“Rescue groups” are usually private, nonprofit organizations run by volunteers. They take in dogs directly from pounds or shelters that have run out of space (and might otherwise kill the dogs). Rescue groups might also accept dogs directly from owners who needs to re-home their dogs. Some rescue groups have actual shelters while others keep the dogs in foster homes or boarding facilities.
Reasons to get a dog from a rescue group
The rescue group may know a lot about the dog.
Rescue groups often house their dogs in foster homes, which allows them to learn more about each dog’s personality, behavior, level of training, etc. For example, the foster owner will most likely know whether or not the dog is housebroken, walks well on a leash, shows good behavior around cats, etc. When a dog lives at a shelter, it’s not always possible to determine these details.
You could help save a dog’s life.
Dogs within rescue organizations are generally safe from being killed. This takes away some of the urgency for adopters because there is less emotional pressure to save a life. Yet, if you do end up adopting from a rescue group, you are opening up the space and resources for the group to take in another pound or shelter dog. In that sense, you are saving a dog’s life.
Continued resources available after the adoption.
Some rescue organizations are really good about providing continued support to their adopters. They may be able to provide advice for behavioral problems, introducing dogs to other dogs, training resources, etc.
The rescue will likely take the dog back.
There’s always that chance that the dog you adopt is not the right fit for your family. Maybe your cat just isn’t accepting the dog. Maybe your child is too rough. Maybe the dog has some aggression problems you didn’t know about. A responsible rescue group will always take the dog back (although not necessarily for a refund).
Other reasons to get a dog from a rescue group:
Reasons not to get a dog from a rescue group
I’m glad rescue groups exist. Each rescue group is unique. There are some excellent rescue groups out there as well as some irresponsible rescue groups. Adopters should do as much research on individual rescue groups as they would if purchasing a dog from a breeder.
Poor customer service.
Most rescue groups are run entirely by volunteers, so I do have to give them some slack. However, my experience with some groups is that they are slow to respond to emails (if they respond at all). They are slow to return phone calls (if they do at all), and they are quick to judge potential adopters. (You want to adopt a Boston terrier, but you also have kids? How dare you!)
“Home visits” required.
If you adopt a dog through a rescue group, just assume you will be required to allow a rescue volunteer to walk through your home and yard. I understand the rescue groups want to make sure the dogs are going to good homes, but the quality of a home does not tell you anything about the care the dog will receive. Instead, these “home visits” scare adopters away.
Here’s a hilarious story about an outsider’s take on the process, only it’s not so funny when you realize several million healthy dogs are killed in U.S. shelters each year due to a lack of “good” homes. I just can’t support a concept that alienates good adopters.
Non-negotiable adoption requirements.
It varies greatly from rescue to rescue, but some of the requirements might include:
High adoption fees.
You can walk into a pound or shelter and adopt a dog for $200 or less. That is also true with some rescue groups, but most are charging $150 or more – often a lot more! As an example, Great Dog Rescue New England is charging $400 for adult dogs and $475 for puppies, according to its web site. Yikes!
Some rescue groups maintain legal ownership of the dogs after adoption.
Read over the adoption contract carefully before you sign. Some contracts will say the rescue group maintains part ownership of the dogs even after adoption. The contract might also state that a rescue volunteer has the right to show up at your home at any time to check on the dog and to remove the dog if “necessary.”
Most rescue groups are not actually going to enforce this part of the contract, but it’s still there. Personally, I will not adopt a dog unless I receive full ownership of that dog. Maybe you feel differently. Just make sure to read over the contract carefully before you sign, and make sure to keep a copy.