Res­cue Rules


Are you deal­ing with a risky res­cue or a rep­utable non-profit? How to make sure you’re adopt­ing from a great res­cue group.

Are you deal­ing with a Risky Res­cue or a Rep­utable Non-Profit? How to make sure you’re adopt­ing from a great res­cue group

Dogs are pretty much a part of my iden­tity. My love for all things dog is def­i­nitely worn on my sleeve—a paw print tat­too promi­nently dec­o­rates my wrist, and my birth­day presents each year, with­out fail, con­sist of dog para­pher­na­lia. I’ve been train­ing and work­ing with an­i­mals all my life, have a cer­tifi­cate in Animal Wel­fare, and con­sider my­self an ed­u­cated, con­sci­en­tious, and re­spon­si­ble animal lover. So, when I was fi­nally ready to ac­cept a dog into my life after the loss of our fam­ily’s Jack Rus­sell Ter­rier, I was thrilled to be able to go through the res­cue sys­tem. Adopt, don’t shop is some­thing I be­lieve strongly in. My fam­ily and I knew our needs and what we were look­ing for, so I be­gan to browse pri­vate res­cues as well as shel­ters, hop­ing for the mo­ment when I first saw my “soulpup.” A few times, I was close to the “meet and greet” point of the process when the sched­uled ren­dezvous would fall through or some­one else would beat me to the fi­nal steps.

After these failed at­tempts, I was es­pe­cially keen when one res­cue sent me in­for­ma­tion on a new puppy—a beau­ti­ful 10-month-old Ger­man/Dutch Shep­herd cross—just sur­ren­dered by his fam­ily. A hand­some brindle baby, he im­me­di­ately melted my heart and I just knew we would be a good fit. Within two days, I had sched­uled a meet up at the dog day­care where his fos­ter mom had left him for the day. He was slightly un­fo­cused and over­whelmed but seemed sweet and play­ful, and just like that I fell in love. Another two days later, we had a home visit sched­uled with one of the res­cue’s prin­ci­ples. He en­tered, took a cur­sory look around and then sat to tell us the adop­tion fee could be sent to him via e-trans­fer to his cell phone and we could pick up the dog that evening. As we scram­bled to get or­ga­nized—we never thought we’d get a dog that quickly—I had an un­easy feel­ing in my gut: This was all hap­pen­ing re­ally fast. But the sheer ex­cite­ment and hap­pi­ness of fi­nally get­ting a dog to call my own was over­pow­er­ing and, be­fore I knew it, we had trans­ferred the large adop­tion fee and signed on the dot­ted line.

They say hind­sight is 20/20 for a rea­son. The more I thought about it, the more I re­al­ized how due process hadn’t been done. I be­gan to feel very guilty that I let my­self, an ed­u­cated animal lover, get swept up in an adop­tion process that wasn’t as it should be. Upon fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I found a Face­book group ad­vo­cat­ing against the res­cue and their iffy prac­tices, as well as some harshly neg­a­tive re­views on Yelp about the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their dogs and their treat­ment of po­ten­tial adopters. I truly got lucky—my dog, now named Mav­er­ick, is a healthy, so­cial­ized dog and the per­fect ad­di­tion to our fam­ily, but

that def­i­nitely wasn’t the case with a lot of other adopters. Some were paired with dogs with se­ri­ous, undis­closed be­havioural or med­i­cal is­sues, and were then bul­lied and pa­tron­ized by the prin­ci­ples when they sought help. Oth­ers, when in­quir­ing about a dog’s his­tory, were told no med­i­cal records would be pro­vided un­til after the adop­tion, if at all. Through this ex­pe­ri­ence, I learned a few key steps in the adop­tion process that I want to share to hope­fully pre­vent this hap­pen­ing to some­one else with a dif­fer­ent and neg­a­tive out­come.

Here are some things to look out for when try­ing to de­ter­mine if a res­cue is rep­utable or risky: 1

They don’t ask ques­tions. Any le­git­i­mate res­cue vets po­ten­tial adopters and will take care to make sure the right ques­tions are be­ing asked. Steer clear of res­cues that don’t seem too in­ter­ested in your his­tory, life­style, or pet ex­pe­ri­ence. They should want to know where the dog will be spend­ing his time, how of­ten he will be left alone, who the pri­mary care­taker is, and the re­sources and fi­nances in place to care for the dog.


Their home visit is just that… a visit. When I had my home visit, the res­cue rep­re­sen­ta­tive barely looked around then sat on our couch to wait for his money to be trans­ferred. Any home visit worth its salt should be in-depth, and will con­sist of ex­plor­ing the prop­erty the dog will be liv­ing on while tak­ing the time to in­ter­view you in per­son. This is a key step in the process to eval­u­ate you and your space, and de­ter­mine if those match up with the dog. They should want to know if the yard is fenced, where the dog will sleep, where the dog will spend his time when you’re at work, your dog train­ing phi­los­o­phy, and a host of other ques­tions along these lines.


Their rep­u­ta­tion pre­cedes them…and not in a good way.

In this day and age, the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia means we all wield con­sid­er­able crit­i­cal and in­ves­tiga­tive power. We check our restau­rants, cloth­ing shops, gro­cery stores, even doc­tors on the web… why not animal res­cues? Uti­lize Face­book, Yelp, Google—even reach out to peo­ple you can find on­line that have adopted through that res­cue in or­der to get feed­back. Keep in mind there are al­ways some dis­grun­tled folks out there—per­haps re­jected ap­pli­cants—but if the ma­jor­ity of the re­sponse is neg­a­tive, there may be some weight to it.


The res­cue-to-adop­tion process is re­ally quick. Res­cues usu­ally fos­ter their res­cue dogs for a while be­fore putting them up for adop­tion in or­der to al­low time to as­sess the dog’s


7 health, have any nec­es­sary vet work done, and get an in-depth sense of the dog’s per­son­al­ity, trig­gers, and what type of home would best suit them. If the res­cue says they just got this dog in yes­ter­day and they’re al­ready ready to adopt him out, ask more ques­tions.


They can’t or won’t an­swer easy

ques­tions. In some sce­nar­ios, such as if the dog was stray or sur­ren­dered with no back-story, the res­cuers won’t have all the in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, there are some gen­eral things that should al­ways be pro­vided for you if they have it: in­for­ma­tion on the dog’s past; med­i­cal records (if they don’t have past records, they should at least pro­vide the records that the res­cue it­self has done a checkup, neuter/spay and mi­crochip­ping pre-adop­tion) and any dis­claimers they have for the dog (past vi­o­lence/ag­gres­sion, rea­son for sur­ren­der, etc.). These may or may not af­fect your de­ci­sion, but you have a right to know be­fore bring­ing the dog into your life. If the res­cue won’t pro­vide you with the sim­ple things, that’s a red flag. And feel free to do your own re­search—some things rel­e­vant to the dog may be public record. They get de­fen­sive when con­fronted/ques­tioned. It’s never a good sign when some­one im­me­di­ately gets their hack­les up when asked a ques­tion, es­pe­cially if it’s not ac­cusatory. If you’re ask­ing pretty stan­dard ques­tions, and they’re re­spond­ing like it’s the Span­ish In­qui­si­tion, there may be more there.

There’s no fol­low-up. This is ap­pli­ca­ble after you’ve signed and of­fi­cially adopted the dog, so there’s not a lot you can do about it at this point, but it’s very telling. Most rep­utable res­cues will fol­low up to en­sure all is well and to hope­fully pre­vent re-sur­ren­ders. Many good res­cue groups will also in­sist you re­turn the dog if it doesn’t work out. I’ve had my dog in my home for over a year now and haven’t heard a peep from the res­cue.

Adopt­ing a dog is a life­long com­mit­ment. You want to make sure you know what you’re get­ting health and tem­per­a­men­t­wise. Do your own re­search on mul­ti­ple res­cues be­fore you in­ter­act with them, as well as on av­er­age adop­tion fees for dogs in dif­fer­ent life stages. (Keep in mind that the adop­tion costs of pup­pies help off­set the med­i­cal ex­penses good res­cues in­cur res­cu­ing and re­hab­bing se­nior dogs or dogs with health is­sues). The res­cue is al­lowed to in­ter­view you—don’t be scared to in­ter­view them back! Be pre­pared with a list of ques­tions that are im­por­tant to you about the group’s cul­ture and the dog. Fi­nally, be aware but don’t fall into a trap of dis­trust­ing ev­ery­one. De­spite the oc­ca­sional dis­rep­utable per­son or group, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple out there res­cu­ing only have the well­be­ing of an­i­mals at heart.

Mariah Stan­ley & her res­cue dog Mav­er­ick

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