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Are Some Dog Rescues Shooting Themselves in the Paw?

I recently came across a social media post from someone who had been trying to adopt a dog from a rescue. She’d dutifully filled out the application, but when the response came, she learned that she’d been rejected on the grounds that the dog would be alone for four hours a day. Four hours! A long list of comments highlighted other reasons potential adopters had been rejected by rescue groups, including one where the rescue had insisted on the dog being in a pen rather than a crate for the two hours the person would be away daily. While there may have been more to some of those stories, on the surface, many of the reasons for rejection sounded ridiculous.


Who are these perfect adopters, anyway? People who are dog-savvy, have no young kids, no other pets, and never leave the house? While it’s true that some dogs should go to a home without other dogs or young children, and, of course, things like having adequate fencing are important in most cases, overly stringent requirements can do more harm than good. Fifteen years ago, when my husband and I were searching for a dog to adopt, I was rejected by not one, but a few different rescue groups. I honestly can't remember the reasons, but I can tell you from having been involved in rescue for many years that there were no red flags on my applications.


Legitimate rescue groups screen potential adopters carefully, as well they should. But in some cases, an impossibly high standard and constant rejection of potential adopters can be detrimental to the dogs. Imagine this: A well-meaning person runs a rescue out of her home. She truly cares about dogs, and just can’t say no to that “one more” who’s in a terrible situation. Sadly, this happens over and over. She needs to find adopters for her ever-growing population, but no one seems to be as well qualified as she would like. She rejects almost all interest parties, and many of those dogs miss out on a loving forever home. Sadly, these types of situations can turn into hoarding nightmares where some dogs become ill or, in some cases, even die.


While some rescues are unrealistic in their expectations of potential adopters, at the other end of the spectrum are those who are too lax in their requirements. I know of one rescue that flips dogs like houses (minus the fixing up part) by choosing the most attractive shelter dogs and then adopting them out almost immediately for high adoption fees, way over the cost of medical and other care. Sure, they’re saving some dogs from euthanasia, but what are the chances that a dog whose temperament is totally unknown is going to be end up in the right home? Or that someone won’t get hurt somewhere down the line? It’s a numbers game where some dogs will and some won’t be dumped or returned. When a rescue doesn’t even make the attempt to get to know a dog, adopts him out with minimal or no screening, and charges what some would for a purebred, is that a legitimate rescue or simply a money-making business?

I don’t mean to pile on rescues here. I've been involved in rescue myself for many years and have nothing but the utmost respect for those who do it ethically and carefully. So much time, effort, and cost both financially and emotionally goes into this labor of love that there’s really no way to appreciate what it takes unless you’ve done it. Really, animal rescuers are my heroes. And my heart is with those who are doing it for the right reasons and run their organizations ethically. It’s the other ones I have a problem with. As for groups who are overly choosy with their adopters, I understand that they want the best for their dogs, and there are real issues that should preclude someone from adopting a specific dog. But if we want people to “adopt, don’t shop,” we need to make it an ethical, reasonably easy process. ___________________________________________________ You can find my books, seminar recordings, blog, and more at and follow me on Facebook @NicoleWildeauthor. My mentoring service can be found at Dog Trainer's Friend. And if wildlife photos are your thing, check out my Instagram at nicolewildeart. 


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