How to Choose a Trustworthy Animal Rescue to Adopt From

List: Posted: 01/09/12

As someone who has been involved with rescuing cats and dogs for a decade, I can give you some solid, honest information.  There are thousands of pet rescues and animal shelters out there.  While you’d think, ‘Hey, they’re rescuing kitties and puppies, they must all be great people’.  Unfortunately, you would be incorrect.


So, I’m going to help you out with that.


What Do I Look For in a Reputable Rescue?


Sadly, even in the world of rescuing sweet innocent animal souls, human corruption frolics and runs rampant.  I’ve witnessed slander, stealing, and rescues that care more about making money than actually helping animals.  Now, most rescues are non-profit, but some are actual charities.  However, even an animal rescue charity can rarely afford to pay its staff - all the money goes to the care of the animals.  Or it should do.


When you visit your chosen rescue, judge with your eyes, your first impressions, and most importantly, the condition their animals are in and where they live.  Do you think this rescue is truly using every penny of donations to improve the well-being of it's inmates?  Are the cages and animals filthy and miserable, while the owner shows up at work each morning in a brand new Lexus?


Here’s a tip.  If a non-profit rescue truly puts their animals first, then the rescue is generally broke.  It’s a constant stress in rescue.  Unless Bruce Wayne, or another anomalous anonymous filthy rich celebrity is their benefactor.  But you can imagine how often that happens.


Point by Point: Checklist For a Trustworthy Rescue


1. They should have a website that includes pictures of the dogs/cats, stats, adoption fee prices, what’s included in the adoption fees, where the dog/cat came from (local or out of state?), and where they are housed until adopted.


2. They should have a detailed application for you to fill out.  If they don’t, be wary.  They probably aren’t terribly worried about where their animals go, and in turn haven’t spent much time or effort on the dog/cat - effort which should include regular veterinary check ups to protect both the animal (and you) from future nasty little "surprises."

A Word on Application Forms and Waiting Periods


First and foremost, rescuers should be bound and determined to make the best family to pet match.  If you can accept this, and don’t find an application daunting, fill it out.  You will be contacted a.s.a.p., but while waiting please understand that 99% of rescuers are volunteers.  We all work, have families, and bills just like you, on top of rescue.  Those rescue centers that run huge operations that manage to make profit to live on, as well as save the animals, are still also up to their nostrils in work 24/7.


So be patient and courteous if you find yourself dealing with long lines to be processed.  The lifetime of joy waiting for you at the other end of the line should make whatever you have to go through to get approved, worth the wait.


3. If your application is accepted (yes, we do deny people), a home visit-slash-interview (with or without the pet you’re interested in) will be booked.  A member of the rescue will fulfill that task.  Don't take it personally or feel discriminated against - be glad that the rescue cares enough about the animal to check you out first.


4. ADOPTION FEES - This is a much argued issue. If you think they’re too low or too high, you have a right to be suspicious. Here’s the deal on adoption fees.


- Ask them to show proof of vetting, such as receipts.

- Keep in mind animals that come from bad situations usually come in terrible condition, and may require weeks or even month's worth of work to become adoptable.


Here are the things the rescue must (should) pay for before adopting a dog or cat out:


- Spay/ Neuter.

- Grooming (in case of matting, parasites, skin condition).

- Testing for infectious viruses or diseases.

- X-rays if necessary.

- Immunological shots up to date (depending on your or the rescue's beliefs).

- Treatment of all parasites, which can include various species of worms, fleas, mites, lice, ticks, and fungi (i.e.: ringworm – no, it’s not actually a worm).

- Treatment of resultant conditions from these parasites. For example, heartworm treatment is PRICEY!

- Appraisal and treatment for any physical conditions such as broken or deformed limbs, congenital illness, required dental work, skin disease, convalescence should the dog/ cat require this.

- Medications or apparatus for all conditions mentioned above.


Now, if you think about it for a moment, all of the above is costly.  Even at rates rescues can get, they are always thousands of dollars in debt to their veterinarians.  (I’d also like to mention, veterinarians that work with rescues, and are willing to allow them leeway with payments, are very special important people in the world of rescue.)


So, when you come across an adoption fee that seems steep, understand that the rescue is recouping what they had to put out for the animal, in order to keep rescuing.

Fact: Most rescues are begun on personal funds.


If you’re looking to adopt from a rescue or shelter, first, thank you!  But also, do be careful, sensible, and trust your instincts.  While the majority of rescues are large hearted, deeply kind and compassionate people, there are many also run by regular normal people who may be in it for less than admirable reasons.

Always Remember: ADOPT, don’t SHOP!!!


Article by:



Mandarin MacLeod

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