Home > Animal Rescue, Pet Adoption, Pet Topics > Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

Let’s pretend you’re a rescue, who would you adopt to? (Polls included)

Let’s face it. Rescues often get a bad rap from people looking to adopt. People find their restrictions limiting, their paperwork daunting and their process somewhat convoluted and exhausting. I get it. Everyone wants to meet a dog and be able to adopt it right away. Waiting is hard.

I also get the frustration people often have with some rescues, who are so rigid in their adoption qualifications that nobody could possibly live up to their standards. In some cases, I believe this to be valid, but not in all. There are good reasons for some of the strict adoption qualifications rescues have in place. For instance, Shelties tend to be a much higher flight risk than many other breeds, so in most cases (not all) a fenced yard is a must for our rescue.

I recently participated in a discussion where people shared the restrictions some rescues had for qualifying adopters. As people shared their experiences, it suddenly occurred to me that almost everyone in the group was looking from the outside in. They had never had to make the difficult decision to place a dog with someone. It set my mind to thinking. Was there a way to let people play at being a rescue and share their own insight into how they would run things if they were adopting the dog out to someone? Hmmmm…. Maybe.

This is my attempt to let you, the adopter/potential, play at being the rescue. What follows is a description of the dog, it’s known history, and a series of choices you get to make as head of the rescue in selecting the dog’s new owner. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Meet Jenny. Sad Looking Chocolate Lab
Jenny is a stray that was rescued from a kill shelter. She is shy, nervous, and frightened of men. When she came into your rescue, she had mange and had to be treated before she could be adopted out. She also had to be spayed and vaccinated to ensure she would not get sick or get other dogs sick. She has been living in a foster home for the past two months and is now ready to find her forever home.

Keep Jenny in mind as you think about what you would do if you were a rescue.


As head of the rescue, you have a specific process that you like to follow when matching a dog with a potential adopter. These process includes the following (pick all that you would include in your process):


As the head of the rescue, you also have a certain set of criteria you use to weed out potential adopters who are not a good match for a dog in your rescue group. People you would automatically weed out of the adoption process include those who…



Three potential adopters have made it through your process and all three are interested in Jenny. Which one would you choose for her?

So what did you think? Was the process easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. April 23, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    Very thought-provoking! I chose the older couple. They seemed like they would provide a good, calmer environment for shy and nervous dog. Because Jenny was shy and nervous around men, I didn’t think a single man was the best choice. The young couple would have been my 2nd choice because a shy, nervous dog might not do well around very young children, but with experienced owners and positive reinforcement training, could be okay. I think a lot of rescues make a mistake by requiring a fenced yard. Some dogs just get put in the yard and never get walks!

    • Mel
      April 24, 2014 at 6:20 AM

      So glad you thought so Linda! It appears you are not alone in choosing the older couple. Valid point on dogs in fenced yards not getting regular walks. I think this happens quite often as well. My dogs are lucky. They have a huge fenced yard and they get daily walks. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • April 24, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        That’s the best situation. Max has a yard, neighborhood walks, dog park visits and gets to go to work with me. Unfortunately, a lot of people think being in the yard is enough exercise and don’t realize dogs need the mental stimulation of a walk.

      • April 25, 2014 at 12:47 AM

        Interesting exercise, I also chose the older couple for similar reasons to Linda ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Mel
        April 25, 2014 at 6:34 AM

        Thank you. I hope at least it starts some conversations or generates some additional thought about the process. That older couple is pretty popular. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. April 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    What a thought provoking article! I have also experienced frustration with all of the restrictions when it comes to dealing with a pet rescue group. I have often felt that I am judged as being inadequate and incapable of being a dog owner, even though deep down I know that is not the case. I decided that the best match for Penny was also the older couple that lost their pet a year ago. Even though they don’t have a fenced yard, they can still take her on walks and give her all of the love and attention that she needs. I also don’t think that pet rescue groups should rule out a potential adopter purely based on the fact that they don’t have a fenced yard, a fence that isn’t high enough, or a yard that isn’t big enough. This weeds out a lot of people who would willingly give their heart and devoted love and attention to a dog in need, and would be willing to make their yard escape proof.

    • Mel
      April 24, 2014 at 6:19 AM

      Thanks for your comment and contribution Erica. I am glad that it hasn’t been a complete flop. I think the fence one is the number one issue for many people. I used to think that was a silly one too until my dog, Cupcake, was lost. Some dogs, especially puppy mill dogs, are huge flight risks and for them, a fence just adds one extra layer of security.

  3. fredrieka
    April 24, 2014 at 5:37 AM

    sad face, it took me awhile to wag my tail more.. I love my new home going on a year now

    • Mel
      April 24, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      That’s awesome Fredrieka. I am glad you found a home where you can blossom and grow.

  4. April 24, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    These are good questions and a great way to position the difficult choices rescues make every day.

    I’m glad you put some description of the dog in the poll because, to be honest, knowing the dog and knowing the people involved are the only “requirements” most rescues should have. Of course there should be basic policies but each animal and potential adopter are so different, they need to be considered individually.

    The shelter we got Bella from asks about fenced in yards. We didn’t have one but they still adopted Bella to us because of a variety of other factors that indicated we would be a good match.

    The best rescues do the best they can to help the dog in need. Sometimes they make mistakes but I truly believe the vast majority of them have the best interest of the dog in mind and are doing the very best they can. You’ve done a good job laying out what “people on the outside” need to realize when working with them. Well done.

  5. April 24, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Tough to say really. So many issues are personal preferences, some seem to be more necessity. Difficult to decide.

  6. April 24, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    While I really prefer that a dog has a fenced yard so he doesn’t have to be constantly tethered, I wouldn’t consider this a deal-breaker if the right people come along, which is one reason why I chose the older couple. Thanks much for the insight into the process.

  7. April 24, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    Wow – this was a really good exercise!
    I chose the young couple, but depending on how a meeting with the single guy and the dog went (given her reported fear of men), if she was okay with him, he might really be the best choice. You never know until there’s a meeting. That’s why I think home visits are probably the most important part of the vetting process. You need to give the adopter the opportunity to change their minds and walk away, too. Many will when they see that the dog doesn’t interact well with their kids/other pets, etc.

    I didn’t check off things like background checks and references, just because – just like with jobs – those things are easy to fake.

    Your example dog was already spayed, but I think an auto-elimination would be potential adopters who would refuse to spay/neuter a different dog.

    The fenced yard is an interesting issue. We were asked about that with Alma, but like all houses in our neighbourhood, we have 6 foot fences.
    Do I think lack of fence would be a deal breaker? No, not with the right people. But it certainly is handy to be able to let your dog out for early morning bathroom breaks and not have to be out there with them. Realistically, and practically thinking of day-to-day dog routines, I do think they’re pretty much needed, but I’m open to exceptions. Nothing bothers me more than unsupervised dogs let outside. Or a tethered dog that can develop aggression/frustration issues. Also, no fence might mean the people someday resort to an e-fence, which is NOT a better option.

    Lots of rescues here offer/require post-adoption training (sometimes the requirement is only for specific dogs, sometimes it’s a rescue policy). I think this is great when the resources are available and should be a requirement when possible. Given that something like 80% of dogs in shelters wind up there because of behavioural issues, like spay/neuter programs, ttraining requirements are truly an effective preventative measure. Better-educated dog owners is ALWAYS a good thing.

  8. paigeandspaniels
    April 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    I enjoyed this exercise immensely! I ended up choosing the single male. While I know Jenny was “fearful” of men, I too have a dog that has that issue, and he quickly was able to overcome it through socialization. The older couple would have been second, and then the young couple. I’d feel nervous about a large older dog (unlisted as to how she would react around children) being with children that young.

    I’ve personally encountered roadblocks when trying to adopt and it is very frustrating. It’s what lead me to go to Animal Control where it was a one page adoption agreement and history of my pets so far, and then I had to pay my vet for a rabies shot and bring in the proof. That was all. It’s not the best way to rehome an animal but it’s better than filling out ten pages to be denied because I live in an apartment, or because I’m 22, or because I don’t have a fenced in yard, or I don’t feed Raw. It’s filling out a life history to wake three weeks to be heart broken or find out they already adopted out an animal.

    I applaud rescues for the work they do, but sometimes it’s aggravating.

  9. April 24, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Fun exercise! As a county shelter volunteer Adoption Counselor I’ve learned not to judge people and their lifestyles too harshly. Rescues are usually more restrictive than municipal shelters, they can pick and choose their adopters. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not. One of my favorite adoptions was a single man and his 12 year old daughter. They lived in a trailer park with no fenced yard and a jeep. They had frequent off roading and camping adventures together and wanted a dog, not too big, that could tag along. Not very conventional, but they were such a great team and you could see the love this man had for his little girl. He wanted her to have a dog of her very own to love. They took their time looking at several dogs and settled on a tough little terrier mix who instantly clicked with the girl. They were so excited about their new family member, it made my heart swell! This little dog was so happy, he clearly didn’t care about a big house, big yard, or anything but the loving and fun new life he was going to have. p.s. I did convince them to microchip the dog since they would be trekking out in the desert a lot ( :

  10. April 24, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Those polls are very thought provoking, and brought up situations that I would not think of.

  11. Maggie
    April 24, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Such a good reminder about how difficult of a job rescues have. I’d love to hear your analysis of the situation, too! I voted for the single guy, too, but I wanted a field to write something like… Unless she was afraid of him during the meet-and-greet, but perhaps on a trial basis to see if training and positive reinforcement could get rid of her fears?

    • Mel
      April 25, 2014 at 6:42 AM

      I guess I should have weighed in huh Maggie? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think I would waver between the older couple and the guy. If the dog was really timid and shy I would want a fenced yard first. A stray dog is most likely had experience escaping before, so safety would be key for me. If the older couple got that and understood the need for a double-leash in the early days I would go with them. Children are scary to timid dogs so I would have ruled them out. Even the most dog-wavy people cannot watch the kids and dog 24/7. No need to encourage a bite.

  12. April 24, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Nice article! I’m with a rescue and go through this process regularly. It isn’t easy. We don’t automatically weed out someone because of a lack of fence. Quite honestly fencing can be a false sense of security. Many dogs are quite good at escaping. We do vet checks and landlord checks, and then have phone conversations with the potential adopter. We try to find the best match based on what they are looking for and what we know about the dog.

    I fostered a collie a while back that would not do stairs and wanted to herd my cat into a corner at every opportunity. He’s a great dog, but his herding instinct was pretty strong. Four applications came in on him. All applications were approved to adopt a dog from us, and I liked all of them. Obviously they all can’t adopt the same dog, so it sucked having to tell 3 people no. Two of the applicants had cats, and while I believe the dog’s issue with cats was trainable, I passed on their applications. There was a higher probability of the dog being returned. Of the other two applicants, it boiled down to the type of home they lived in. One lived in a 2 story home and the other in a ranch house. Since he couldn’t do stairs I chose the family that lived in the ranch house. He’s got a great life now and, uh oh…the family does not have a fence. A herding dog in a home without a fence? That’s unherd of! ๐Ÿ™‚

    In most cases the applications we get are good, but ultimately it’s a judgement call, and we don’t always get it right. When applying to adopt from a rescue, just remember this: You’re a complete stranger to me, you’re probably not the only person applying for the same dog, and you’re asking me to part with my “child”. What does your application tell me that will persuade me to trust you with a piece of my heart?

    • Mel
      April 25, 2014 at 6:39 AM

      Thanks for weighing in Steph! I love how you walked us through your process. Real life example! I think in many cases, it’s also a gut-instinct when selecting between several. We’re not always right, but we do try. I love your question at the end. Yes!

    • Richelle
      April 26, 2014 at 4:21 PM

      I love your last question! We just foster failed two dogs from a rescue. It was a completely random thing that we started to foster them, so we think it was meant to be. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would love to have a rescue at some point in time, just because I love animals, but I know that I would have a really hard time trusting others with “a piece of my heart”.

      I also agree that fences shouldn’t be a deal breaker. We have a 6 foot privacy fence, which is great for letting the crew out to do their business in the morning when I am needing to do mine, too, but I know it’s something that can be worked around. We had a digger who dug out a few times. (Little bugger!) ๐Ÿ˜€ I miss him so much, even though we had to be really careful with him being outside. (He died from cancer in February.)

      Anyway, thank you Mel, for this great article. It really made me think!

      And thank you, Steph, for the “children” you help! โค

  13. Ann
    April 27, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    When ppl have said, “this dog is afraid of men”, I have a tendency to be skeptical. Often it depends on how the man comes across to the dog. For example, boisterous, loud, waving arms, can be scary to any animal. My hubby is a dog magnet, they all love him including the ones who are supposedly “scared” of men.

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