Yesterday I wrote a very…honest… post about eethical breeders, puppy millers, backyard breeders, and rescue propaganda. I can’t say it wasn’t scary to write such a post as there are lots of politics surrounding these topics and lots of very passionate supporters on all sides. But it felt right to get that off my chest–the anti-breeding propaganda has been flooding my social media news feeds recently and it’s a bit frustrating because I think it sometimes does more harm than good.
Just as I have a pretty moderate stance on breeders, I have a pretty moderate stance on rescue–I don’t blindly support/follow all rescue efforts. But I do think it’s incredibly important, I think it’s incredibly rewarding, and I think the vast majority of people are in it for the right reasons. As much as I really want to get a well bred dog from a top-notch breeder one day… I’m not sure it will ever happen. I thoroughly enjoy having rescue dogs and it seems I can frequently find “high energy, high drive, naughty” young dogs or puppies in shelters (shocking right!?). So I will probably always have rescue animals (maybe in addition to my well-bred dog from a top notch breeder).
Breeding dogs has a pretty big dark side (puppy mills and backyard breeding being a big part of it) but there is also a dark side in the world of rescue. There are certainly rescues/shelters that do not “do right” by the dogs, there are certainly puppy mills that masquerade as rescues on petfinder (and other sites), some rescues/shelters adopt out dogs who shouldn’t be adopted out, some shelters/rescues put quantity over quality (in terms of getting more dogs out of the shelter/rescue), and some rescues may have questionable ethics.
Just like I am critical of breeders, I’m pretty critical of rescues/shelters. If I have concerns about the ethics of a shelter/rescue, I will not support them by adopting an animal from them (as much as a dog may be pulling at my heart strings). Irresponsible rescues/shelters share some of the blame for the pet over population problem with puppy mills and Backyard Breeders.
Yesterday I looked at green lights and red flags in the world of breeders and I’d like to do something similar today with rescues/shelters. For this discussion I’m talking about private rescue organizations and shelters that are akin to SPCA, Humane Society, or Rescue Leagues. County Animal Control or Pound facilities are a different beast all together–many things about the way they have to do business prevents them from doing things in a “green light” manner but it’s often not their choice..
GREEN LIGHT–things to look for in a rescue, these are things that make me feel more confident in the organization, these are not all necessarily requirements (these are written specifically with canines in mind)
*Organization is a registered non-profit (and is willing to provide proof)
*Puts the welfare of their animals first (along with the safety of the public)
*Is honest about the temperament and health of their animals–doesn’t hide behind euphemisms
*Thoroughly temperament tests dogs
*If a dog has a mild issue (shyness, insecurity, etc.), the rescue openly discloses them and has a plan in place to resolve the issues and support any adopting family
*Makes an effort to match dogs with potential owners to promote successful and forever adoptions
*Does not adopt out dogs known to be dangerous
*Does not adopt out puppies in pairs
*(For Rescues that rely on foster families) Requires a minimum number of days in foster care before going to a new home so they can get to know the dog
*Requires an interview with prospective adopters that might include a home visit or a meet and greet with all family members (canines included) prior to adoption
*Microchips all of their animals so they can be reunited if lost (either lost while in rescue/shelter or once in their new home)
*Gives each dog a thorough medical exam upon intake
*Only adopts out dogs who are up to date on vaccines
*Makes reasonable checks to assure dogs adopted out are healthy enough to go into a new home (if a dog is needing medication for something mild like kennel cough or preventing infection from a wound, the new owners are sent home with a full supply of medication and given clear directions on how to administer the medication).
*Only adopts out dogs who are spayed or neutered
*Has an adoption contract that includes a lifetime return policy
*Shelters that offer training classes with the adoption fee of many of their dogs OR that send new adopters home with a list of local trainers.
*Rescues that take their dogs through training classes (extra bonus for rescues that have dogs earn CGCs) and who encourage training and education for their adopters.
*Does not adopt out to those who rent/lease without talking to a landlord or seeing a pets allowed lease document signed by the landlord.
RED FLAGS–These are things that make me look more critically at a rescue/shelter or if there are lots of these, avoid the rescue/shelter all together
*Not a registered Non-Profit (this is absolutely a deal breaker if the organization claims to be non-profit but cannot back it up)
*Refusal of a registerred non-profit to provide their public annual report.
*Having all different pricing for the individual dogs
*Continual supply of purebred or designer mix puppies listed on their petfinder account
*Organizations that beg/plead on a daily basis for people to either adopt or donate money “going to die in the morning!” “Hours to live, you must save!” (remember this list doesn’t apply to animal control facilities or county pounds–they commonly do this tactic)
*Rescues that frequently beg and plea for donations–reputable rescues should typically take in the number of dogs that they can afford. Sure, medical issues pop up or funds need replenished or an occasional situation that brings in more dogs than normal, but daily desperate pleas for money says to me the rescue is in over its head.
*Trying to push dogs on to potential adopters–there is a fine line between advocating for the dog and pushing people into adopting a dog they are unsure of
*Two for One Puppies!! Trying to send home littermates into the same home
*Too many animals too few volunteers–this can be hard to find out but asking if the rescue with 30 dogs listed uses foster homes can tell you if the animals are in one facility or in varying homes. From there you can ask whether the dogs live in a home or are in a kennel-like facility, etc.
*No or very few requirements of potential adopters–virtually giving away the dogs to anyone who has the money.
*Unreasonable expectations of adopters so won’t actually place their dogs (used as a way to act like a rescue but to actually be hoarders).
*Any rescue/shelter asking for a large adoption fee for dogs that are not fully vetted (with records) and are not spayed/neutered
It may be really unfortunate because the only one REALLY hurt is the animal, but if a rescue/shelter has a history of adopting out dogs that they know are dangerous, or seems to be hiding behind unethical ‘business practices’, or does not thoroughly temperament test and thoroughly vet dogs, I simply don’t feel comfortable supporting their mission or doing business with them. You’ve got to follow your gut, particularly with independent rescues, if something feels off, walk away.
Rescues and shelters that do not follow good practices are certainly adding to the pet over population problem themselves. Adopting out dogs to poorly matched handlers results in those dogs coming back to the shelter. If a shelter/rescue adopts out a poorly matched or dangerous dog to a family, that family will likely both return the dog and then may be turned off rescue/shelters all together. Rescues, in particular, that have unreasonable requirements for adoption or who have poor business practices often frustrate potential adopters and push them to get a dog elsewhere (likely a BYB or puppy mill because it’s easier). Shelters/rescues that adopt out unaltered dogs to the first John Doe who walks through the door are likely going to be getting that dog’s off-spring, or the off-spring of the off-spring, back through the door at some point.
Rescues that have good business practices, spay/neuter all of their dogs, take time to find safe matches between dog/family, and those who have education as part of their mission are doing important work on behalf of unwanted animals but consumers still have to make educated decisions.