Too difficult to adopt a dog?

How to get your pet adoption application approved

About 3 million homeless dogs and cats are killed in the United States each year.

Naturally, many people want to help by adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group.

They hear and read statements such as “There just aren’t enough homes” or “Urgent! Needs rescue by Friday!” Yet, when they attempt to adopt an animal, their applications are rejected. Worse, many potential adopters don’t hear back from the shelters at all.

It doesn’t quite add up, does it?

Every adoption agency is different, of course. Some are totally reasonable. They welcome a wide variety of adopters and see each person and each pet as individuals. They keep their adoption fees as low as possible. They don’t do background checks or home visits. The application process is intended to match each person up with the right pet.

Two black labs

Others shelters and rescues are, well, crazy! In an apparent attempt to protect the animals, the volunteers and staff members use strict, across-the-board policies. Adoption fees are outrageous. Background checks and extensive home visits are required, along with invasive questions:

Do you plan to have a baby, ever? Do you plan to get married? Will you be moving, ever? Have you ever given up a dog, for any reason? Are all your animals licensed?

People are heartbroken when they are told they can’t adopt because they can’t offer a “good” enough home.

The whole adoption process is easier when you know what to expect.

Tips to help your dog adoption application get accepted

1. Look up the different pounds/shelters and rescues in your area.

It’s easy to get confused by all the different terms – shelter, humane society, rescue group, pound, impound, holding facility, adoption agency, etc. What is the difference?

The meanings of these words vary from city to city or county to county. Each community is different.  Yes, this is very confusing.

Some pounds serve as the city’s public shelter and will adopt dogs out to the public. They are often less picky about who can adopt. Other pounds will only allow rescue groups to obtain the dogs.

Familiarize yourself with the shelter system for your own city or county. Look up the various web sites or make phone calls to find out which animals are available for adoption to the general public.

Pounds are usually the least picky about who can adopt because there is urgency to get the dogs out. Rescue groups are pickier because their animals are often living in foster homes and are not in danger of being killed at a shelter.

2. Visit the shelter in person before applying.

Go to the shelter or to an adoption event and introduce yourself to whoever looks in charge. Express interest in adopting and volunteering. Ask questions about the organization. Tell the volunteers or staff members a bit about yourself (but not too much). Don’t admit to having indoor/outdoor cats, for example. Don’t mention you’ve used a shock collar.

You want to make a good impression as a good dog owner before you turn in your adoption application. It’s much easier for the volunteers to judge and reject people they have never met.

3. Become a volunteer.

If you are genuinely interested in becoming a volunteer, sign up to do so. Most shelters and rescues are in need of additional volunteers. This is a great way to help animals, and it’s a great way to have an “in” for adopting.

Unfortunately, there is quite the double standard when it comes to volunteers adopting a dog vs. the general public adopting a dog.

If you foster for the rescue and you have 6 dogs at your house, you are a hero. If you are not a volunteer with the rescue and you have 6 dogs at your house, you may be called a “hoarder” and banned from adopting. I’ve seen it happen.

The KC Dog Blog wrote a good post about this double standard. Very interesting.

4. Read over the adoption requirements.

Once you know which groups have animals for adoption, familiarize yourself with the adoption procedures. Typically these are available online.

Look up the fees and requirements. You can expect the fee to be anything from about $30 to $400.

The adoption requirements vary greatly, but expect to see wording such as “all pets must be spayed/neutered,” “all pets must be up to date on vaccinations,” “must own a fenced yard,” “must pass a home visit/background check,” “must provide three references” and “all pets must live indoors.”

5. Read over the adoption application.

Some shelters will keep adoption applications on their web sites. Look for questions such as “Do you own a fenced yard?” Or “Do you allow your cats outdoors?” Some shelters use these questions to automatically weed people out. If you answer “incorrectly” you will be on the naughty list.

On the other hand, some shelters are simply trying to match each pet up with the right family. Some cats may need to be outdoor cats if they have litter box issues, for example. And dogs don’t need a fenced yard to be happy. Some will even climb right over a fence.

6. Be cautious about admitting …

… to re-homing an animal for any reason.

Although there are perfectly good reasons for re-homing an animal, rescues don’t always see it that way. For some organizations, if someone has re-homed an animal, she will automatically be banned from adopting.

If you re-homed an animal in the past, don’t even mention it. If you feel like the topic can’t be avoided, then don’t say you re-homed the animal because of a new baby or because you were moving. You re-homed it because you knew the animal would be happier with your daughter/best friend/etc.

…  you’re pregnant.

Some rescues are under the impression that anyone who has a baby will re-home her animals. It’s ridiculous, I know, but some rescues won’t adopt to homes with kids. It’s unfortunately one of the blanket policies you could run into.

If you’re dealing with one of those rescues, your personal references should be warned not to mention your plans for children.

… any plans or thoughts about moving.

Because, you know, everyone who moves abandons their animals. Make sure all your personal references are well aware of your plans to stick around forever 🙂

… you own indoor/outdoor cats or barn cats.

I saw a man get rejected on the spot from adopting a cat when he casually mentioned a time he took an outdoor photo of his current cat. Oops! No cat for him! Kitties should “never” be outdoors.

For the sake of the application process, just consider all your cats “indoor only” cats. If you slip and mention something about your cat being outdoors, just add “oh, on a leash and harness, of course!” If you have barn cats, don’t mention them, especially if they are not spayed/neutered or vaccinated (and please, do get them fixed!). If you provide any food or shelter for feral cats, don’t mention them, either.

… you own an outdoor kennel.

Yes, you would think this would be ideal for a lot of dogs. It certainly would. The dog would have access to the yard while you are at work as well as shelter in the garage or house. However, these kinds of kennels or dog doors are a huge red flag on adoption applications. Some rescues are extremely leery of these because they fear the dogs will spend too much time outdoors and won’t be a part of the family. I’ve seen applications get rejected – no questions asked – because the person mentioned an outdoor kennel.

If you have to pass a home visit and the person asks about the kennel, say something like “The previous owner built that, and we haven’t taken it down yet. Isn’t it ugly?”

7. All your dogs are indoor dogs.

For the sake of avoiding rejection, just say all of your dogs sleep in the house at night and live indoors. If you plan to adopt a dog to live outdoors most of the time, dont mention it. Be prepared for rejection if you do.

If the subject can’t be avoided, tell the volunteer you will be outside with the dog all day while working together on your farm. Make sure to say the dog will be allowed to sleep in the house at night.

8. Get all your dogs and cats spayed/neutered.

There’s very little flexibility here. I see where rescues are coming from, but there are perfectly good reasons not to have an animal altered. I wish more rescues would look at each individual situation instead of enforcing a blanket policy. If any of your animals are not spayed or neutered, be prepared to sit down with a volunteer and explain why you have chosen not to alter your animals. Be prepared to move on to another shelter or adopt a pet off of Craigslist.

9. Make sure all pets are “up to date” on shots.

There is not lot of flexibility here, either. If you choose not to vaccinate your pets for health reasons, be prepared for automatic rejection. Hopefully the shelter manager will be open to talking with you, and this is when you should explain why it’s not best to vaccinate pets annually. If you titer your dog, make sure to say so. Ask your vet to verify you are a responsible owner.

Some rescues will go so far as to require you to show proof you have purchased a full year’s supply of heartworm prevention and flea prevention. Avoid those rescues. Dealing with them is not worth the trouble.

10. Agree to a home visit.

A “home visit” means a rescue volunteer will visit your home to make sure it is “appropriate” for a pet. It is also a time to shoot questions back and forth about the animal you are interested in.

If a volunteer asks if it’s OK to do a home visit, there is only one correct answer if you want to adopt from that organization – “yes.”

There is a chance the rescue won’t actually follow through with a home visit. Some do these visits for every single adopter. Others only do them if there are any “red flags” such as owning an indoor/outdoor dog kennel or living on a farm. If you are not comfortable with a home visit (understandable!), keep looking until you find a shelter that does not do them. Many do not.

11. Stay calm and reasonable.

It’s easy for rescue volunteers to label you as the “crazy hoarder” or the “irresponsible owner,” especially if they don’t really know you. Be polite and respectful no matter what happens.

Also remember the volunteers don’t necessarily set the adoption requirements. They may not agree with all of the rescue’s policies. They are just doing their jobs.

12. Don’t give up.

If you truly want to adopt or rescue an animal, keep trying. There are always other shelters, other pounds, other rescue groups. Just because you have been rejected by one or two or 12 different rescues doesn’t mean you will be rejected by all rescues.

13. Look for a dog on Craigslist.

There are thousands of dogs listed on Craigslist in need of new homes. Many will end up in the shelter system if their owners can’t re-home them. By adopting one of these dogs, you could be saving a life. I adopted my dog Ace through an individual (not a rescue or shelter) and it was a very easy process. I would definitely do it again.

14. Don’t feel guilty if you end up going to a breeder.

“Rescuing” is not the only ethical way to obtain a dog. There are responsible breeders out there who will be happy to help you choose the right dog or puppy.

Some people will be shocked if you buy a puppy. They will say things like “If you buy a puppy, you are killing shelter dogs.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Dogs die in shelters because people who work in shelters are killing them. This happens even when plenty of good homes are available. The shelters are killing the dogs, not you.

Thank you for considering adopting a homeless animal, but you should be proud of your pet no matter how you obtain it.

Have you ever been surprised by the adoption process? What surprised you?

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to receive my best content before everyone else. You’ll hear from me every other Tuesday or so.

109 thoughts on “Too difficult to adopt a dog?”

  1. Very good advice. I was put off by a rescue group because I couldn’t prove I had purchased 12 months worth of heartguard. If you want to adopt from a rescue group, you might want to make sure your vet has all your records accurate and save receipts if you purchase from somewhere besides your vet.

  2. Thanks for reading, Dawn! I don’t give my dog heartworm prevention during the winter, but that is pretty common here. So I only buy six month’s worth of pills.

    1. I can understand that. The reason this Border Collie rescue made such a big deal about it is because Border Collies are harder to treat for heartworms than other breeds. Something about the body chemistry of Border Collies has a deadly reaction to the treatment.

        1. The collie breed has a problem with ivermectin passing thru the blood brain barrier. When it first came out for heartworm treatment in dogs, many collie breeds and collie mixes died from this.This was in 1976. My boss who was a vet lost an owner’s dog to massive bleeding from an ivermectin treatment for heartworm. It has been modified since then, but as an owner of a Border collie and Min. Australian shepard I still watch them when ever I use worner around the horses and make sure they can’t get into anything. Also I make sure they get their heartworm preventative so they don’t get heartworm.

      1. It’s a mutation of MDR1 gene, most common in Collies. Most dogs with one mutation can still take the regular heartworm protection and not have any reaction.

        I do think some shelters/rescues make it very difficult to adopt out a pet. They seem to be so possesive about their animals and forget the big picture….someone wants them as a family pet. Isn’t that the most important goal?

          1. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS BLOG! The adoption process has been heartbreaking for me thus far. I was ready to give up until I read advice #12 of Do Not Give Up. I am responsible and I have been patiently waiting for years until I was ready to adopt. Now that I am, it has been frustration and elititism at every turn. I just want to provide a good home and have a mountain companion to join me in adventure of life. Thank you again for your writing!

          2. Lindsay Stordahl

            Oh Daniel, I wish you the best of luck. Know that there are some great organizations out there. It’s just hard to find reasonable rescues sometimes.

  3. Why does it seem like you are the only person in the whole animal-loving community who “gets” the average person?? I’ve wanted to adopt plenty of different dogs, but every rescue I looked at required a home visit. I don’t even like having my own family over, let alone a stranger! Only my local pound doesn’t require that. That requirement, more than anything else is what turns me off from rescues/shelters.

    1. Yes, I understand why you wouldn’t want a home visit. They aren’t that bad, depending on the rescue you go with and the volunteer who does it. Still, you shouldn’t have to put up with that in order to adopt.

      1. I agree – I think home visits are an invasion of privacy, and you have to “fake agree” with everything. I had one group reject me because I Had a Job! Ummmm….yeah, it’s written into my trust fund rules that I can’t spend the money on pet food, so I have to have a job.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I used to do the home visits for a rescue group. I always approved them, and I felt bad making them go through that process.

  4. Dogs die in shelters because people who work in shelters are killing them. This happens even when plenty of good homes are available. The shelters are killing the dogs, not you.

    I have to disagree with you. Dogs die in shelters because 1. there are lots of irresponsible people breeding their dogs and cats and 2. there are not enough homes for all of them.

      1. I agree Lindsay. There really isn’t an overpopulation problem when shelters in different parts of the country are trucking in dogs from other areas to fill a need. It’s really how well the shelters/rescues do their job of getting animals adopted out.

    1. Dogs die in shelters not because of overpopulation or a breeder. They are in the shelter because someone either did not care enough to take care of them or was too irresponsible to take care of them. The dog should never have been in the shelter in the first place.

    2. I agree with Lindsay. If everyone wanted the animals adopted they wouldn’t make it so difficult. I was pregnant when we adopted our dog and they had the audacity to ask me if I would stay home. The puppies were from the south and would have been killed. My husband and I wanted the dog and they were asking stupid questions about whether I was going to work. How was I going to pay to take care of the dog? So I lied. We love our dogs and take great care of them. But if I have to go buy one so I don’t have to deal with that Bull and I will and I don’t feel bad at all. If they wanted to home the dogs then they wouldn’t make it so difficult.

  5. Interesting article. I haven’t adopted for many years, and I may be taking my Grandson to adopt one day soon. Our beloved dog, Xena, just died. So no one is ready yet.

  6. I agree for the most part. However, there are some items on this list that may make sense in the context of a specific breed or a specific region (or more often – the combination of the two). For example, you would think that people don’t need to be told or reminded that many dog breeds are not well-matched for spending year round outdoors in terms of climate/environment. Every year, dogs die of heat stroke or freeze to death because they are left outside in the wrong weather for that type of dog. Trying to figure out who intends to leave a dog outside all day long or all night because the person doesn’t know any better is a matter of life & death for some dogs/regions.

    Also, I think it’s a serious mistake to lie about any plan to have young children in a home within the short or near term future. There are dogs who are simply not well-suited for life with kids. Adopt a dog like this and you will make your life way more difficult that it needs to be. As it is, having young children share a home requires a certain amount of supervision and separation, and that’s with the best, most friendly & kid tolerant dog possible. You absolutely don’t want a dog that someone knows or has good reason to know doesn’t have the right temperament to feel safe and secure in a house with kids. And remember, if other people with kids make that clear up front, agency workers and volunteers may deliberately steer “kid-friendly” dogs toward those people and deliberately try to recommend to you a dog with a “no kids” stamp without necessary telling you that they are doing this. So by lying or misleading or omitting the truth when other people are honest, you are increasing your chance of being matched up with a worse fit for your homelife.

    I understand your point that there are some agencies that maintain crazy policies regarding children (e.g., no pregnant people can adopt, no homes with children under 6 can ever have a dog, etc.). The solution is to run like hell away from any agency that has such blanket rules, not to lie or mislead the many other agencies that will not penalize you for having kids, but do want to place a dog better suited for the environment. If you do have kids or you are pregnant or know that having a child is in your near future, do everyone a favor and please work with an agency that understands that there are many great dogs who love nothing more than having kids in their family. One way to find out who will adopt a dog to you even if you have kids – besides getting recommendations from people you know with kids – is to look and see if the agency is fostering dogs in homes with children and/or posts pictures of the dogs with children (a common tactic some agencies use to show how friendly a dog is).

  7. I have had trouble with an adoption agency, I wanted to look at a couple of dogs before making my mind up – I didn’t want to adopt the first dog I saw. Said dogs were over 200km from home, a 400km round trip, and the adoption agency owner said I was a, and I quote “disgusting human being, who obviously does not give a **** about a dog” and the first dog I contacted her about obviously wasn’t “cute” enough which is why I wanted to see other dogs too. Needless to say, I didn’t bother making the trip, as she made it quite clear she would never adopt out to me. That was 10 months ago, and I found my beautiful boy 4 weeks later, at a local shelter. He is a huge Dane x with some serious issues, but has made such a big improvement being in a home. He brings so much joy!

    I cannot understand some peoples observes rules.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So glad you went elsewhere and ended up with the best dog for you! What a lucky boy he must be!

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. When I was looking for a smallish house dog, I tried to get one from a rescue group. I was unable to adopt from them because we don’t have a fenced yard. Period end, no home visit, no explanations accepted. The womkan actually said another dog would come in my yard and attack a small dog even when I assured her our dogs never are outside unacompanied. We live in Alaska and have a third of an acre in a wooded suburban neighborhood. I ended up buying a mix breed puppy and she’s 3 now. I work from home so I take her to the dog park every day and have obedience trained her. She doesn’t even try to run off. The rescue woman’s attitude really left a bad taste in my mouth and I doubt I would e ver put myself in that position again. So the rescue world has lost at least one good pet owner by acting as if all adopters are clueless losers.

  9. I recently lost a dog after he got out of the front door and took off running down the street. He got past me when I was taking out the garbage. Anyway, he got hit by a car and was killed and we are heartbroken. I want another dog because I miss him and also because my husband is away a lot with his job and I feel safe in the house with a large dog with me and my son. I know big dogs are harder to adopt out than little dogs so I shouldn’t have a problem, right? Well, going to these rescue groups have proven to be a little difficult. When I said I was looking for a protective dog that is large I was told that they don’t adopt to people who make their dogs “work” as if I offended them somehow. Also, they have fees that are outrageous. We don’t have a lot of money, we are just looking for another member of our family that will help out with making us feel safer at night in the house, that’s it. I work from home so the dog will NOT be alone in the house for any amount of time, being that we don’t have a fenced in yard. The dog will go out when it needs to but other than that he will be an inside dog. I really don’t have a point, I just need to vent here. Thanks.

  10. Lindsay Stordahl

    Sorry to hear about your loss, Diane. I am also sad to hear you have not had any luck with rescue groups. I hope you are able to find a group that is more reasonable and actually wants to adopt out its dogs.

    I recommend you try a few shelters. If that doesn’t work out, try a city pound or find a dog off of Craigslist.

  11. I have been having trouble recently with the German Shepherd Rescue of New England. They have an adorable 10 month old that has stolen my heart, and not two seconds after speaking to the volunteer, I was turned down. Why? Because I only have a partially fenced in back yard. Now we already have an adopted dog, a small chihuahua who i accompany outside at least 4 times a day for twenty minutes, EVERY DAY. I was told that it is inconceivable for someone to go outside to a park or for a walk everyday, and that is why they want a fenced in area.(and some other nonsense about rescue dogs being more prone to chasing squirrels. as if only rescue dogs have a pension for chasing small animals) i was told i needed the fence for the days im sick, etc. i dont know about anyone else, but i know that i still walk my dog even when i am sick. it is a necessity as a pet owner. i see people who do do this everyday.

    to me, the aire about their policies come off as somewhat presumptuous. I offered them crudentials and references to back them up. I told them i had spent a year and a half as a dog walker/caretaker in the city of boston, handling no less then ten dogs a day during my route. also, that i had worked on two seperate horse farms in warner, nh for a period of two years as caretaker, same thing, with around 15 horses a day total during the week. i told them about the three shiba inus that i had had during my lifetime. and i also let them know that i am certified as a personal fitness trainer, and that running is part of my daily routine. one of the driving forces behind getting a dog that needs copious amounts of exercise to be happy, i had hoped that they would factor all this into their decision. It didnt. I wasnt even considered. no amount of polite, persuasive chitchat seemed to change that.

    i dont understand it. i know i am a good, faithful dog lover. i know that i could give any of their animals a loving home given the chance. so why wasnt i even given the benefit of the doubt, and at least evaluated? i thought i had proven my self articulate and level headed. the woman even had the audacity to tell me that they had been fostering addie since four months (she is now ten months) and that they recieved no less then ten inquiries a week about possible adoption. if these rescues really “give a s**t” about these animals, they need to be a little more open-minded, and they need to stop looking down their noses at prospective owners. I mean, God forbid the prospective owner actually be as knowledgable as the rescue, right?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks for sharing your story. If I were in charge of that rescue, I would be begging you to take that pup!

  12. This blog does a phenomenal job of explaining a major problem w adoption agencies i’ve just come to learn recently. This should be a first line of education prior to anyone seeking an adoption, its unfortunate that’s rescues are denying perfectly good homes and encouraging one to seek breeders and/or lie to adoption agencies (what good is that?)

    My Story: Just got denied a retired grey hound that’s been retired for 2-3 years and in a kennel ever since because my female Doberman is not fixed. I asked the reasoning and they stated the usual “the dog will try to mate”….the grey hound is fixed and both have separate sides of the house separated by doors. The volunteer said the grey hound would “smash a door down to get to your dog”, that’s laughable. on what planet has anyone seen that happen, worst case scenario I have to push him off and its for 1 week every 6 months IF they become unseperated by chance. I was very flabbergasted/insulted to say the least, and as this blog points out, encourages one to revert to breeders without delay…..I told the volunteer their organization has lost site of the goal at hand. In a case like this they could be considered equally as cruel to keep them kenneled while receiving donations and doing seemingly nothing. Outrageous. I plan to pursue and challenge these policies.

    I appreciate your time and effort w this blog; what is currently being done to pursue changing these policies nationally?

    1. Aww, you didn’t get your precious little snowflake fixed because she “deserves to be bred”. All it takes is another simple minded owner with an unaltered male dog and you have another unwanted littler of puppies coming down the line.

      Seriously, grow up and get your dog spayed. An unaltered dog is a great way to spot an irresponsible dog owner.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I understand it can be frustrating when people’s dogs have accidental litters. Or when the unspayed/neutered dogs are allowed to roam. However, there are plenty of responsible owners who choose not to spay and neuter for health reasons. They are responsible because they keep their dogs confined and they are doing what they believe is best for their pets.

        And then of course there are lots of pet owners who would love to spay and neuter their pets but they don’t have the money to do so. That’s why I’m very careful not to call people irresponsible just because their pets are not spayed/neutered.

        1. Thank you! I wanted and still want to get my dogs spayed and neutered but cannot afford to, I got quotes from three different vets for the cost of a neuter for a 7lb dog and all three are over $900!!! Now I have 5 puppies but thankfully a rescue is trying to help me find somewhere to get my dogs spayed/neutered. They found one place a 2.5 hour drive away but I don’t drive and we couldn’t find a ride out there. The day my dogs mated I called the local humane society but they said they don’t spay pregnant dogs and besides that they require a credit card to book an appointment at their low cost clinic!? Unreal!

          1. Lindsay Stordahl

            $900 for a spay surgery? That seems so high! Do they charge more for smaller dogs or something? I’m used to the pricevof around $250.

        2. Yeah 900+ bucks for a spay or neuter, I was stunned! I only have small dogs so I really have no idea if large dogs cost more or less but after I got the quotes I was venting to my friend and she told me she knows because it cost $980 to have her kitten neutered!! I guess that is why the low cost clinic here had to stop taking appointments and are so picky about which pets they will spay/neuter.

  13. Lindsay Stordahl

    The No Kill Advocacy Center has a lot of resources for shelter reform. It focuses mostly on shelters. Have you followed any of Nathan Winograd’s work?

  14. We just got rejected by a rescue because I allow my current trained dog to be outside with me off leash. We live in the country on 10 acres. I of course would not allow a new dog or a dog with a strong prey drive off leash. I feel guilty but I may go to a breeder. I lost my dog to cancer 5 years ago and I’m FINALLY ready for another dog…. I feel like this rejection is such a slap in the face!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear that. How terrible that they can’t get past their blanket policies. I let my dog off leash every day, but that doesn’t mean I would let a new dog off leash, either. I hope you have success adopting a dog from a different rescue group or a shelter or a breeder.

  15. I will never ever try to adopt just for these reasons.
    All of the 7 different rescue/shelter groups I have ever met are the most rude people.
    I went to someone who knows a good dog owner when they see one and that is a reputable breeder.
    I suggest others do the same.
    Stay away from animal shelter groups because they have no intention of giving up their animals.
    They are the hoarders and would rather kill the anmal than give them to anybody that’s not as good as they are.
    Three years later I have the most loveable female long hair West Belgium German Shepard in the world.
    My yard is not fenced and we hike everyday four to five miles off lease.
    Go figure?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear you’ve had an awful time with shelter/rescues. Thankfully, some are really willing to work with people. It’s important to me to support the shelters that are actually trying to get their animals adopted.

  16. My mom and I were looking to adopt a dog once. Her name was Penny. We were emailing the foster back and forth. She said “Are you available to meet her Tuesday?” And my mom said “Not Tuesday, but we can Thursday,’ And all of a sudden, she stops replying. I was so mad, that she didn’t even have the guts to say that she wouldn’t give us the dog. So we were on our toes for two weeks waiting for a reply! It’s rediculous.

  17. Also, be sure to thoroughly read the contract. Make sure YOU OWN the dog. Having been in rescue for more than 20 years, I am amazed at what some groups do by contract, and it’s all legal.

    I don’t generally deal with rescue groups when I’m looking for a used dog. And if I do I make sure I have a Bill of Sale, that I own the dog outright. I tend to get my used dogs from the kill shelter, Craig’s list, or someone who knows someone needing to place a dog. That said, I still foster/transport/train/consult with sane and reasonable rescues.

  18. I thought the dog shelter would be grateful and consider me a lovely person just for wanting to save a dog’s life, but instead I felt like Jimmy Savile at a kids birthday party, even after I satisfied all their criteria. YES I have a tall fence YES I have permission to have a dog YES it will sleep inside YES I have had a dog before YES I will walk it every day. Twice. I felt like saying, I don’t have to do this, I can just go elsewhere and BUY one, you know. I have to jump through hoops for just about everything else these days, so I am not about to jump through hoops just to get a dog. If only the rules for having a child were as strict.

  19. Lindsay Eckhardt

    I agree with some of the points here, but not all. If you read through the process and determine that a particular adoption process of a shelter/rescue is not your style, then by all means look elsewhere. However, this article is, in so many words, encouraging people to lie or withhold information so that they are more likely to get approved. This is NOT a good idea. I am heavily involved with a rescue in IL. If an applicant gave up a dog in the past, this does NOT mean you won’t be approved. It means we may offer more assistance to ensure this adoption is good for both the adopter and the dog. Or, we may not ask about it at all, especially if you explain the circumstances. In our case, having a fenced in yard is only required for SOME dogs, but not all. If someone mentions a fenced in yard, we might be more careful to remember to remind them of a particular behavior we’ve noticed when the dog is in our fenced run. (We deal with a LOT of dogs, and while we try our hardest to tell an adopting family EVERYTHING we have seen, we are only human and may forget). In many cases (ours included), the application is not a list of “trick” questions, where there is a right answer and a wrong answer. It is a way to learn about the family so that we can help ensure that the match is good and help solve any problems that may arise upon adoption.

    1. Nice try Lindsey with your spin on Invasive and rude policy’s but anyone here who has dealt[or will in future] with groups like yours knows the truth[or will know].Your post is total hogwash to be nice.

  20. I am ready to own a dog, my first in about 12-15 years. My previous dogs were german shepherd and a black labrador. I loved them so much, and both lived long lives until old-age allowed them to leave us. . . At the time, I was under 18 and lived with my mom, so naturally I don’t have a vet reference, but every single local shelter and rescue group I’ve contacted in central Florida requires a vet reference. How do people become first time pet owners then?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How frustrating. I don’t really know what to tell you. It’s not that hard where I live. Yikes.

      One thing you could try is to contact a local vet and tell them you are interested in adopting a dog. Maybe give them your info and get into their computer system. Then, you could list that vet as a reference and if the shelter calls them they would be able to say they have spoken with you.

      Hopefully you can talk to someone in person at the shelter/rescue and explain you’re a first-time dog owner so you won’t need a vet reference.

      Best of luck. Sounds very frustrating!

  21. Some people will be shocked if you buy a puppy. They will say things like “If you buy a puppy, you are killing shelter dogs.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Dogs die in shelters because people who work in shelters are killing them. This happens even when plenty of good homes are available. The shelters are killing the dogs, not you.

    Please tell me that is sarcasm! Nothing could be further from the truth?! HAHAHAHA! So purchasing lives stemming from forced rape doesn’t mean dogs literally dying to get adopted, getting murdered to make room for more because the person would rather purchase a life than save one! Oh dear me!
    “This happens even when plenty of good homes are available.” every life saved means one less useless death! Or do you not understand this simple concept my friend’s two-year-old understands?
    Just because the people in shelters are forced to end their lives, does NOT mean people purchasing raped lives are not reponsible!
    There is no such thing as a reponsible breeder when MILLIONS are dying in shelters! Huge boxes filled to the brim with the corpses of lives stemmed out of rape and dumped like an old tissue for being themselves!
    If breeders loved dogs as they claim, they would save them, not produce more!
    Do your research and you shall see the huge boxes filled to the brim with the corpses of loving souls who only wanted love, the barbaric instruments used by IRresponsible breeders, the statistics, everything!
    Shame on you!

  22. Why don’t you go to the shelters and rescues and tell those poor loves it’s ok for them to die if somebody would rather purchase a life produced by barbaric rape instead of saving their lives? How would you feel if someone told you that it’s okay for you to die because somebody would rather purchase a replacement for you rather than love you and be there for you? Or if it happened to your dog or cat or whatever, or sibling, parent, whatever relative had to go through this?
    Always put yourself in their place, please.

  23. I think my favorite pointers you’ve given are: “Visit the shelter in person before applying” and “Become a volunteer”.

    What I’d like to reiterate is that the people who volunteer in these shelters are “volunteers” and their heart and time is spent on looking for a permanent happy home for each pet. They are not in the business of making you, the person looking for a pet. happy. If you accept that fact ahead of time, then you don’t take it personally if you get rejected a few times.

    Instead, take the time to learn if you’re really ready to have a dog, about advances in dog training, basically showing respect to the volunteers and the animals. If you can show that, I’m sure it will come across to whomever is screening you and you would have earned the right pet to keep for life.

    I know it’s not easy, but anything worth having (like a lifetime companion) is worth earning. Getting the pet to your home is just a first big step. Everyday after that is a learning process.

    1. I dont need a volunteer to tell me what dog is suitable for me. Exactly what training to they have to make that decision? A vet or dog behavior specialist would have the knowledge for that, and a lot of these rescues ignore that medical and psychological advice. Rescue shelters are non profit and should focus on their service to the public. Animal welfare is societal issue, and not one to be monitored by amatuer animal enthusiasts

  24. I agree shelters are the ones killing these cats and dogs. Maybe if they weren’t so strict with their adoption policy people would be more likely to adopt from a shelter or a rescue and all people get is nasty attitudes from these places it’s a shame because there are a lot of good people who are more then willing and ready to give these animals a good home and shelters and rescue groups turn them down

  25. I LOVE this article its very helpful and informative! I was just rejected by a shelter that I was trying to adopt a baby pitbull from. They said that because my grandma lives with us and she told them the dog will be mainly me and my fiance’s responsibility that they feel we wouldn’t provide a good home because all the family members aren’t working together… my grandmother is 65 and has to work 6 days a week…
    Me and my fiance are 18 and I don’t work so I could be there with the dog all day to ensure he gets great care which I told them..
    They also made a point that we might not have the right insurance because apparently having a pitbull now affects what insurance companies will take you..
    After we disproved all of their previous arguments they then went on to say that they knew we would move and not find a place that takes pitbulls.. We own a house now that will go to us when my grandmother passes… We have never planned to move nor would we get an apartment that wouldn’t allow pitbulls.. I guess they just assumed that we are the kind of people that would just move without thinking of our animals..
    Needless to say we were heartbroken and their rejection caused us to question our potential to provide a good home for a dog.

  26. I have been looking at dogs on Petfinder and Adoptapet for 3 weeks and have seen at least 5 dogs that I’d be interesed in adopting but NOBODY answers my emails or phone messages. The most I got was an answer from a woman (after I left 2 messages) who emailed me saying she would call me that afternoon. Great, I thought…. well, 5 days later, haven’t heard from her. I don’t get it, do these people want homes for the dogs or not? Getting a bit frustrated with the whole thing and putting the whole adoption process on hold for now. Time after time, you get your hopes up for this beautiful dog, then nothing, zip. So why bother… Gets emotionally draining….

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So frustrating, isn’t it? When I was looking for a dog to adopt, I hardly ever heard back from shelters/rescues as well. I don’t know why. We will never know.

      I ended up adopting Ace because his original owner’s contact info was posted on the rescue’s web site, and I was able to work directly through her instead of the actual rescue. The rescue had him listed as a “courtesy posting” so he wasn’t actually with the group. The woman who owned him at the time called me back right away and patiently answered all my questions. It was a positive experience and worked out perfectly.

      I hope you eventually contact a group that is more organized and willing to communicate with potential adopters. Kind of important if you want to get dogs adopted, isn’t it? Good grief. I guess patience is the key. Best of luck to you.

  27. Man i had to put my 12 year young bloodhound down due to a long fight with cancer so anyway i started to look for another puppy to purchase but saw that tear jerking show on all those poor dogs looking for homes, found one that i feel in love with and filled out the forms and emailed every website i could find on this rescue dog even saw another guy that wants the dog and i was going to try to buy him out or something, man i just had to get this dog with the heart break story that went with it and everything but never got a reply cant find a phone number for the rescue and its a 6 hour drive to the place so after all this im forced to just buy a puppy again , ive herd nothing but this same story over and over but WHY? man something needs to change,damn just call us back and lie or something dont leave us hanging for months, good luck to everybody and god bless all those poor dogs.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Jim, so sorry to hear of your loss. I hope you’re able to find another dog to adopt, and if you end up buying a dog I know it will be a very lucky pup.

  28. I volunteer with a rescue group as a foster parent. I’ve had 13 different dogs live with me for times ranging from a few days to 8 months. All of the rescue’s dogs are fostered in loving homes, with families. I can understand privacy concerns about an in-depth adoption process, but when someone is interested in adopting a dog that’s been a part of my family for 6 months, I’m going to make sure that person is the right owner to care for them. Yes, that means a home visit. Yes that means a questionnaire, and yes that means you may be rejected if I don’t feel the dog will fit best with your situation. I’m sorry if people are hurt over this, but rescue dogs become a part of my family – at least in our group they do – and I am not willing to adopt a dog out without throughly checking the potential adopters out first. Despite the lengthy process, sometimes dogs are still returned. It’s impossible to ensure they won’t be. We can only do our best. And yes, that means if you aren’t willing to show me your house, you can’t have my rescue dog.

    I also want you to know that rescue groups are often run by volunteers. Volunteers that may have young children, day jobs, hectic schedules etc. Sometimes it takes a while to receive a response from us. Please be patient, and if you don’t hear back, try us again. We’re not perfect, but we do the best we can.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Michelle. I see you care about the dogs very much, and there is such a great need for foster homes like you. Thank you for all your work. It is so important to have foster homes.

      I also volunteer for rescues as a foster owner. I’ve fostered 9 dogs so far and 3 cats – hopefully more in the future! I also get very attached to my fosters, and sometimes I even cry when they get adopted. I love to meet the potential adopters beforehand, obviously, and I’ll even drop the pet off at their home if the new owner is up for it. Sometimes they even suggest it! This can be helpful for the pet to have someone familiar drop them off at the new home. It’s a great time to ask questions, too. But not all groups have the time or resources to offer this type of service.

      As far as mandatory “home checks,” I personally believe they are too invasive and scary to the average adopter. When we have 3 to 4 million pets killed annually in U.S. shelters, I think just getting these animals into homes is worth the “risk” of not doing a home check. Dying in a shelter is the real risk.

      Of course, our foster animals are already safe, but what about those that are left behind? I guess I see the home checks as an unnecessary “bottleneck” in the system.

      I see your point though, and I know you care about animals very much. I just hope more and more rescues will move away from these invasive adoption requirements.

  29. Dont have time to respond but have time to take care of dogs? It seems these foster owners are fanatical about these dogs, human new borns dont even have their potential homes scrutinized to such a ridiculous degree. Its overkill regardless the reasoning. I was denied greyhound rescue so i went out and bought a new one. Thats a failed rescue on the foster/adoption agency in my book.

  30. Ray, the rescue I work with is small and we have a max of 30 dogs in care at a time. We receive many, emails, texts, and calls about our dogs from potential adopters. We get questions on Twitter and Facebook and other rescue advertising websites. It’s often hard to find volunteers to dedicate their entire days to managing these sites and responding to inquiries. We have 30 foster homes to check in with, provide supplies for and book medical appts for. We have large vet bills to pay and have to schedule fundraising activities to pay them. We have to schedule adoption events and make sure there are dogs that can attend. On top of that, our rescue often visits a local reserve to feed the animals and take note of any that need to come in to care. The list goes on. Make no mistake, it is BIG job, done by just a few volunteers. Every one of the volunteers making all of these things happen behind the scenes also have their own lives, kids, jobs, etc. It’s not as easy as you think. No one is purposely avoiding responding to inquiries (unless you’ve given them a really good reason to).

    We see what happens when animals are neglected. We see what happens when a well-meaning person adopts one of our healthy dogs and returns him a year later, extremely overweight, with a knee injury and severe separation anxiety. He can’t get up on his own and needs help to go outside. We see what happens when a young couple agrees to finally surrender a dog weeks after sustaining a broken leg they were unable to pay vet bills for. They let the dog stay in a feces filled crate long enough that gangrene developed on the dogs leg. We see what happens when a dog gets part of a toy lodged in it’s gut causing a blockage and the adoptive owner waits a week to return him because he can’t afford the vet bill. The dog’s white blood cell count was equal to that of a dead dog’s when we did the emergency surgery to remove the blockage.

    These are the same people that loved their dogs and pledged to take care of them. That’s why we’re so careful. And even then, it doesn’t always prevent neglect and borderline abuse. After all, the people didn’t mean for it to happen. They loved their dogs – I truly believe they did. That’s why we have policies, ridiculous as they may seem.

    I can’t speak for all rescues/shelters and I know we review adoptions on a case-by-case basis. It’s not one policy fits all. Some dogs may be escape artists and need a very secure yard. Some may be fine in apartments even though they are large. Some may be very rambunctious and not be a good mix for a family with young children. And, sometimes good people are probably told no. We still make mistakes.

    And finally, I don’t think blaming rescue groups is the solution. We try so hard to help dogs find good homes. Be part if the solution. Get involved. Make a difference.

  31. Michelle wrote, “These are the same people that loved their dogs and pledged to take care of them. That’s why we’re so careful. And even then, it doesn’t always prevent neglect and borderline abuse. After all, the people didn’t mean for it to happen. They loved their dogs – I truly believe they did. That’s why we have policies, ridiculous as they may seem.”

    Sorry, but when it comes down to it, your statement says it like it is…and gives absolute credo to the author of this website for writing this article. It is just that you and other over-the-top rescue shelters just don’t want to believe it, and so use snap judgments to rule good adoptive homes out. There are hundreds, if not thousands of good people who were turned away, commenting on this and other sites (search the web) about how inane most shelter judgments come down and they continue to see the animal they wanted still sitting in the shelter for months on end. For every dog that remains in a shelter, that’s a spot that stands for the hundreds or thousands of dogs that were killed or abused in the meantime, that would’ve have been saved!!!!! contrasted with only a few that would be abused or neglected. The return policy’s intentions should be enforced and accepted as its purpose, when you have those that just don’t see the dog as a lifetime responsibility. But they shouldn’t be punishing such a great number of people with rejections. It’s contrary to the whole purpose and goal of saving animals and giving them a BETTER life.

    …. no amount of irrational over-criticalness in using home visits, jumping to conclusions about any little thing that a potential adopter such as they “might” move, all homes with children be disapproved, if home isn’t fenced in (at what cost? Have any of these volunteers ever priced a new inescapable fence these days????? you’re talking $10,000 on the average for a SMALL yard…RIDICULOUS!!!), people who leave dogs in yards are worse than those who actually walk them and you can never know the owner will actually walk the dog anyway, the list goes on for the irrational excuses of turning down good people and great families who want to adopt. They punish all for the crimes of a few, which you can’t stop no matter how many blanket rules and regulations you want to impose!

    The fact is that you can’t really foresee who will become the ones who can’t care for the dogs in the long term, except for real nutcases that you can easily weed out upon meeting them and speaking to them for 15-20 minutes. Sociopaths and self-centered people have a way of exposing themselves pretty quickly to someone who is tuned in to the clues. Have a contract that allows the adopter to return the dog. I agree, use some common sense judgments on people inquiring, like an angry pit bull should not be adopted by someone with small children or who lives next to a playground, for example. But not all pit bulls are nasty, so no blanket policy on that.

    However, these rescue shelters need to stop hoarding these dogs in miserable conditions for months on end, causing thousands of other dogs not to be rescued in kill shelters, by making unreasonable and irrational judgments based on their own unstable emotional state from seeing too much pain and misery in the sheltered dogs. Too many blanket rules which hurt the majority of animals and humans and too many snap judgments based on illogical connections.

    I was turned down because I questioned to see the adoption contract BEFORE I looked at a dog. I was judged against because I asked questions, because I wanted to make sure that I was making a sound decision in knowing all the details about their return policy in case the dog attacked my cat and it couldn’t be trained out of him. I guess that a person who comes in on impulse would make such a better life for the pet! Ridiculous! Those are exactly the people who regret their decisions because they didn’t think it out and ask questions.

    The second reason given for rejection was mentioning watching Cesar Millan’s show as the method I would use. So beware! never mention The Dog Whisperer, even though he is loved by many and has changed people’s lives for the better now that they know what can work. He has saved hundreds of dogs that would’ve been euthanized by those whose lack of training or positive training methods do not work. He isn’t against positive training by any means, just that if you have a problem case, dominance training is certainly worth trying before euthanizing, isn’t it?

    I talk to people walking their dogs about the process they went through to get it. Horror stories from every single one when it comes to rescue shelters, which forced most of them to seek out a breeder. In every case, they were psychologically hurt from the process of dealing with a rescue shelter, and the stories are so bad that I’m starting to feel bad for bringing these horrible experiences back to their consciousness!!! They all wanted to know where they could complain to get the story out, because they didn’t want others to go through this terrible rejection when they all knew they were good people with good homes. I certainly could see it in how happy and well behaved their pets were, so where do these rescue shelters get off making these snap judgments???? Oh, that’s it… by George, I think I’ve got it…. The adoption manager GETS OFF on judging people, which makes all the sense in the world at this point. It usually all comes down to psychology, doesn’t it? The person who volunteers all their time wants power in return, and that’s how they decide to feel important. Because they’re not being paid in $, they can reject or approve on a personal whim, and feel even more powerful and righteous in their decisions.

    It was the rescue shelter that taught these people they either need to lie to the next shelter or seek out another venue. In my opinion, the author of this website is saving a lot of people a lot of waste of time, energy and psychological hurt.

    I’m certainly not saying people should write-off rescue shelters, just as the author is not, but it sure has relieved me of a LOT of hurt, to know what to say and not to say the next time I seek out adoption. And yes, one of the people who was turned down was because she was made to feel like a fool for admitting she wanted the dog as a gift to her own teen-age child that lives with her, after their family pet had died. They said no pets may be given as a gift, period! She was still highly upset, even though that happened years ago. Now, does anyone really think that pet was happy and healthier for remaining in the shelter due to this blanket rule, and does any sane person really believe mom wouldn’t have stepped in to care for the pet if daughter hadn’t??? Insane. If she hadn’t mentioned it, she’d have had the dog.

    I learned from her that you can by-pass most of the rules and judgment and house visit requirements by volunteering at the shelter first. So what she did was drive 50 miles to a shelter that she used to volunteer at years ago and voila! she got her next dog just like that.. But if that’s not unfair, playing favorites, I don’t know what is. I just loved reading this site and the comments, because from my firsthand experience and of all the people I approached, all the negatives were validated.

    Many, but not all, rescue shelters would rather hoard their dogs in a kennel without allowing the dog to be loved for their own irrational fear it will be returned. For me, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost: Than never to have loved at all.”

  32. Hi Francis,
    I can certainly feel the passion in your response. I should have mentioned that I volunteer for a small rescue in Canada, and I have no doubt that many shelters and rescues have ridiculous policies – I don’t feel that our policies are over-the-top. As I stated we review each application differently depending on the dog. I’m sorry that so many of you have had awful experiences with rescues, but please don’t give up on them. If you are on this site commenting you clearly care, and you are the kind of people the dogs need. Try other shelters and rescues. Unfortunately a lot of dog people who work in rescue are often better with animals than people and it may lead them to make poor snap judgements about others in an effort to protect the dogs. I may be a bit biased because we’ve had 12 dogs returned this summer as some folks were not following policies when they adopted the dogs out. With all the returns this summer we haven’t been able to take in new dogs. And some were returned in poor condition. Rescue is a tough job. We want to work with you, not against you to find good homes. How do you suggest we find good homes without having policies? Should we just hope for the best?

    1. There is obviously a lot of emotion on both sides of this issue, because we all love dogs and feel we are doing the best we can. I think when someone volunteers for a rescue group, it’s easy to get defensive when someone criticizes all rescue groups overall. Likewise, when someone gets rejected from a rescue group, it’s easy to blame all rescue groups as a whole.

      For those of us who volunteer with shelters/rescues (which I do), I think it’s important to regularly evaluate our adoption requirements and make changes as needed. And for those who are adopting or trying to get approved as a foster, my advice is to keep trying. Try another organization. Try a shelter instead of a rescue. Try a shelter in a neighboring area.

  33. Should rescues just hope for the best? Well, yes! Having a fully fenced yard, no plan to have children, no preference for a particular type of dog, a cat that never goes outside….is no guarantee that you will be a good dog owner. I adopted a dog with fear based aggression, and other behavioural issues stemming from abuse……and with a lot of work she achieved level 3 in obedience, accreditation as a pet therapy dog, and she plays nicely with cats and small children. She is now nearly 13, and being a large breed I know she won’t be with me much longer. I mentioned to a friend, who fosters for a rescue, that I would like to rescue my next dog, and she said that I would be rejected as my fencing wasn’t suitable.

    I have been reading about, and looking at, dogs on a rescue’s website. This one has what they call their second chance program….it seems to be mainly for dogs who have been adopted out and then returned to them. Sometimes elderly owners die, go into nursing homes, or become too frail to manage a dog. Young people become homeless, die, lose a job, get another dog they like better, become FIFO workers, get pregnant, marry someone who hates dogs, give the dog to someone who abuses it, abuse it themselves whatever, but the point being these people all passed the test that I fail because of my fencing.

    I own my home on a farm fenced half acre. My dog stays inside when I am at work. I plan on living here forever. My cats live inside. If my brother comes to visit, and the house catches on fire, and I only have time to save one life…..it will be my dog! I can work with toileting issues, bad behaviour, aggression. I can afford vet care.

    So…..yes……rescues should be less fussy. Is a concrete cage at the shelter really a better place for a dog than my home?

    Not to worry. I have a friend with a fully fenced yard who is going to get the dog for me. Problem solved.

    1. Yes, unfortunately that’s what you have to do sometimes. I know I will be rejected from some groups as well when I’m ready to adopt, because I’m in an apartment. This is the reason I will probably just avoid most rescue groups. The shelters in my area are generally less picky.

    2. Hi Lauren! I think rescues just need to be better at listening. If you were to say exactly what you said above, I don’t think there’s any way you could be rejected – at least not by my rescue. Maybe we’re just not asking all of the right questions on our applications and we could probably make some improvements, but it seems that most of you have been rejected because of a low fence height or other trivial policy. You’re right. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover and you can’t jugde a person by an adoption application – especially if you aren’t asking the right questions. If you live near Edmonton Alberta, give us a shout!

  34. Anyone who needs to lie is obviously the kind of person who should NOT be responsible for another life, especially a life that has absolutely no say it where it ends up. The rescues speak for the animals in their care. The animals ended up in rescue because of irresponsibility. It is irresponsible to lie. See how that works?

  35. I thought this was a very well written, well thought out post. I’ve never worked as rescue volunteer; I’ve only supported local rescue. But I have been on the receiving end of rejections and, today, I will only work with 3 rescues where the people know me very well and although I still have to fill out a 5 page, detailed application and submit photo of our property, I know that in the end, they’re more than happy to give us a dog.

    We’ve proven that we’re responsible dog owners; but it was a very heart breaking time when we were searching for our first dog.

    And, to be honest, one of the many reasons I don’t volunteer for rescue is because I would be a hinderance to adoption too – I think that I would reject a lot of people too.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks so much, Kimberly! I am lucky to have found a group to volunteer and foster with that I truly support. Of course we don’t agree on everything, but that is not possible for any large group of volunteers to all agree (and that would be kind of creepy if we did). And I know they would let me adopt a dog from them.

      I’m glad you’ve found some awesome groups to support as well.

  36. This really touches a personal note for me, and it’s such an amazing piece. Before I adopted Laika from a local shelter I had fallen in love with a 6 year old female retriever mix. It was a few months after my last dog passed away and I knew I was ready for another (going on walks without a dog felt so wrong…). I did not research the rescue very well, I will admit, but I knew they were going to be at the “Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo” event in Detroit so my boyfriend and I went down there. When I met the dog in person it went perfectly; she was a shy dog so I sat down on the ground and she actually came right up and curled herself into my lap. We took her for a walk around the grounds and she was behaving perfectly – even my boyfriend was impressed (he’s usually not one to compliment such things). I had already filled out an application before arriving there and when my boyfriend and I made the decision she was the right dog for us we went back to finalize everything. When they looked over my application again they said “Oh you work full time?” Basically even though my boyfriend and I have staggered schedules (the dog would have been left alone for 4 hours on weekdays) they rejected us. I’ve never been so shocked; I had no idea you could be rejected for working. If I worked 12 hour days maybe I would have understood there decision. Anyways I think it’s the fact that I wasn’t told beforehand that I wasn’t a “good fit” is what really pissed me off. I’ll never quite understand why they didn’t tell me that when I met them in person – they had my application in hand already; and they’d had it for weeks at that point 🙁 But yeah shortly thereafter I went to a local government shelter and fell in love with Laika. I adopted her on impulse; originally I was looking for an older dog but sometimes looking at a cute pup makes my brain malfunction. I told myself “sure, I’ll take a young Shepherd mix; how hard could it be?” Lol. It’s all worked out well, but I’ll definitely be checking the fine print when it comes to the adoption process from now on.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for sharing your story. Gosh, how can that group find any homes for its dogs if it won’t adopt to people who work? Don’t most people work? Good grief. Of course, I’m so glad you ended up with Laika, but still.

  37. I have applied to 29 different rescue groups and shelters and have only been approved by 3 so far (over last 3 months)…this is why people land up at pet stores. I have the means, time etc but there’s always something that isn’t quite perfect…well, these dogs aren’t perfect either
    and someone is taking a big chance with a dog from a rescue or pound. Almost at the end of my patience.

  38. I’ve just adopted from a shelter that has a number of animals who are longtimers. Some have been in this shelter for as long as eight years. The dog I adopted is a pitbull/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, six years old and was stuck in the shelter for five years. During that time they did nothing to eliminate some bad habits and taught him to expect treats constantly. They would allow him to destroy objects without correction and to pull on the leash. The volunteer I dealt with most is domineering and needy, identified closely with the dog and decided she was going to become my new best friend. After they signed the dog over to me, she kept calling and texting me, as late as ten thirty at night. By her own admission, she had five dogs at home,two of which are not housebroken (I can see the house now), yet she was obsessed with this dog. However, she never saw fit to train him decently or teach him that he is not to take food from counters or people’s plates, destroy objects and get on the furniture. After meeting several of the volunteers at this shelter, my feeling is that a lot of needy people with serious issues get into volunteering for rescues. They were all edgy, highly reactive, loud and keyed up, and the dog’s behavior reflected their own mental states. I finally had to tell them I wanted no further contact and blocked the main volunteer from my phone and Facebook. Now my dog is serene, happy and learning how to behave well while knowing he’s loved and his home is stable and secure. He’s lost a lot of the extra weight put on him by having a treat shoved in his mouth every two seconds. Any rescue that has had dogs for years is one to look out for, I think. They have motivations other than homing dogs.

  39. Over the years I have rescued two dogs and two cats. Each rescue cost me $25. They were all fed grain free food, got lots of love and exercise. Last rescue was 5 years ago and I am now looking for a smaller dog … I cannot believe the fee they are asking for a rescue now! How does $300-400 encourage people to rescue animals? plus .. I didn’t really appreciate the questions that they put forward … like now …. you are perceived as a guilty animal abuser until proven innocent…. I say frig it … I will find a way to help these animals without going through the Humane Society and they are also going to lose my yearly donation. THEY are the impediment to these animals finding homes, all the rules. There are people out there who can’t meet all the rules but could still provide a loving home environment …. uh, sorry I can’t provide a cement floor and steel bars … yes, you folks are doing such a better job.

  40. Couldn’t agree more with this article and so many of the comments. We currently have one rescued dog and have been looking for a second. So many of the policies and practices of the shelters and rescues have been terrible. My family has never had an adoption application been denied but that is likely beacause we have been focusing on shelters with more relaxed policies. However, the condition the animals are kept in and the way they are treated has prevented two adoptions thus far. We continue to fall in love with dogs on petfinder that claim to be “well behaved” and “good with other dogs” only to find out that wasn’t the entire truth. I’m not sure that I would say that shelter works are killing homeless pets but shelter workers are most definetly not preparing the dogs to be adopted. The Volunteers and employees I have met are all clearly animal lovers but they don’t seem to be interested in correcting poor animal behavior or educated regarding training. They don’t handle dogs correctly. They don’t introduce dogs correctly. They than become quite defensive when you remark on the animals rowdy behavior. Totally agree with one commenter that shelters who have had animals for five plus years are doing something wrong. Basic commands and walking on a leash should be a given especially since so many shelters are jammed packed with Pitts and large boxer and mastiff mixes. And if they can’t be taught those basic commands after five YEARS than the shelters are irresponsible for trying to adopt them out to anyone.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, such good points Jessica! I have had similar experiences with shelter/rescue volunteers not knowing how to handle dogs and doing poor introductions, like letting two new dogs barge right up to each other. That rarely works out well! I know the majority of these volunteers care very much about the animals. There are just several places where more education is needed. It’s an overwhelming issue.

  41. My wife and I have just recently experienced a bad run in with a rescue operation in Dallas Tx. I want to first point out I was born and raised in this strange dog world and when I was a kid my Mom rescued dogs to help dogs so I do know the right answers and the wrong answers to these invasive questions. That being said my wife and I felt that we should adopt a dog rather than buy from a breeder to help a fellow dog out. We found the dog we were both interested in and I sent in the application for adoption. The organizer quickly responded but even I was a little shocked by his response. He responded by making fun of the dog breed my special needs son has for detecting and alerting to his seizures. I will tolerate some things but this was not one of them and with a little baiting I found out very quickly this organization has no intent on helping the dogs other than taking money from donations to continue to pay for their dog hoarding. Most dog rescue organizations i have seen in my life are this way which I have never quite understood. They will always find something wrong with every applicant. The people I’ve known over the years that rescue dogs use the excuse no one can take care of these dogs like they can and with that statement most are overwhelmed with to many dogs to take care of. If rescuing a dog was not so difficult I believe there would not be the issue we see today and I also believe most rescue operations use this excuse to continue to hoard dogs for themselves. Thank you for your blog and continue informing people.

  42. The EDL Foundation is extremely crazy. They want all these donations and help, but I rarely see the puppies given to good homes. They are just bouncing around from foster home to foster home. I filled out an app, before I saw this page, and I havent heard a thing back from them. I mentioned I was moving. Even tho the home Im moving to is a lot nicer, they probably assume the worst. I guess I didnt realize how judgemental they are. Its crazy because all they do is state how much their chihuahuas need a home. The owner has like 6 dogs herself, and she too is considered a hero. I didnt think this process would be so intense, I feel a bit insulted. Now I see why some people buy puppies rather than adopt. Thanks for this article. Seriously, it helped me out a lot and made me rethink this situation. (:

  43. Thank you so much for this article, Lindsay. I have filled out five application forms, each of which have taken me at least 30 minutes to fill out–all of which have been rejections. The only “mistake” I seem to have made is admitting re-homing a previous owned dog to a responsible family member of mine. (said dog is alive, healthy, and happy). My wife and I are boring middle class people with a decent home and fenced yard. I don’t feel so bad knowing that the trouble I’m having is not unusual.

  44. Our family dog passed away in an accident. My parents live close to a hiking trail accessible from our street, however, to get to the trail you need to cross over train tracks. My parents were always careful about having our blue heeler (very obedient, always by our side) on the leash for this portion of the walk. One afternoon a train came unexpectedly and without blowing its whistle my parents were able to jump out of the way but our beloved dog did not make it. It was a split second. It was the worst day of our lives and I think we will all spend the rest of our lives wishing we could go back in time. My parents are riddled with guilt. I have never seen my Dad cry but he cried for days after Bindi passed and went into a depression. Time has passed and my parents do want to get another dog. They want to adopt but I worry that the adoption process will make them feel horrible. We pass judgment on ourselves for what happened constantly and will never make the same mistake but I worry about the emotional implications of rejection. We are not bad people. We took our dog everywhere (hiking, camping, on backpacking trips, on our family vacations to the beach) and my Dad works from home so there is always someone around the house. Any advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh my gosh, Becca, I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. Yes, adoption can be difficult because of how strict rescues are. One option could be to work through a shelter/humane society vs. a foster-based rescue. They are often less picky. Municipal shelters/pounds are usually the least picky but then you don’t have as much information about the dogs. I’m wondering if you were to do some research and scout out some options ahead of time and then start involving your parents once you get a feel for the different groups. Another thing I would do is first find a group that will approve your parents and only then start looking at individual dogs with that group. Usually people fall in love with a dog first and then apply to adopt. Then they face rejection and are heartbroken. So, my advice is find the right group first. And if you’re open to finding a good breeder, there is always that option as well. Also, sometimes finding a dog in need of a home on Craigslist. I know that sounds shady but there are a lot of families posting on there who truly just need to find good homes for their adult dogs.

  45. I’m quite serious when I say the foreign adoption of my son twenty four years ago was far less stressful than my current attempts to adopt a rescue dog…I don’t think I can face one more heartbreaking disappointment…It’s almost enough to create a fleeting moment of self-doubt…I don’t know if it’s my age [62] or the fact I live in an apartment which is in a very very nice community with a large on site dog park, or what??? I have strong personal references and vet records from over the years showing my beloved animals always had proper care…
    Anyway, I thank you so much for your assurance that we fellow animal lovers shouldn’t feel guilt if we ultimately decide to purchase an animal from a responsible breeder….

  46. Thank you so much for this article. I had a very trying interview where it was pretty clear from the beginning that she didn’t think I was a good fit. It is really hard dealing with that rejection when you have a history of being a successful doggie parent. I’m happy that I’m not alone in my experience.

  47. I love this post! I was recently denied by an animal shelter because I have a 9 year old dog that isn’t neutered but is up to date on his shots. The shelter automatically spats or neuters all animals, so it shouldn’t matter whether my dog is fixed. Many will also deny you if you have a full-time job. Even though I’ve had my dog for 9 years and he’s fully trained and I don’t crate him at all, ever, because I actually am a good pet owner and I train and love my pets. They unfortunately cannot see the love an animal has for its owner and they automatically label you a bad pet owner. I’ve resorted to looking into adoptions from Mexico, since they have an actual overpopulation of homeless animals and they genuinely want to find homes for them. I remember when I was a kid you could go to the local shelter, give them $20 and go home with a pet. It’s sad that most of these animals have to live out their lives in a cage of no one meets the outrageous qualifications to adopt.

  48. This is enlightening I applied to adopt 2 dogs because they were bonded which didn’t bother me in the least but my application was denied because I ask if they had to be together in the same home or can my friend who live next to me adopt on and I adopt one. They told my significant other that if they were to adopt them to me I would give one away which I would never do, and it has been an emotional ride for me that they treat me like I am such a terrible person for asking a question. I have never adopted before so I called continuously asking tons of questions because I have other dogs and I wanted to make sure they would be a good fit. My significant other went to visit them and instantly fell in love. But because I ask question they refused me.

  49. My husband and I had a sharpei who we picked up as a stray a few years back. He was in rough condition but was a sweet guy, so after we tried and failed to contact his owners, we just kept him. We were in and out of vets and specialists for two years, who finally diagnosed him with, among other things, MRSA. Unfortunately, we had to put him down. It was especially hard for us because I was also going through chemotherapy at the time, and he was my right hand guy. 5 months later, we decided we wanted to adopt again and that we wanted a chow chow. We contacted a rescue that had great reviews. At first they were super nice, helpful, and responsive. They seemed pretty optimistic about us. They were thrilled to tell us our application was approved. Then they told us they wanted to schedule a home visit and that they’d call us to set it up. And then we stopped hearing from them. We later learned that they felt uneasy about adopting to us because I had cancer before and it might come back and we wouldn’t be able to care for a dog. Also, they didn’t like that we mentioned we were considering moving out of state 2-3 years in the future. We were devastated, especially since the dog we’d expressed interest in was adopted to another family in the time they stopped contacting us. My question is, why would they even tell us that we were approved if we really weren’t? Also why didn’t they just tell us the truth instead of leaving us in limbo, when they knew we were expecting a call?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That is just ridiculous. I’m so sorry you were treated so poorly. That is a poor reflection on the rescue, nothing you did at all, obviously.

  50. My parents took their unruly 10 mth old dog to the no-kill shelter but then deeply regretted it (realizing just how much he was part of the family), going back the next day to get him back or pay to adopt him.

    They were told because they were the ones who brought him to the shelter, they are never allowed to adopt him.

    I’ve been literally sick with worry, picturing him in the shelter. My dad didn’t even get to see him (wanted to give him his stuffed bunny squeaky toy).

    Would I be barred from adopting him because I’m related to the previous owners? I’ve been vegetarian/vegan for 14 years, used to donate to PETA, sign hundreds of animal rights petitions, have an AR/veg Twitter account, and have had the same dog (Pomeranian) for 10 years.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think you should have a friend or family member with a different last name try to adopt him for you. Just make sure they don’t tell the shelter the relation. I sure hope you can get him back. How terrible.

  51. Thank you so much for printing this article! You and all the commenters have made me feel better about the gestapo interrogations I’ve been going through trying to find an adult corgi. It’s so sad that this article lives on after a year. I love the corgi breed; I’ve had 3 corgi rescues in my lifetime and am looking for a new one before my old one passes away. I NEVER thought adoption would be this hard.

    My sin is that I have a FeLV positive cat colony. I couldn’t bear to see these cats put down when they are not symptomatic. So I house, feed, and love them until the disease takes over. I’ve had the majority of the cats beyond the 4 years I would was told they’d live and none of them are symptomatic at the moment! Thank goodness these rescue organizations aren’t responsible for HIV positive people because they’d all be dead according to their rules.

    I’ve always felt strongly about Adopt! Don’t Shop. No more. I actually completed a BBB Scam form the last organization because they refused to let me meet the dog BEFORE a home visit. So, I’m terrified they are setting me up for a burglary, home invasion, or to steal my existing dogs. Thinking about notifying the local sheriff that if I’m murdered, investigate this organization first.

    Hugs to all you dog lovers out there. It’s a shame a few are causing us to Shop! Not Adopt.

  52. Just went through the process of trying to adopt a German Shepard from a rescue. They turned my husband and I down without even speaking to us. We rent, and don’t have a fenced yard. If they had spoken to us they would have found out that we will be buying the home we are living in, we just have to wait for the sale of our property up north. We may not have a fenced yard but there is plenty of room, 3 acres for the dog to run and play in. We fostered dogs for a rescue group up north before we moved, so we have plenty of experience with large dogs, guess that doesn’t count. Well we went to craigslist and found the sweetest most loving shepard last week. The Poor thing had been kept tied up outside and fed only cat food which caused her to have digestive problems. She is extremely thin and the vet said she has EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) she has to have a special diet and enzymes for the rest of her life. She loves to go for walks with us and chase her ball in the back yard. She’s already spoiled rotten, we cook her a special diet and carefully moniter everything she eats. She got a basket full of toys and is laying at my feet right now sleeping. Some of these rescue workers are on a power trip.

  53. Ivelisse Rodriguez

    I got denied because I never owned an English Bulldog before hello no I want to adopt I have great income own property and plenty of time since I run my own business they stated the dog is súper lay back well mannered and very easy to adopt. It’s sad I think they just want to keep a house full of dogs.

  54. I was recently hired as a kennel attendant at the local shelter, which was a dream come true. Part of the hiring process included checking my volunteer references, a background check, a drug test, and I provided a written reference from my veterinarian as well. I also used to run a non-profit animal rescue, which saved dogs from kill shelters and rabbits from laboratories. Lastly, I’m an Eagle Scout and seasonal firefighter. That being said…

    While working, I had the opportunity to meet a dog who I thought would be a great match for our pack at home. Both of the dogs I’ve adopted in the past were smooth coated tan chihuahuas, the type that, statistically, have difficulty being adopted. I lost one of them to cancer last year and my remaining pup has been so lonely since. The dog in question wasn’t available for adoption yet, but I inquired about adopting her once she was released from stray hold. I thought the shelter manager, my boss, would be happy, but I was reprimanded instead. Apparently, dogs are not to be adopted by staff unless they’ve been at the shelter for some unspecified length of time.

    Confused, I gathered my thoughts and politely emailed the shelter manager for clarification of this “policy.” It seemed strange to me that a fully vetted staff member who was responsible and trusted for taking care of dogs at the shelter would be denied the opportunity to provide a great home for one of these dogs. No response to my email.

    I found being reprimanded for trying to do a good deed, ignored when asking for clarification, and the policy in general to be quite disturbing – to the point where I felt the need to resign from the job. But, guess what? Now I can adopt again!

    Please, don’t be turned off by shelters that employee difficult people. You’re right, those people shouldn’t be working with the public. They shouldn’t be in leadership roles. But, try to look past that because the dogs there need your help.

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