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Why won’t shelters and rescues let people adopt dogs?

In 2011 I wrote a post asking why some people were rejected when trying to adopt dogs from shelters or rescues. Later, I wrote a post on how to get a dog adoption application approved.

I read all the readers’ comments from those posts, and created two lists:

1. Reasons people said they were rejected from adopting a dog

2. Reasons people said they gave up on adopting a dog

I hope these lists will encourage shelter and rescue directors, employees and volunteers to loosen up their adoption procedures even just a little.

If someone has a positive experience with a rescue group, she will tell her friends. She will be more likely to donate and volunteer. She will be more likely to convince others to adopt. And when she is looking for another pet, she will be more likely to adopt again.

That being said, here were some of the responses:

Reasons people were rejected from adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue

  • They were college students
  • They were under age 25
  • They would be first-time dog owners
  • They were single and worked full time
  • The potential adopter worked 10-hour shifts
  • Both partners worked 9-5
  • Their commute to work was “too long”
  • They hadn’t decided whether or not they were going to have children
  • They had young children
  • They had young grandchildren
  • They owned indoor cats
  • They owned outdoor cats
  • They lived in an apartment
  • They did not own their home
  • They did not own a fenced yard
  • Their entire property was not fenced
  • They lived out of town
  • They lived out of the metro area
  • They lived out of the county
  • They lived out of state
  • They lived on a farm
  • Did not want to show proof of income by showing a tax return
  • They did not have a current veterinarian (because they were first-time dog owners)
  • They could not provide receipts for a full year’s supply of heartworm prevention medication
  • They chose not to give heartworm prevention meds in the winter months
  • The potential adopter did not give heartworm prevention to his senior dog dying of cancer
  • The potential adopter did not vaccinate a pet ferret for rabies
  • Current pets were not “up to date” on the kennel cough vaccine
  • Current dogs were not spayed/neutered because they were show dogs
  • Current dogs were not spayed/neutered for health reasons or because of old age
  • A show-quality cat was not spayed
  • Some were not given a reason at all – They just never heard back!

*Note: I would also be rejected for at least nine of these reasons if I tried to adopt from some of these places! How about you?

Reasons people gave up on adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue

  • The shelters and rescues did not respond to calls or emails
  • They sent in applications and never heard back
  • The adoption process was “demoralizing”
  • Shelter workers were rude or lacked basic customer service
  • The adoption fees were high (As high as $900!)
  • They could not meet any dogs until filling out an application
  • They could not meet any dogs until paying a $30 fee
  • They were not allowed to choose a dog themselves (the rescue got to decide)
  • Did not want to submit to a pre-adoption home visit
  • Did not want to submit to surprise home visits after the adoption
  • Did not want to give their social security numbers to the rescue
  • The application required an essay titled “A day in the life of your new dog”
  • Could not afford the required “holistic” dog food
  • Did not want to complete “multiple” interviews
  • Did not want to take the mandatory dog training class
Black lab mix sleeping on his dog bed

Yep, some of those reasons would be enough to cause me to give up, too. Good grief! Craigslist dogs, anyone?

And how can we call it “pet overpopulation” when shelters and rescues are refusing to adopt out their dogs? Oh, that’s right! It’s because we have a marketing problem. Not an overpopulation problem.

What is the solution to this problem?

Fed up pet seeker

Friday 19th of April 2024

IMO rescues are not run by good people. They are run by scammers and nutbags. Some of them set up these rescues to scam "donations" and tax free status and others are mentally ill animal hoarders. I have yet to receive so much as a reply to emails asking about pets. These people post these lovely pictures of pets up for adoption and encourage you to email them and then they just ignore. My state has made pet stores illegal so where am I supposed to go? I guess I'll find an out of state puppy mill. Thanks for nothing "rescues".


Monday 4th of December 2023

I'm trying to adopt a puppy from unforgettable underdogs. They have all my information on my past dogs from vet n good references. We did a meet and greet n they knew I have a senior dog n they r denying me cause the foster lady thinks it's not a good idea. Although I sent pictures of my big dogs interacting with the senior small dog n I've owned many large dogs n know what I'm doing . I recently lost my two dogs 3 weeks apart from old age. I bought them from breeders. I am heartbroken from losing them. I thought it would be a good thing to adopt a dog to give it a good life. They just put a sour taste in my mouth. So I will b buying from same breeder which I have been happy with. That poor puppy would have had a good forever home !!

Geraldine Bonilla

Thursday 12th of October 2023

My hearts a little broken right now. first, I lost my little puppy mill rescue, dog at the age of 15 years. And my heart began to heal with the thought of rescuing another puppy mill. I applied to some well-known rescues didn’t hear much back so I kept contacting them. They said I was denied because I didn’t have another dog to be a friend to the rescue so I applied for another one. They didn’t say they needed another dog and I was denied again and again and again finally they contacted me by email and said possibly I should look into some senior places to rescue dogs so at the appoint I knew it was because of my age. I am healthy and very active and that should have nothing to do with it. In my opinion.

K. Werner

Friday 22nd of September 2023

This is so true! I lived in a 600 square foot home and one cat rescue operating out of Petsmart in Richmond, Va. once told me it was too small. You would think if they are trying to save a lot of cats, they wouldn’t be so picky.


Friday 14th of July 2023

You hit the nail right on the head. Rescue people are Fanatics who don't actually care about animals, just control of other people. Never in a million years would I get a dog from a rescue or shelter anymore. The quality of those animals has gone completely down the drain and dealing with the people just isn't worth it. I buy only from reputable breeders.