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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?

Nikye Burns

Sunday 18th of February 2024

Shelters absolutely make it too difficult. I've been turned down because I don't have a fenced in yard, but I want an indoor dog. I live on 4 acres in the country. No neighbors. I would take it outside to do its business. But I still can't get approved. It's ridiculous. And unfair. I can't afford an $1800 fence, which is the size they said was required. So instead, they would put a dog down rather than let me adopt it. Tell me how that makes sense. They say they are overcrowded. Let people adopt and you won't be. Simple as that. Volunteers have too much power. A little bit of a God-complex if you ask me.


Saturday 6th of January 2024

I'm older and disabled but my partner isn't. MY beloved Riddick (half German Shepherd/Golden Retriever) had to be put to sleep due to hip dysplasia, he was in to much pain and to many drugs that had stopped working. It had been a couple of months since he passed and I couldn't go anywhere because he went everywhere with me I mean everywhere so I went to a rescue shelter Dogwood animal shelter in osage beach Mo. I had to make an appointment when I walked in she acted like she didn't know why I was there, I told her I was there to see this dog they had described as CALM. She had to go hunting for him there were meeting rooms up front mind you,all empty. She comes up from the back looks me up and down again and says you have to follow me ( I'm on oxygen and I use a cane.) I had my partner with me who isn't on oxygen and no cane can run and do push ups lol. Instead of us going to a visiting room she takes me to the back of this long building when we get to this looks like a gymnasium and has other dogs in it. There is this dog who looks nothing like the picture going crazy, the girl holding the leash can barely hold on and the girl that walked me back says he has to go hiking everyday and swimming can you do that. I don't know why I felt the need to explain to this person I would have never let watch Riddick that I trained Riddick by myself. I sat outside in the snow till somebody did his business we went out every hour on the hour. That he was house broke and crate trained in less than 2 weeks. He walked right beside me with my cane, knew his right from his left. I could go on into his fabulous other feats. But she wouldn't stop as she looked me up and down like I was something she shoveled off the running yard. She didn't give me a chance to say this puppy was not how they described and not for me. Instead I let her get to me until I left a crying mess. My partner was the one who said come lets go before I had started crying I started as I hit the 2 doors we had to go through that were where the kennels were. I also had to watch so I wouldn't fall because it was slick.Then I was crying. I felt so subhuman She made me feel like I didn't deserve a chance, because I was disabled. When we came out they were bring another dog out for this couple to see and taking it to the visiting room up front. Like really. They had vetted me and everything before I was even giving an appointment day and we use the same vet. I was heart broke cause of how I was treated. I know even if that puppy hadn't been crazy hyper and I wanted they wouldn't have given it too me. I never wrote a review or called the boss or anything why they'll say she couldn't have took care of the puppy all because of how I look and my disabilities. They never thought my partner might help we they got off work in the evening? They based it all on the disability.

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.