Not Good Enough

pitbullpuppy2

What if this puppy grew up in rescue instead of with a family?

Someday I would like to adopt a second dog.  I don’t want to buy one, not even from a good breeder (that’s just not my style; I approve wholeheartedly of good breeders!).  I certainly don’t want to turn to some backyard breeder of untested mutts or, even worse, a pet store that sells puppy mill puppies of the latest “designer breed” mix.  I want a young adult dog from a rescue or a shelter.

To that end I spend a lot of time perusing Petfinder looking at dogs and puppies of all ages and sizes just for fun.  I like to see who is out there looking for a home and I like to sit and imagine how that dog might fit into my family, how he/she would look running around with Dahlia.  I know I’m not ready for that second dog yet, but I like to imagine what one would be like in my family (I swear this is not as odd as it sounds!).

I don’t peruse Petfinder that often, maybe once every couple of weeks, and often I go back and see the same dogs on that page, looking up at me with sad eyes, hopeful eyes.  I even see puppies week after week and month after month with their photos and sad stories and hopeful rescues posting about them on the site.

And I started to wonder.

Why?

How could puppies be passed over time and time again?  Aren’t puppies usually the first to be snapped up?  So how could a puppy who has been described as social, outgoing, friendly, and sweet still be looking for a home?  I know that older dogs and black dogs can have trouble finding homes.  I know that Pit Bulls have difficulty getting out of the shelter/rescue system due to breed bias.  But puppies?  Something surely must be amiss.

As it turns out, something was amiss.  I started looking at the websites of rescues for these seemingly unadoptable puppies and started to come across some things that I found somewhat troubling: extremely rigid requirements.  Not just one, but many.

Here are some of the most common ones we’ve seen.

Rigid requirement: Fenced-in yard

pixley80

Sorry Michelle! No Dahlia for you. You don’t have a fenced in yard.

What the rescue is thinking: This will keep the dog safer. It will mean the dog will not be chained out in the yard.  It will allow the person to exercise their dog more.
Possible solutions: Remain flexible in talking to people who do not have fenced in yards.  While a fenced-in yard can certainly be nice not everyone can afford one (or is able to install one if they live in a Home Owner’s Association neighborhood or rent their house).  Speak to the potential adopter and find out what their plans are for exercising the dog, for having the dog in their yard, etc.  Many people who do not have a fence take long walks with their dogs and do not tie their dogs out or leave them alone in an unfenced yard.  You might just be passing up someone who is heavily involved in dog sports, despite the lack of a fence!  Would you rather a dog go to someone who just lets him exercise himself in a fenced-in yard or to a person who takes long walks, hikes, and is involved in a dog sport?
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Michelle, Rebecca, Danielle, Kelsey, Lindsey

park35

Sorry Kelsey! No Nellie for you. You rent your place.

Rigid requirement: No renters
What the rescue is thinking: People who rent are in an unstable situation.  They may not make enough money to own a house.  They may have to move soon.  Landlords can change their mind and ask the renter to get rid of the dog.  It can be hard to find new places with a dog.  They might move and dump the dog back on the rescue (or a local shelter).  Apartments are small and won’t give the dog enough room.
Possible solutions: Realize that not all renters are the same.  Many people are choosing to rent these days. Nearly 38 million households right now are rented. That’s a lot of people to pass up, isn’t it?  Yes, sometimes renters move (sometimes homeowners do too!).  Craigslist is certainly littered with people who are “moving and cannot take Fido with me” ads.  However, those who have dogs and intend to keep them will search high and low to find an apartment that allows their pet.  The resources are out there and we always find a way.  Make sure the person you’re adopting to is one of those people and you’re golden.  And apartments certainly can be small, but that doesn’t mean the dog is going to be under-exercised.  Find out how your renter intends to exercise his/her pet.  You might just be surprised at how much more exercise a dog gets when a person has no yard and has to get out there with their dog.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Michelle, Rebecca, Kelsey, Lindsey

Rigid requirement: No children under X years of age (often 6 or 7, but I’ve seen as high as 10 or 12)
What the rescue is thinking: The parents may not have time for a dog with children around.  Children can be rough with pets and can frighten some dogs.  Children are bitten by dogs far more often than adults because they are too young to understand how to interact properly with dogs. Large dogs can knock over children.  Small dogs could be easily injured.
Possible solutions: Meet with the parents and the children.  Watch the interaction not only between the children and the dog, but also the parents and the children.  Are the parents diligently watching their children?  Are they stopping any interaction that might be inappropriate or are they laughing as their child pulls roughly on the dog’s fur?  Ask clear questions of the parents as to how and when their children will interact with the dog.  What responsibilities (if any) will their children have?  Make sure this dog is being adopted as family member and not just “for the kids.”
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Lindsay
Team Unruly members who never would have become “dog people” if this rule had been applied to their parents:
Michelle

Rigid requirement: No intact animals.
What the rescue is thinking: The potential adopter is too irresponsible to even neuter or spay their pets.  They may be breeding them.  They may not have enough money to afford such basic care and so how are they going to take care of emergency vet care?
Possible solutions: Find out why the animal is intact.  While it’s true some people are irresponsible or are breeding dogs they have no business breeding, this is not always the case.  Many people have intact pets for very valid reasons: they show the dog in conformation, the dog is a sport prospect and they want to wait to spay/neuter until the dog is fully grown and the growth plates have closed, the dog is too ill or old to risk what is ultimately an unnecessary surgery, or the dog is a large breed and should be spayed/neutered only after he/she is fully grown.  Since the rescue dog will not be adopted out without being spayed/neutered, then having an intact animal should not become a problem, but just in case you’re worried, speak to the potential adopter and find out what measures they have taken to be sure the dog will not add to the overpopulation problem.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Rebecca, Merissa, Katie, Danielle, Lindsey, Lindsay, Sarah

willowrun151

Sorry Danielle! No Molly for you. You’re gone from home too much.

Rigid requirement: Must not be gone from the home X amount of hours (often the cut-off is 4 hours, but sometimes they’ll allow as high as 6)
What the rescue is thinking: The dog deserves to have someone home with him/her for most of the day.  It can be difficult to exercise a dog if they’re home for 8 or 9 hours a day.  It’s unfair to the dog to ask them to be alone all day when they’re social creatures.  Puppies need to be let out to potty fairly often and asking them to hold it all day is unfair to the puppy.
Possible solutions: Many people have to work full time in this day and age.  It’s not often that one member of the household is home all day or even most of the day.  And often when someone is home all day?  Well, that’s because they’re taking care of the children (and we’ve already been through that requirement!).  Talk to the potential adopters and find out what their plans are for taking care of their dog.  Dogs are most active at dawn and dusk, which means the middle part of the day (the time most people are away from home) is when dogs are at their laziest.  If the person intends to take a long walk in the morning and then do some hiking or play a rousing game of fetch or go to agility or flyball classes when they get home in the evening, the dog might just have a great life.  Find out if they can get home at lunch to let the dog out (though this is not a necessity for every dog).  Maybe they have plans for a dog walker to come everyday to take their dog out.  There are many ways to make a dog’s life wonderful even if the family works away from home all day.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Everyone

hua

Sorry Kelsey’s Grandmother! No Hua for you. You’re just too old to adopt a pet.
(Photo by Kelsey)

Rigid requirement: Too old or too young
What the rescue is thinking: Younger people (often I see a cut-off of 21, but I’ve seen as high as 25) are irresponsible.  They may still be in college or just settling into their lives.  They tend to be unmarried and their lives are changing rapidly.  They may have to move quickly for a new job prospect.  They may have a new partner come into their lives.  They may opt to have children, which could alter their relationship with their dog drastically.  Older people (often above 70, but I’ve heard of the cut-off being as low as 60) can become infirm.  They may pass away and then what happens to their dog?  They may not be physically fit enough to give their dog the exercise he/she needs.
Possible solutions: Consider the individual.  There are incredibly responsible 20-year-olds out there.  If they’re young and active, they might just be an excellent prospect for that hyper young dog who needs a lot of exercise.  I meet many young people who are in the agility circuit and they’re very responsible and devoted to their dogs.  On the flip side, not everyone above 60 or 70 is infirm or not physically active.  If they’re not physically active, they may be the perfect person for that senior dog you haven’t been able to adopt because she’d rather just lounge around the house getting belly rubs instead of taking long walks in the park.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Sarah
Team Unruly family members (who are interested in adopting a pet) this requirement excludes:
Michelle’s mother, Kelsey’s grandmother

Rigid requirement: No military members
What the rescue is thinking: Their lives are up in the air.  They could be called to serve and be sent overseas at a moment’s notice.  They could be killed in action.  They may move to a base that doesn’t allow dogs or doesn’t allow a specific breed of dog.
Possible solutions: Consider the individual and the individual’s family situation.  A person in the military may be married to a civilian who will take care of the dog if he/she is sent overseas.  They may have a parent or sibling who has signed on to take care of the dog if the military member is not able to anymore.  They may have care lined up for the dog in case they are killed in the line of duty.  Many military members find great comfort in their pets, especially after serving a tour of duty.  Consider that you may be doing something wonderful for someone who has served our country by adopting out a dog to them that may become a very important lifeline for them.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes:
Lindsey

And here’s a really odd one that a specific rescue we will not name has.

Rigid requirement: No single people, couple must be married (marriage certificate must be provided) and one of the couple must be at home at all times
What the rescue is thinking: We don’t really want to adopt out our dogs.
Possible solutions: Get out of the rescue business or rethink your strategy.
Team Unruly members this requirement excludes: Everyone

Do you notice that the ultimate solution for all of these is “Consider the individual.”  The individual human being, the individual dog.  Rigid requirements are not doing anyone any favors.  The dogs that languish in foster homes for months, sometimes even years are not being helped.  They’re in limbo and should never be in limbo for years on end.  The dogs dying in shelters because the rescues cannot pull them out because they’re “full” are not being helped.  Because a rescue cannot find that perfect home (large home, large fenced in yard, someone home all day, couple is married, but has no young children and is also not “too old” to have a dog), they would rather allow shelters to kill other dogs that they could have saved if only they had looked at each person as an individual instead of as meeting or not meeting (much more likely in many cases) a certain set of rigid requirements.

So maybe it’s time for some rescues and shelters to rethink their ideas on what makes the “perfect” home.  Maybe the home you’ve decided is “not good enough” due to some arbitrary requirement might just be the perfect home for that dog.  Just look at how many of Team Unruly’s members would be excluded based on these rigid requirements.  We’re a group of people heavily involved with our dogs in many ways.  All of us have happy healthy dogs who live awesome and amazing lives.  So consider that when you’re passing over an awesome application for your dog because they don’t have a fenced-in yard or they show their dog in conformation and so he is intact.  Consider the individual.  That’s really the most important thing for rescues to do

46 thoughts on “Not Good Enough

  1. I will admit that when we were looking for our second dog, I mentally wrote off every rescue there was on account of they would of course want to meet our first dog and I have heard enough stories about overpicky rescues to…kind of suspect they would take one look at my poor neurotic dude and say, “NO SECOND DOG FOR YOU!”

    This may have been totally unfair of me, I dunno. I’m sure there are plenty of people in rescue who would have understood what they were seeing, etc. But I just…was not up for it. I worry enough about the old man (who has a very good, happy life in the context of what counts in his world as a good, happy life, for all that he doesn’t present well in meet-and-greets) without being told his issues clearly mean I’m too lousy of a dog owner to be trusted with another pooch.

    The hours-per-day requirement always blows my mind. For an individual dog with particular issues and/or needs, sure, absolutely! As a blanket policy, yikes.

    • It’s the blanket policies that bother me. I can understand for specific dogs. If the dog has issues (like separation anxiety) they need someone who can be home and work with the dog on the issue. If the dog has issues with children or has resource guarding issues, then it makes sense to say “no kids.” But it’s when they say “NO WAY” to certain things without ever once taking into consideration the individual dog or person applying for them that I start to have issues.

      I was lucky that I got my dog from a rescue run by a totally sane woman who WANTED homes for the dogs. She was fine with us renting, with us not having a fence, with us being gone for more than 4 hours a day. She had no hard and fast rules for her dogs. She found lovely homes for them but realized that no home is perfect.

  2. I’m also excluded under a solid five of these. I turned 22 last week, and I actually adopted my dog Tribble while I was in the middle of the last finals week of my undergraduate. (I’d been living with my parents’ dog for two years before that with no issues–the only thing I couldn’t handle at 19 was vet bills, and if I’d been able to hold down a job I would have been fine.) I’m a grad student, so I work full-time and also do some work from home. I’m single (seriously? Married?) and I rent a tiny one-bedroom apartment that definitely does not have a yard. It barely has a balcony.

    And yet I have had zero problems taking responsible care of my (rescue! pit type!) dog, largely because she’s a big priority in my life. We go to the park for a serious, hard run twice a week, minimum, and often more than that. The rest of the time there are walks, and that suits her energy requirements fine. We go to agility once a week and do trick-training at home to keep her mentally stimulated. When I recently moved over a thousand miles to start grad school, she came with me, and I found an apartment complex that would take her with minimal trouble. It’s not that difficult to move with a dog, really, if you decide the dog is a priority from the get-go.

    All this was actually a big reason that I chose to adopt my dog from a local animal control, and not go to a rescue that would probably reject me. Animal control actually only asked whether I had proof that my landlord was okay with bringing her home. It’s not like the choice was between me and a stay at home married lady with no kids and a yard, either; no one was interested in my dog, and she was on death row. There has to be a happy medium between being so super-selective about where your dogs go that you end up screening out perfectly good homes and just asking whether the dog is above-board, but I think many rescues have a lot of trouble finding it.

    The thing about fenced yards is that of the people I know who have both fenced yards and dogs, I don’t actually know any who exercise those dogs. There seems to be this expectation among many suburbanites that you can just let your dog out into your fenced yard and they’ll exercise themselves and you don’t have to worry about it! Which, no, most dogs I know will just hang around by the door and sleep until you let them in if you shut them outside. So in my experience, dogs that live in places with no fenced yard and especially apartments get more and higher-quality exercise and stimulation, because owners don’t have a choice but to get out and exercise their dogs themselves by playing with them or jogging with them or whatever, and they don’t think they can get away with just shutting the dog outside. So for this reason, the fenced yard requirement a lot of rescues have tends to be particularly annoying to me.

    • Once again, if I had a fenced yard rule I would have to exclude myself… Although my yard is completely walled and as high as 8 feet in someplaces in one area it is 2 1/2 feet high… And I have had as many as 20 fosters at one time and ever had a dog jump the wall or try to escape.

  3. Great article! These are some really interesting solutions and this is a good way to play devil’s advocate. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum… working for the rescue and understanding why the requirements are set, and looking for an animal and not meeting rigid requirements even though I’m a good home. I do think it’s important for rescues to have some sort of ‘appeal’ process where they follow up on red-flag issues and find out why a potential adopter does things a certain way. There should be things that are an absolute must-have (a vet reference for applicants who already have pets, for example), and things that are meant to start up conversation (fenced in yards, young children, etc.)

  4. I think you guys are misunderstanding. You may be the exception to the rule, but unless you work with a rescue and see the kinds of applications that come in you probably don’t realize. A lot of the time these rules are not hard and fast unless they apply to that specific dog (ie wouldn’t place a biter with kids, or a senior with hip problems in a 4th floor walk up). That’s why a good rescue will have a process – application, interview, home visit, and then adoption.

    The interview and home visit give ample opportunity to share with the rescue why you would be the exception to their rules. I absolutely do not think rescues should lower their standards. “no” home is not better than “any” home, in my opinion.

    It seems like perhaps you dealt with a rescue who was not thorough and did not follow up with a phone interview. Oftentimes the application will also have a “comments/concerns” box for you to write ‘please call to discuss why my dog is intact, or my intentions to exercise without a fence, or my thoughts on giving up a dog due to moving’

    • ps I’ve adopted from a rescue fitting basically none of the requirements, because I proved to be a good home and fitting owner.

      • And that’s great. So did I. But not everyone is willing to contact a rescue believing they’re just going to get shot down due to XYZ requirement (the one I went through was, thankfully, a good rescue who knew that no home is perfect and that there are great homes out there despite their not owning a fence or their renting a place, etc.). And plenty of people see these requirements and get discouraged. Or they get shot down by more than one rescue due to rigid requirements and end up buying a puppy from a less than reputable breeder (I wish I could say I haven’t seen that happen…one person I know got a dog off a BYB because they really wanted that breed and more than one rescue told them they would ONLY adopt to people who had previously owned that breed).

        I’m really not pulling this out of thin air here. I’ve been involved in rescue and spoken to many rescuers for a number of years.

    • Is no home really better than an imperfect home? In my case, for example, it really was a case of “no home”–and a dead dog when her time ran out–than my home, which might not be perfect but is certainly better than the alternative.

      What about situations in which rescues do not have the resources to house all their dogs indefinitely? Sure, you can say that private rescues can refuse to take dogs in when they’re at limit, but that just passes the buck on to larger county shelters that have to be open-intake, and those are usually kill shelters because they have to be. Sometimes the refusal to relax standards also results in a hoarder situation–actually, it seems to me to be one of the more common ways that hoarder situations happen. (Note that here I am not arguing that rescues with high standards are hoarders but that many hoarders start as rescues with very high standards.) Sometimes very high standards result in dogs living in rescue indefinitely. Is that really better than being in a home situation?

      Here is my other concern about rescues with requirements like this that might be dog-specific or case-specific in actuality: they discourage people from adopting from rescues, even if their specific case is actually fine for the dog they’re interested in. Out of the four commenters on this page, two have said “I thought about rescues, but I didn’t apply because I don’t meet their requirements right off the bat.” So has the blogger. This seems to be a bad way to attract homes for dogs. Why is this better than including a specific modifier like “this dog must not live with children” on dogs that actually need to avoid that situation or just interviewing people about their situation and why they want the dog as they apply to adopt?

      • Around here there are two rescues for the breed I’m interested in. One has an absolute blanket requirement against children under 6 or 7 (I can’t remember the exact age) and a near-blanket requirement for fenced in yards (I think they’ve said maybe one or two dogs didn’t require a fence in all the times I’ve looked at their dogs). The other one has a case by case attitude for their dogs. Some require a fence, some don’t. Some are ok with children, some aren’t. While I think the first rescue does AMAZING work, if I’m still in this area I’ll probably go to the second one (who also does amazing work) because I don’t want to get my hopes up for a particular dog only to find out that I’m not “good enough” because I don’t have a fenced in yard.

    • If you work with a rescue who has requirements for specific dogs then you work with a very good rescue. I see plenty of these. They require fences for SOME dogs, they require no small children for SOME dogs. They take each dog case by case and say “This dog must have X and we just can’t bend on that.” That’s AWESOME.

      However, while looking around at a lot of rescues (just for fun and for future reference) I’ve seen plenty who have stated outright “Dot not apply if you…” If you rent, if you don’t have a fence, if you have children under X age. They don’t even give you the option of explaining it. It’s simply “We will not accept any applications from renters.”

      If you came across that, knew you would be a good home, and couldn’t even TALK to the rescue you’d find that pretty disheartening. The one that started off my search did specifically say to not even apply if you rented. PERIOD. Would not adopt to renters under any circumstances. It’s great if you work for a rescue who is willing to consider each dog and each person case by case then that rescue isn’t one of the ones I’m talking about here. But certainly not every rescue is like that.

      I’m not sure I totally agree that no home is better than any home. Dogs with no home either get euthanized or take up space in a rescue causing other dogs to get euthanized. Maybe an “imperfect” home might just be a GOOD home for a dog, even if they don’t have a fence or have kids or aren’t the “right” age.

    • But sometimes they do stick to them. My wife wanted to adopt a cat from a local rescue when I was stationed in SC. She read the requirements (couldn’t be gone for more than 4 hours, no military, no single (we were good on that,) no renters (good on that as well,) had to turn the animal back in to the shelter if we decided to move (could be appealed, but they had to approve the location you were moving to,) had to submit to an inspection of your home twice a year for the rest of the animal’s life, and more.

      The rescue refused to adopt to her because I was military. They argued with us that 10 of thousands of pets were abandoned at the local shelter by military that was moving. (Of course, when I did some research, there was a yearly rate of about 1200 turn-ins/strays in the four communities around the base.) They told us that if we were so set on getting a cat, we could go to the local and get one there. The fact that Mandy was set on THAT cat didn’t matter to them.

      We went to the local Humane Society shelter later and got another cat that she found. It had been found with a severe respiratory illness and she took it in and helped it back to health with our own money to save the shelter from paying for the treatment.

      • Wow! Those are some SERIOUS requirements. You have to turn the cat in if you have to MOVE? That’s insane. Who writes into a contract that they want you to dump your animal back on them instead of taking it with you when you move?

  5. The rescue I got Greta from wanted to know if I had a a fenced yard, which I do, but never came to see it. Which, really, was probably a good thing because while I do have a fenced yard, it’s completely full of garden beds. There are paths for her to wander, but we couldn’t play fetch there even if she was interested. So she definitely gets two walks a day and whatever other stuff we do off the property on the weekends. I feel like I am way more in tune with her and her health than the dog my family had as a kid that was just let out the back door to chase deer.

  6. My husband and I have run squarely into the “hours per day” issue. There are a number of rescues in my area who won’t even have a discussion with us because we both work outside of the home full-time. They don’t want to know that I have interviewed dog walkers, or that I have a dog daycare across the street from my office. They don’t want to know that I live only 10 minutes away from my office and can come home for lunch. I have had several tell me, nope, no way, no how, never – there is NO accommodation that can make having a dog alone during the day work.

    I also ran into another weird one – one rescue near me will only adopt if you agree to feed raw and only use their vet (who is nowhere near convenient to me).

    • The Hours Per Day one really gets me… as a small foster based rescue with limited volunteers I would have to exclude MYSELF if we had that rule… I try to manage mu schedule to be home at least every 4 hours butit is not always possible, especially since we are in the process of building a shelter and doing as much work as we can ourselves!

      • I know many foster people who work full time. The one I got Dahlia from was a teacher and was gone from the home during regular day time hours. Dahlia was just fine!

  7. And there’s the one you didn’t mention, but has stopped me in my tracks. No adoptions out-of-state. I was willing to look at an older, special needs animal that had been at the shelter for a YEAR, and take a buddy pet as well, but because I live in the neighboring state, they said no way. Never mind that I’m closer than some in-state people who live at the far end of the shelter state.

    It’s really sad that someone who is willing to drive a distance to meet a pet in person is shut off by a rigid rule like that. If you want to add follow-up contact and return privileges in the adoption contract, fine. Microchip the critter and let it go.

    • I didn’t even think of that one Betsy! You’re right that I’ve seen that on a number of rescue and shelter sites. It’s another one I can understand on one hand (they don’t want to ship to someplace they’ve never checked out) but if the person is willing to come out there or if they can network and have someone check out the home, etc. it’s yet another rigid requirement that shouldn’t be in place.

    • Oooh, yes! That one! And some of them aren’t even as far as out of state.

      The shelter that I adopted my old pit bull from (he was around ten when I got him, old, black, returned, and a pit bull) has a policy that they will not adopt pit bulls outside of the county. I was heartbroken when I found this out, but they put my application through anyway, and I wrote a lengthy email including several references, and they sent him home with me despite their rule.

      It is a good policy to consider making exceptions for the right families. Far too many organizations will not.

  8. Brilliant post. It’s a hard balance to strike. I understand and sympathize with rescues, who want to do right by their dogs, but I think a lot of rescues discount the human element of the human/dog relationship, or consider it as secondary/lesser rather than an equal component. It’s so easy and tempting to do, especially the more hard knock cases and examples of stupefying ignorance you run across.

    I was completely psyched to have my next dog absolutely be a rescue dog… now I’m considering other options as well, like website owner-rehomes, even looking at breeders and I was determined not to go that route. But I want something fairly specific and I find that many rescues just… aren’t equipped to deal with anything that runs counter to whatever their exacting formula is. And almost all of them have a “no full time workers” requirement, but my partner and I wouldn’t even be surviving financially if I don’t work full time. So I can either wait and hope that someday the perfect dog will, by chance, end up in one of the two rescues I foster for (not impossible of course and it’s what I’m hoping for, but I’m sure not gonna hold my breath either), or pursue other options. It makes me feel sad, even a little sheepish/guilty because we’re all out there pushing ADOPT A DOG! and we mean it, and I mean it, but even I am getting fed up. That my perfect dog exists out there to be adopted means nothing if I can’t find them, or can’t adopt them when I do. And if the choice is between “wait until you retire and are more desirable to rescues” and “buy a dog,” UM. I’m going to buy a dog.

    I’m still hoping for the rescue though. Especially because I want an older dog and I’m sure it takes a life age for a good breeder to have one up for retirement.

    I could incubate and birth me a durned child in less time than it takes to find a good dog!

  9. Our Adoption Application is actually one of the easiest to navigate… a page and half and instead of asking 7 pages of questions that no one reads we PROVIDE info… and then our contract is another page and half… What we have learned besides having to sit around and wait for a potential adopter to fill out a 7 page form is that we often learned MORE by actually TALKING and LISTENING to them!

    So while it may appear that we have the easiest process in reality we learn and educate more…

    • I have a hound rescue; most of my hounds need fenced yards but when I began to adopt, I had no fence so my two Beagle mixes, (one who ground-scented and the other, the HUNTER, who air-scented), were walked 5 times a day in good or bad weather. I missed this interaction after I put up my fence.
      I’m an RN in ICU: I use my monitors a lot (applicaton/adoption rules) but most importantly, I look at, converse with (if able), and assess my patient (talking and listening); your approach fits right into my working milieu (which, BTW, can be over 14 hrs long away from my dog sanctuary).
      I LOVE your applications – downloaded them to check them against mine and modify as needed but have adopted two Coonhounds to fenceless but dedicated homes: one is now putting in a fence and the other is meeting their neighbors after Dock gets out and wanders…in the country with a chip and my collar-tag still on his leather collar).
      We are all individuals and so are our dogs. This is a most amazing post which I need to keep. Thank you.

  10. What bothers me when I was searching for a furbaby seven years ago was when I repeatedly was told that “we’ve had this dog in foster care for (fill-in the blank number) of years and cannot find the right family.” I finally told a few that if they had the dog for that length of time in foster then it was not up for adoption. I became so disgusted with rescues I finally turned to the local newspaper ads and found my baby listed by someone who did not protect their female Boxer (kept her tied outside, which is still unbelievable to me) and found her pregnant by the roaming Chow. I knew I could get one of these puppies without questions and knew that I would give her the best life she could ever have. At that time I rented and did not have a fenced yard (I now own a townhouse and still do not have a fence). My 62 pound baby is walked at the least twice a day during the week and multiple times on the weekends plus we literally run around in the house.

    I too look at Petfinder and there is a little black and white “pocket” pittie in my area. That poor baby has been “in foster” for over 3 years. Come on people something has to give. I would love to snap her up, but unfortunately, I know my baby girl and she must remain an “only child”, but I often wonder if they are ever going to let the little pittle girl go to a family…

  11. Great article and comments. My first dog was abandoned by his owner. He asked to to puppy sit for a month but he never came back which was fine with me, he was a bad owner. The dog was a 8 month old 80# gangly lab who had never had any vaccinations, was sick and so skinny and unaltered. I took care of everything. When I wanted to get him a buddy, I started looking at all the rescues and shelters in my area and in DFW, we have alot. I found that I would not qualify for most of the rescues. I rented a 1 bedroom apt, worked full-time but boyfriend worked from home, my lab was still a puppy (and at 3 years still is, LOL). I decided to focus on kill shelters and found my perfect dog, the day before he was to be put to sleep. The adoption fee was $10.00 but everything else was on me. I took him not knowing if he had any behavior or medical issues, thankfully none existed. We have a large dog park at my complex that my 2 boys love to visit everyday, several walks a day to visit with the many kids and other dogs and to give them more room, I got rid of some furniture and knick knacks that just seemed to always be in the way of a good romp. Rescues fulfill an important function in helping save animals but I do so agree with you, adoptions should be flexible enough to consider the merits on an individual basis. If someone wants a dog or cat, they will find a way to get it, and we all know saving a homeless pet is the way to go. Shelter dogs ROCK!

  12. We tried to adopt from a rescue once. It didn’t go very well and now when I see stuff like that in the agreement, I won’t even look at the dogs.

    First off, refused to tell us what the stipulations were until after we’d met the dog, had an overnight visit and were starting to get attached to him. They kept telling us it was “reasonable” and “no big deal” so we took them at their word.

    When we finally got the adoption agreement, we were floored.

    First off, the adoption fee was ridiculous – $500.

    We had to agree to feed him only a very expensive brand of food – incidentally the only place we could find to purchase this was from the adoption agency.

    I normally give my dogs all their shots with the exception of their rabies. I live in the country and it’s a bit of a hike to run all the dogs up to the vet and back when I can just stop by the feed store or pharmacy on my way home and pick up the injections for a few bucks each. That didn’t work for them either. They wanted annual letters from the vet showing that all the dogs had been vaccinated.

    Still, we liked the dog and he was good fit with the rest of our “pack”. So we decided to agree to their terms.

    Then they visited and decided that our fenced in yard wasn’t good enough. Apparently, the person conducting the site visit decided that because we hadn’t put up a dog safe fence around *all* of our acreage that we didn’t care enough for our pets. It’s approximately 208 feet of fencing per linear acre. At ~$16 per linear foot for wood fencing, that’s more than $3000 per linear acre to fence.

    That’s the point at which I got angry, lost my temper and used some choice words in escorting her off my property and informing her that if she ever came back, it would be considered trespassing.

    • Wow what a horrible story! I recall reading about some large breed rescue down south somewhere (I think) who required people to buy their food from them for the rest of the dog’s life. And who had crazy requirements and adoption fees near $1000. Some “rescues” are incredibly out of control. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience.

      There ARE good ones, but it seems like those are getting harder and harder to find and too many are having run ins with bad ones who offer up a dog who seems perfect and then break their heart because of one stupid unnecessary thing.

      • I know what rescue you’re talking about. They require buying their (crappy) pet food and have been known to charge over $1000. It also appears they’re a mill pretending to be a rescue

    • DANG!!!!!!! We charge a WHOPPING $100.00 for an adoption but every weekend come up with an excuse to drop the price to $50.00… WARNING: The bring a Dr. Pepper and get a discunt produced the WORST batch of adopters we ever had… but we survived but you might want to try 7-UP…

      But seriously… $1000.00????? Dogs in fosters for 3 years? I always say the difference between a rescue and a hoarder is one dog.

    • Lisa, I have done Home Visits for other organizations and even have a checklist but once again I try to look at it from the perspective owner’s outlook. At one visit the owner had azaleas… when I responded I let the adoption agency know but also quantiied that the adopter had had them for years with their two dogs and kept the leaves raked up and had never experiencd any problems so I didn’t feel it was a problem.

      Now I could have lied but for what? To lose my credibility in the future? So, I informed the adopter of my report but that I would quantify the write up. The agency thanked me for my report and agreed with me that the azaleas shouldn’t be a problem. And now the property that we are clearing for our shelter has 3 or 4 azalea plants on it… but they are coming out!

  13. I replied to John of No Kill El Paso above; this is a most important post for those of us who rescue and seek homes and yes, right now I have two very good puppies, about 3 months old, with no applications for them at all (they are practically house-trained, get along with other dogs and love, love people). AAUGH!
    THANKS for this post.

  14. I had an unhappy experience when I tried to adopt from an out of state shelter this past summer. The dog I wanted to save was on the To Be Killed list, and after one look at her face, and I knew I couldn’t let that happen. It took two days just to get an answer as to what steps to take to get this dog, as it was a weekend. I was willing to drive over 500 miles to pick her up. I found out on the 4th day of wanting to adopt this dog that a “rescue” had her, and had had her since the day I first saw her! Why no update? Anyway, I contacted the “rescue” and was sent their application. I could have adopted a child with fewer questions! Then they told me the adoption “fee” was $500! They had Pulled the dog for $10! It was a young, healthy dog, so excessive vetting didn’t explain this “fee”. When I questioned it, I was very rudely told to “go adopt a dog in your own neck of the woods!” Two weeks later, I did just that. I adopted a 3 year old Pit mix, who is wonderful! I still wonder about the little girl I tried to get. I hope they sold her to someone who is really treating her well. Frankly, for $500, and the gas to drive 500 miles, I could have BOUGHT locally from a reputable breeder! But that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to save a dog. Some rescues seem to only pull purebred, young, cute, easy going dogs, and then ask these high “fees” for them. That’s SELLING dogs in my book.

  15. I had “Liked” a Facebook page of a “Friends of blah blah blah Animal Control.” I thought that they were doing a good thing by posting pictures of animals that were available for adoption from the county animal control. However, many of the dogs were “rescue” only, meaning the dogs had “issues” such as being timid or skin conditions or whatever and could only be pulled by a rescue. Sadly, many of the dogs were not pulled and were PTS. SO, then the Friends of blah blah blah began posting pictures of these poor little creatures who had been PTS on their FB page, saying they were bring awareness to the problem. In my opinion this did not bring awareness to those who need to be made aware of “problem,” it only succeeded in make some of us who were on the FB page feel disgusted by what they were doing. Number one: Animal control would not adopt the dog out to just anyone – it had to be a rescue. Number two: if a rescue did not have a foster family available, they could not pull the dog. Number three: what was the point of posting these sad, sad pictures? Only those of us on the FB page saw them. Some thought it was a “wonderful” thing to do. Why? I gave them a tiny piece of my mind (can’t spare much you know ) and Unliked them. This does not help!!

  16. I’m part of a small rescue, with one other person. We don’t take owner surrenders, generally. I found out long ago that we’ll get in puppies from every idiot backyard breeder if we do that, we’ll be their safety net, and we simply don’t have the capacity. Plus I’m outside town and can’t use the shelter for dogs that people try to turn in to me; nor can I afford to euthanize their unwanted dogs for them. They can take their excess dogs to the vet themselves, if they wish. Maybe at the same time they’ll get their dog SPAYED so they don’t have this problem again in 6 months, y’know. Had quite some interesting conversations with those people. They’ll set up in the parking lot 100 ft away on our adoption days, giving away their puppies, then try to give their extra puppies to us. Nope. I’ll take that puppy after you provide proof that you’ve had your dog spayed. Heh.

    But I digress.

    I pull (temporarily) from the local high-kill shelter, show those dogs at adoption days, and encourage people to visit the shelter themselves if they’re in the market for a dog. The shelter isn’t very user-friendly here, and is often locked up. You need to call animal control and make an appointment. A lot of the locals don’t even know there is a shelter, and the ones that d,o don’t realize that nearly every week, a dozen nice dogs are killed.

    Yes, the dogs go back to the high-kill shelter if they don’t get adopted. I can’t hang onto them forever. If they’re purebred and unadopted, I try to get them into a breed rescue. I get a lot of criticism for returning dogs to the shelter (from other rescues, not from the public), but if I didn’t do it, I’d have 60-80 dogs by now and more every week. NO WAY.

    I’d rather deal with adult dogs because they don’t appeal to adopters as much as puppies, and I’ve found that people do contact the shelter to see the puppies.

    I’ve also come under fire from people in other rescues for not doing home checks, adopting to people without a fence, etc. My attitude is, the dogs I offer are (for the most part) from a high-kill shelter. If they don’t get adopted, THEY DIE REAL SOON. And there is no rescue from DEATH.

    Y’know, I can’t tell from what someone’s home looks like how they’ll take care of their dog. I’m also uncomfortable with the possible liability issues of traipsing through people’s houses. Most people will take reasonably good care of their dog. Reasonably good is much, much better than DEATH. Even tied out in the yard eating Old Roy is better than DEATH, and there is always the chance that I can educate them to let their dog in the house, especially WHEN (not IF) it becomes a problem for the neighbors.

    There is a clause in the contract that I can come and check on the dog. I talk about that to the adopters, mostly because I want them to think I’ll be keeping an eye on them. I generally don’t do it, though. I will keep in touch by email.

    I discourage people from adopting a dog if they’re going to mostly tie it outside all the time, because it can become an irritation to the neighbors through problem barking (not to mention cruel to the dog). Usually those people don’t even try to adopt from us, though.

    I hand out literature about why a dog should live INDOORS with its family, not outside and alone. How to housetrain. Why spay and neuter. Why the dogs aren’t free, and where the money goes. I go over the part of the contract that says the dog comes back to us if it must be rehomed, although I’ve been flexible on that, too. The rest of the contract says “nothing is the humane organization’s fault” in legalese.

  17. What a wonderful post..I didn’t know about 99% of these requirements. We own a nice home but we don’t have a fence. As you said they are expensive and we can’t put up a chainlink one. We’ve raised three different dogs while living here. We currently have a rescued pit/chocolate lab rescued from the local SPCA. We don’t chain her in the yard and she doesn’t run loose. I do know about the fence requirement and that would bump us from many rescue organizations…which is very sad. Thanks….

  18. My best friend is a small dog I got from a local rescue. The rescue does have certain requirements, but they are few and are negotiable, and the rescue operator has her main goal (saving and homing pets) firmly in mind. Thus she does all she can to keep them moving out of her rescue and into homes of their own. However I have seen that rescues vary widely in terms of requirements. One I know has a questionaire that is PAGES long, and ass very intrusive questions. As a result she adopts out very few needy pets – I doubt she adopts out more that one or two a month – and doesn’t save many lives. In addition she has extensive requirements (to meet just the fenced yard one would cost me several thousand dollars…). And then there is a real deal-breaker: in the contract, her rescue (1) retains priority rights over the pets, (2) they reserve the right to repossess the pet for any reason, (3) they reserve the right to make unannounced home visits, and (4) if you move out of the area you will return the pet. I would never agree to ANY of these. I would agree to 1 (ONE) home visit, for them to check out my house, but that’s it. I certainly NEVER would agree to such a paranoid person having the right to just drop in, and even take my buddy away!Needless to say, she does have several dogs that have been there for over 2 years (when she opened). They’re better off than in a “shelter”, but they are not in HOMES. And surely some people she turns away go straight to a pet store, where no questions are asked, and they deal with puppy mills. Ultimately I believe rescuers need to think carefully, and balance the safety of their rescue-ees with the reasonableness of their requirements. To do what this woman does fundamentally defeats her own purpose, and does not help others.

    On another subject, I live near a major military base and have noticed (and so have local rescuers) that whenever a large unit is transferred or deployed out, there is a spike in surrenders at the local “shelter”. Worse, often several dogs turn up abandoned outside town, just dumped on the roadside, even in winter (when it can be 40 below zero here). This is NOT to say that military = bad owner; it IS to say that rescues SHOULD ask, and judge whether the prospective adopter has the maturity level to have a plan and make arrangements for the pet.

    Another rule I wish more rescues WOULD observe: that dogs and cats they adopt out live in the house, with the owner. In my view, if one is not ready to live with their pet-friend they are not ‘invested’ enough in their pet to be a good owner. These animals are living, intelligent creatures, not just things you store outside like a deck chair, alone in the elements and dangers.

  19. ps. I do not have a fenced yard, nor am I going to have one. The rescue did ask me, but apparently that wasn’t a 100% requirement. My little dog lives inside with me, has a large enclosed deck to go outon if she wants, knows that she is not allowed to go outside without me, and knows that she has to stay close to me when we go out – even if there are other dogs around.

  20. If you hear of any military needing to rehome/board their pets, there is a group called Dogs on Deployment that try to help them out.

  21. I will look into Dogs on Deployment and see if it is well-known on base. Maybe some soldiers just don’t know about it. But having been in the service, I know that there is a whole segment of the military population (the 18-22 year olds) who are just kids, and they act accordingly. If I were a rescuer I would not adopt to them without thoroughly evaluating their maturity level and stability.

    There have been several sad episodes regarding military-abandoned pets here. One left her two chihuahuas in her rental apartment where ther starved before being discovered. Another left his with a friend, who got tired of it, and dropped it at the shelter where it was adopted out (some friend). And another tied his dog up to the fence at the local garbage drop site (hope inappropriate can one get?) in the dead of a 25 below winter night where it froze before anyone saw it. In one night alone 3 dogs were found abandoned along one road near base, just before a brigade left.

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