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Do dog shelters make it too difficult to adopt?

I follow and support the movement to end all killing of adoptable U.S. pound and shelter animals. I wish all pet owners would support this idea.

However, a driving force behind the no-kill philosophy is to disprove the pet overpopulation myth. And that is the piece many shelter and rescue workers refuse to accept.

It’s easy to justify killing by blaming the pet owners who refuse to spay and neuter their pets. It’s easy to justify killing by blaming “overpopulation.”

Do dog rescues make it too difficult to adopt?

But the United States does not have a pet overpopulation problem, according to the No Kill Advocacy Center, an organization dedicated to promoting a no-kill nation.

The United States has a problem with pound and shelter workers killing adoptable pets.

The system is flawed.

The United States continues to linger around the 4 million mark in annual shelter killings, according to Shirley Lyn Thistlethwaite who maintains the blog YesBiscuit!.

This is not because we need to encourage more pet owners to spay/neuter their pets. It’s because we need to stop killing pets in shelters and get them into homes.

Obviously spaying and neutering is important, but I could not agree more on getting these animals into homes.

“What kind of homes?” Thistlethwaite asked on her blog. “Almost any homes.”

And this is the part I want to ask you about.

Do dog shelters make it too difficult to adopt?

When 4 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are killed in U.S. pounds and shelters each year, should we really be so picky about who can adopt?

It’s something that has the shelter/rescue world divided. As always, the answer is likely in the middle.

It should not be so hard for someone to adopt a dog from a pound or shelter.

If someone wants a dog, they will get one somewhere. At the same time, there has to be some sort of screening process in place or the dogs could end up right back in the shelter system.

The screening and adoption process varies at each organization, but it typically involves:

  • an adoption application
  • references
  • a home visit
  • an adoption fee

Many potential adopters are automatically rejected for reasons such as:

  • owning an indoor cat that is not “up to date” on shots
  • owning a certain number of pets
  • owning outdoor cats (barn or feral)
  • owning an outdoor hunting or farm dog
  • admitting to previously re-homing an animal
  • admitting that a previous pet was hit by a car
  • admitting that a previous pet got lost
  • owning a dog or cat that is not spayed or neutered
  • not owning a fenced yard

Perhaps some of these reasons are legitimate. Perhaps not.

Many shelters are run entirely by volunteers. The whole adoption process from processing paperwork, checking references and so on can take up to a month.

If someone is looking to adopt a dog, he is unlikely to wait around that long. He is going to get a dog somewhere else – Craigslist, a breeder, a pet shop, another shelter.

Too difficult to adopt a dog?

This means he is not going to tell other people to adopt a dog from the shelter that took too long to contact him.

He is not going to stay in contact with that shelter. He is not going to donate his time or money to that shelter. He is not going to adopt a dog from that shelter the next time he wants a dog.

Epic fail?

You tell me.

Do pounds and shelters need to maintain such a tough screening process for adopters?


If so many dogs and cats are killed each year in pounds and shelters, we should get them into almost any homes. At least they would not be killed.

In a recent post I asked people to define what they consider a good home for a dog.

Nearly everyone agreed that a good home for a dog is a place that provides the dog with his basic needs while also providing companionship and love.

Most people looking to adopt a dog will certainly provide a good home on that basic level. And that’s good enough for most dogs.

What do you think?

Do dog shelters make it too difficult to adopt a dog?

Follow this link to learn more about the No Kill Advocacy Center.

Finally, here is a link to a new post of mine on how to get your dog adoption application approved.

Do dog shelters make it too difficult to adopt a dog?

Top 20+ why is it so hard to adopt a dog

Saturday 8th of October 2022

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Friday 24th of April 2020

After trying for months to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter, we’re going to a greener and don’t feel bad about it at all. In have grown up with dogs my entire childhood and young adulthood all from pounds and shelters as my family has always valued rescuing dogs and are firmly against breeders and puppy mills. My partner and I are hard-working, college-educated people who’s own our home with a huge backyard. I am a teacher who is off by 3 and home in summer. My partner works from home two times a week. We can afford dog walkers and trainers. I’ve loved and taken care of dogs — and cats, guinea pigs, fish — for half of my life. I have always stood firmly against pet stores, breeders and any organizations that partner with puppy mills. When I was growing up, adopting a rescue dog felt feasible and joyful. We’re also pretty nice, respectful people. After Trying to jump through so many hoops with shelters and usually being completely dismissed by shelters or told that about half the dogs we inquire after are no longer available (bait-and-switch?) or made to feel that because we haven’t yet doesn’t thousands to build a fence, we would be a horrible home (though we’ve explained over and over that we are ready to build a fence once we actually know we can get a dog). I have reached a point where I feel zero guilt about contacting a breeder or going to a pet store. It’s sad that rescue shelters have made it so difficult for decent people to adopt a dog that they are driving many well-intended dog lovers to adopt from the organizations they most abhor. Why spend one or two years trying to adopt a dog from a shelter while being criticized for checking off all boxes (almost all of which we do) when we can start point and taking care of a pet now from a breeder who easily accepts that we’re just regular people who want to make a dog a part of our family. Rescuers have turned into a self-righteous racquet, and we’re not playing anymore.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 25th of April 2020

I'm so sorry to hear shelters and rescues have failed you and the dogs. There are many wonderful breeders out there who will work with you. Definitely avoid pet stores/shops though.


Friday 24th of April 2020

“Breeder” not “greener.” Sorry, it’s late and I’m making several typos from my phone.


Friday 16th of October 2015

I'm looking to adopt a cat but after looking at the hoops these shelters expect you to jump through I've decided to look on craigslist. Our last cat was adopted at a shelter at the age of nine and passed away from old age. He was a very beloved member of our family. Years ago when we adopted him it was a simple process. This is insane, they would rather kill an animal than risk it returning to the shelter. I would think it would be better that people take them back an not be penalised. Situations change, people lose jobs ,homes , get injured.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 17th of October 2015

I know, it can be so frustrating sometimes. You can find lots of cats in need of homes on Craigslist. Good luck. I'm sure you'll find a great pet.


Saturday 15th of August 2015

We had a terrible experience attempting to adopt a dog from a number of local rescues. Due to strict breed-restriction lists at the house we were renting at the time, we could not use the local human society. We tried breed rescue groups, large dog rescue groups, and several others. Each time we applied, we always read the rules. Most said that "in most cases they would not adopt to a home with no fence", but since the wording indicated they might, we tried anyway. Each adoption application was $25-$50 just to apply. After being rejected (or receiving no reply at all) from about 5 groups, we gave up and bought a dog from a breeder. We are very responsible, and while I understand the standards, the rescue groups should NOT rely on a piece of paper for rejecting applicants. We feed our dog top-grade food (she has a lot of allergies), keep her covered with health insurance, and give her plenty of exercise (now we have a fenced in yard but before that we walked her all the time & took her to the park). Our dogs are our children as we do not have any human kids. Just think, some poor dog has been sitting in a cage for 3 years just waiting for a loving home that we were willing to give it. My husband was so disgusted he's completely turned off by adopting a pet ever. I don't think we will ever go back to trying to rescue a dog due to our horrible (and expensive) lesson.


Sunday 24th of May 2015

Thank you for this article. We were rejected once because we had been given two 'male' gerbils...turned out to be two pregnant females. Ended up with fifteen gerbils, found homes for 8....couldn't keep that may so we took them to the shelter (no pet store we could take them). 10 years later, we're 'suspicious' for adopting a dog.

A more serious concern I have is the shelter/rescue world in my area, at least, is very anti-child. Very rarely do they have dogs to adopt if you have children under 10, even less for children under seven. It's like they believe it's impossible to be a responsible dog owner if you have kids. It troubles me that they are adopting out dogs to the general population they don't trust around kids. Or what if those homes they adopt to have kids eventually?