with the rescue

  4. Reference check

  5. Home check (sometimes)

  6. Adopt your dog!

Internet/Word of Mouth/Newspaper Ads

True to today’s internet-minded population, one of the most common places that people will begin their search for a rescue dog is online. There is a multitude of postings on websites such as Kijiji, Craigslist, and Facebook all looking to rehome pets. It is a very convenient way of adopting a dog.

The problem with the internet is that you generally do not know the dog’s history. While many of the owners will state why they are finding a new home for their dog, it is impossible to know the true reason. Often times these will be scams, with the dog having serious medical or behavioral conditions that are unstated in the ad. Or the owner will not be honest about where the puppy came from, which means you could be unknowingly supporting puppy mills. With the internet and word of mouth it is impossible to know for sure, which is why it makes visiting the dog, and asking questions, all the more important.

General Cost: Varies drastically

The Process:

Varies drastically

Places to Avoid

Puppy mills, pet stores.

What’s a Puppy Mill?

A puppy mill is a large-scale breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well being of the dogs. Dogs are usually housed in unsanitary conditions, are overcrowded, and not provided sufficient veterinary care, food and water or socialization. Many of them are not allowed out of their small cages for their short lives.

To maximize profits, the females are bred at every opportunity, leaving no recovery time in between. The puppies are given away at 8 weeks, often earlier. The female dogs often physically deplete, and they are then killed, often at quite a young age. Because puppy mills focus on profit, the dogs often have genetic issues. As well, due to their upbringing, they often suffer from cases of anxiety and are known to have behavioral issues.

These dogs are shipped off to be sold at pet stores, over the internet, and through newspaper ads. If you’re buying a pet from one of these places, the chances are high that they’re a puppy mill dog. When looking at where to adopt a dog, do your research beforehand so that you don’t unknowingly support a puppy mill.

While some places to adopt a dog may be better than others, it’s important to remember that the perfect dog for you and your family can come from an unexpected place. It is the personality of the dog that is important, not the location that they happened to arrive at, so do not overlook a dog based on where they are located. The perfect dog for you is out there, waiting, you just need to find it!

Jackie ToddComment