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How to find a good rescue

by Melanie Dziengo

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Have you decided to adopt an animal? You have a choice between shelters and rescues, so where do you go? Shelters and rescues are different. A shelter is an institution such as a humane society, or your city run animal services, and a rescue is usually run out of an individual’s home, or by a network of individuals fostering animals until they’re adopted. The process doesn’t stop at deciding where to go, or which type of animal to adopt. Adopters need to be diligent and look for a reputable rescue. Here are 10 points you should consider when looking at an animal rescue.


  1. The animals’ welfare comes first. Whether it’s taking in old, sick or unwanted animals, doing home checks with adopters, or turning people down if the prospective relationship seems like a bad fit, the animals will be at the rescue’s core. This includes providing quality vet checks, charging an adoption free (which will go back to the rescue to help other animals), and a trial period if the adoption doesn’t work out. Ultimately, the rescue invests in the animals, and that will be apparent in everything they do.

  2. Go into the adoption process prepared. If you know what type of animal you want to adopt and its breed, research the breed beforehand. You can learn what to look for in a potential companion, and what their behaviour or temperament should be. You may also spot potential health problems, and see how the rescue answers your questions, which helps you decide if you should trust them or not.

  3. Questions and answers go both ways. You should go into the adoption process prepared, while keeping in mind that the rescues should ask questions too. Rescues should ask questions about your lifestyle, and what life will be like for the animal, and get to know the animal’s new family, ensuring the animal is going to the right home.

    You should ask about the animal’s background, the food given to the animal (this will let you know if they’re being treated well), if there are any health issues, and what the animal’s life was like before getting to the rescue. This is where your research will come in, and help you make your decision. You should also ask questions about the rescue’s volunteers and fosters in order to understand how they’re treated. If the rescue’s people are treated well, it’s likely to extend to the animals. This is a two way street, so keep the lines of communication open between yourself and the rescue.

  4. To find a reputable rescue, talk to previous adopters. Facebook and Google are good places to start when selecting the right rescue, but nothing beats word-of-mouth. You can ask a previous adopter questions, giving you a sense of what that specific rescue is like, and what is expected of you as a pet parent. It will also let you know if the rescue is trustworthy, reputable, and honest because you will have at least one experience to judge for yourself. Lastly, you can check out our rescue directory to find a local rescue. ​


  5. There should be an adoption process. A good rescue will have an adoption process, and let you know what it is immediately. This starts with a phone call or e-mail, with you initiating contact, and filling out an application form. After hearing from the rescue, you parent and the rescue should talk about which type of animal you are interested in adopting. Then, a home check should follow. Following that, the rescue should issue a contract, which outlines what is expected of you, and protects the animal and you. The rescue should also be upfront, but not pushy, about an application fee. There may be a trial period before the official adoption occurs, ensuring both you and the animal are satisfied. The rescue should also be willing to take the animal back if the trial is unsuccessful. After the trial (if there is one), the adoption should go through. Congratulations! You are now a pet parent.

  6. Home checks, home checks, home checks. Is your home a good fit for an animal? The rescue should let you know after a home check. Typically, this is done after a phone interview and a discussion about which pet you want to adopt. Home checks see whether or not your home is appropriate for the animal, and is a chance for the rescue to meet the whole family and other pets.

  7. There is ongoing support from the rescue. A reputable rescue will always be communicative, no matter where you are in the adoption process — even if the adoption itself already occurred. They will also ensure the animal has seen a vet, tell you what to feed the animal, and what his/her behaviour is like. The rescue should always be willing to hear about how the animal is doing, and open to educating an animal’s new family. They should care not only about the animal, but also about you, and they should have experience, knowledge, and be compassionate and sincere.

  8. Pay close attention to the animal’s health. Occasionally, bad health is subtle, so you have to pay attention to see indicators of any health issues. Check to see if the animal is healthy, appears lethargic, or has parasites. You should also be concerned if the animal has behavioural issues and the rescue cannot explain why, as this could be another health concern. Look at the animal’s stool because that is another health indicator. If you suspect a problem, take the animal to your vet. Afterwards, you can compare your results to the rescue vet’s results, and see if they are similar. You can decide then if you want to proceed with the adoption, or adopting from that rescue altogether.

  9. Know when to walk away. Sometimes, rescues are not in the community for the right reasons. Others may have fallen on hard times and are unable to keep up their good work. Either way, if you get an uneasy feeling about the rescue, or if you feel as though they are pushing you to something, walk away. Also, if it looks like the rescue has no contact with, or doesn’t know the animal, especially if it is in foster care, or the rescue asks you to pay for vet care, it’s likely something unacceptable is happening. Also, judge whether or not money is a driving factor at a rescue. If it is, drive away. Always follow your gut. This is also where the word-of-mouth referrals come in. If you don’t like what that person has to say about a specific rescue, do not adopt from them. Remember: Quality of care is most important, and not the quantity of animals.


  10. Enjoy your pet and companion. Once you’ve made all the decisions, gone through the adoption process, and asked all the questions, take your new friend home and have fun. This is always an exciting, yet hectic, experience so appreciate it.

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