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Pounds are too picky about who can rescue a dog – who suffers?

At a dog adoption event last month in West Fargo, N.D., a volunteer from the Bismarck, N.D., pound told me she was trying to place two dog-aggressive, pitbull-type dogs into foster homes or rescue groups.

These dogs needed to get out of the pound fast or they would be “euthanized,” she said. She described both dogs as very sweet around people.

The volunteer went on to say that a woman had been interested in one of the pitbulls, but the woman’s method of housetraining would be to rub the dog’s nose in any “accidents” and then “send the dog outside.”

The pound volunteer said she rejected this woman’s offer to take a dog. No further questions.

I later found out through 4 Luv of Dog Rescue in Fargo that at least one of these two dogs – “Molly” – was killed because “no one” would rescue her. I am not sure what happened to the second dog.

I know that rubbing a dog’s nose in her own pee is not the most effective housetraining method. But I also know that some adults – most of them loving dog owners – really do believe this is how you housetrain. And let’s face it, in a somewhat rural community like Bismarck, “clicker training” is not quite the norm. And that’s OK.

Maybe the woman who stepped forward to take one of the pitbulls would not have provided a safe environment for a dog for other reasons. Or maybe Molly was so dog aggressive that few people would’ve qualified to take her.

I doubt it.

More than likely, this potential rescuer could have provided an acceptable foster home for Molly or even an adoptive home.

Instead, Molly is now dead and no one has to worry about her.

If this particular pound wasn’t so picky about who can rescue a dog, Molly would still be alive. I’m wondering how many others stepped forward to save one of these dogs, only to be rejected.

If regional animal shelters and rescue groups did a better job getting their animals into homes, one of them could’ve taken on an extra pound dog like Molly.

There is a home out there for every dog.

Rest in peace, girl.

Good Enough | Life by Pets

Tuesday 31st of January 2012

[...] over at That Mutt has written about pounds being too picky, and I’ve written about a private rescue that wouldn’t adopt to us (we go to dog parks and [...]


Wednesday 25th of January 2012

I have to say that here in Spain I wish they were more picky. I adopted a dog three months ago and I have to admit (although it pains me to do so) that it has been a mistake. My dog is a cross-breed teckel/griffon and has extreme separation anxiety. The people at the dog and cat home didn't ask us the size of our house and when we told them we both work they said that would not be a problem. It has been a problem. I feel the people at the dog and cat home here are so desperate to get homes for the dogs that they don't really think about whether the person and dog are well-suited.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 25th of January 2012

Yes. The answer is somewhere in the middle. The problem may be that the place you got your dog from simply didn't know anything about the dog. It should've been honest with you and admitted that rather than saying the dog would be fine.

Jeff N

Monday 5th of December 2011

Thanks for this post.

I have a dog now that was considered to be unadoptable because of his aggressiveness and age, but I'm lucky in that one gentleman did care enough to put this dog up in a kennel, visiting him daily, until I eventually came along.

If the person adopting adopting the dog knows the challenges (and in my case there were many chances that I was given to call off the adoption) then if its reasonable to assume the pet will be safe, the rescues should go for it. I completely get that it's a tough call and there are issues like insurance and expenses involved, and these are part of the decision made when determining if a pet can be saved. I think it's safe to say that everyone here wants to save as many pes as possible and I think what we have here is decisions being made to save the most adoptable pets. I can only imagine how hard a call that is to make.

I 100% agree with the commenter who asked about providing the prospective foster/adoptee with the correct answer instead of just shutting them down. I would think that they would want to share their knowledge if it meant keeping more pets out of the shelters.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 8th of December 2011

When you are dealing with aggressiveness, there is never an easy answer. Unfortunately, many dogs are labeled as not getting along with other dogs just because they are tested with one other dog under stressful circumstances. This does not give a very accurate determination on how the dog normally does with other dogs. Any dog can be aggressive under the right circumstances.

It sounds like your dog really does have some aggression issues, though, and I'm glad you came along to adopt him.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 9th of November 2011

I don't pay attention at all to the personality descriptions. "Dog aggressive" just tells me that when excited and placed directly in front of another excited dog on a tense leash, the dog growled, lunged or barked. I would assume at least 50 percent of all dogs would respond the same way.

So I was happy to hear that Jackie is doing well with the other dogs in her foster home, and it didn't surprise me.


Saturday 5th of November 2011

Just so the facts are known, as they are not accurately stated above, a rescue was found for Molly. The volunteer who works at the pound 40+ hours/week had communicated to the ACO's that Molly was going to a rescue. She was euthanized anyway, and no reason was given. Perhaps direct some of your judgement at them, rather than a woman who volunteers her entire life to the impound.

Thought I would set the record straight, since most journalists are interested in presenting factual information.

Unfortunately, rescues need to set limits. "Disgusting" or not, we cannot take on more dogs than we have the resources for. Please try to understand that decisions like this are not easy, but have to be made. It is nearly impossible to find fosters for dog-aggressive dogs. At least 90% of foster homes have other pets. Everybody does the best they can, but sometimes there are not enough hours in the day, or money in the bank to save every dog.

Amanda S.

Tuesday 8th of November 2011

I didn't use the right word- I think sad would've probably been more appropriate. I think what bothers me the most about dogs in the pounds is I really wonder how accurate the information given out on these dogs is. How are they dog and cat tested? My dog does not do well with face-to-face greetings with other dogs; so this makes him aggressive? I disagree, I think most dominant dogs or dogs who are unsure around other dogs would do poorly with a face to face meeting. It's not fair to those dogs to test them this way and deem them aggressive.

I heard about 3 different stories on Jackie about how she was with dogs and cats; hat doesn't sound like accurate information to me. I was sure that if the people at the pound thought that either of these dogs were so aggressive they would kill another dog; they would've been euthanized quickly and not held for 70+ days waiting a rescue or adoptive home.

I understand that rescues and their volunteers do the best they can; I just wish more could've been done for Molly. I wish more could be done for all the dogs needing rescue.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 5th of November 2011


I always respect your opinion, and I am glad you shared it on this situation.

Molly was listed on 4 Luv of Dog Rescue's web site with a description saying she needed rescue or she would be euthanized. Later, her description was updated to say "Euthanized" which would imply "no one" would rescue her.

I made it very clear there was at least one rescue option for Molly. I knew about the individual who came forward to rescue one of the dogs. You and others were aware of a rescue group also willing to take one or both dogs.

I know you and I disagree on the issue of getting dogs into adoptive homes more quickly in order to save more dogs. Unfortunately, waiting around for "ideal" homes and ideal foster homes is not going to help as many dogs as possible. At the same time, as you pointed out, rescues have to set limits. And they should not take on more dogs than they have the resources for. Most of us really are doing the best we can, and that's the most important piece to keep in mind. We all have the same goal to help the dogs in the ways we know how.