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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?


Tuesday 18th of October 2022

i tried to adopt a dog from several rescues, several times and was denied, because we live on a farm, and the area around the house is only partially fenced- not fully fenced. in the end, we adopted the dog we wanted anyway, because the dog had not been relinquished by the owner yet, and we got in touch directly with her, and she gave us the dog. She thought it was ridiculous to have those rules with no exceptions, especially when the dog in question, never left her yard, and was off leash all the time, but he was never a wanderer. However he did have serious housebreaking issues and very very bad separation anxiety. our home was perfect since between all of our family, the dog would almost never be home alone due to our lifestyle. But it would also have been very expensive and impractical to fence in the area the rescue requested. My husband also was not at all interested in being "inspected" by them, before the adoption could go through. End result was, the original owner stopped working with the rescue. They had told her she has to relinquish her dog and he must spend at least one week in the shelter, before being adopted out. She thought that was awful for this sensitive , nervous dog to have to be traumatized by spending a week in the kennel, when he had a nice prospective family already waiting and that part could be skipped. This was four years ago, this dog is still with us, no fenced yard, off leash all the time, does not wander, he is my shadow, won't even go out to the yard to pee alone, i have to go with him. He definitely does not need a fence. Due to being with the family 99 percent of the time, his separation anxiety went away, now if we go grocery shopping and he happens to be alone, he is ok, because he knows we come back. it's not like before when he was left alone all day because his owners worked out of the house. he has a great home, a great life, and it would have been so stupid for him and us to have missed out on each other ,just because of some rigid rules about fencing, that don't apply to every situation.


Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Our local shelter also requires you to fill out an application before meeting the dog. I thought it was strange, but not to the point of being unreasonable. So I filled out the application to meet a bonded pair.

They were very high energy and required a fenced yard with room to run, and preferably no kids. I met all of the qualifications, and I absolutely adored them. I would have taken them home right then, but they required a meet & greet with my current dog. It was a hassle, since I don't live close and my dog doesn't do well in the car, but okay. I guess it is better to make sure there is no aggression between them, right?

I returned the next day, my dog in tow. We did the meet. They couldn't have cared less about each other. I thought it was fine. I didn't expect them to become besties in a 15 minute meet in the play yard. But the person leading the meet decided they should have a second meet & greet, because she was "concerned" about their lack of interaction.

I tried talking it out, explaining that I wouldn't expect a second meet to go any differently and that I didn't want to put my dog through the stress and discomfort another hour long drive, but they insisted, so I left.

It is not easy to find a home for a bonded pair, let alone such high energy dogs that need a fenced yard. I was perfect for them, and I'm still upset about it. But I don't enjoy being made to jump through such pointless hoops.


Sunday 22nd of May 2022

ALSO, I work from home and would have been with them nearly all day. And those dogs had already been there for 6+ months. You'd think they would loosen up just a little, especially when I had the perfect home situation to offer them.

Sarah Burks

Tuesday 14th of December 2021

My husband and I went to a dog rescue shelter this past weekend ourselves to find another doggy companion for our current dog and when we found the dog we wanted we put in the application. I called them two days later only to find out it was denied because they didn't want that dog to be outside while my husband and I were gone at work for 7-8 hours a day. They "only strictly adopt out indoor dogs" according to them and their website. I don't care what their website says they have no right to say they want their dogs to be strictly indoors because it's not up the shelter in the end, it's up to the potential dog owner in the overall end of things. Needless to say I left a bad review about said pound because they told us no we can't have the dog due to long working hours and the dog being outside. My husband and I will never buy another dog from said pound again sense they were so rude to us when we put in the application to begin with and very rude to me over the phone. Dogs are most happiest when they can be outside to do dog things and run around in a lovely fenced yard. So needless to say my husband and I are very upset but unfortunately we can't do anything about it and it sucks. Hopefully people know that if you want an outdoor dog you can't get that from paws and they would rather keep that dog in their shelter in a kennel rather then give it to a loving home who has a fenced yard, a dog house, an electric water bowl, and a dog run. Again this was the worst experience wevr had with that place. Never again.

Karen L Sanzone

Thursday 14th of May 2020

Many of the dogs at rescues are there because they were in puppy mills. You may not know anything about the dog's background. Sometimes they are just left! Even if they are, do you leave them in a place like that?


Saturday 25th of April 2020

some of the reasons for not letting people adopts dogs are reasonable, but others are ridiculous! also, who doesn't work 9-5 nowadays? that's why we have doggy sitters! i wanted to adopt a dog for my uncle and aunt, both 60, not too old. very fit and healthy for their age. and adoption agencies lied to my face saying they don't have dogs for adoption, just because they didn't want to give away dogs for "old people"! adoption agencies workers are one of the rudest breeds. they are at home all the time and can give the dog the attention it needs. they weren't even looking for high-energy dogs because they want to be responsible and understand they can't take a malinois, for example. adoption agencies are horrible, seriously. then they wonder why people just go on and buy dogs. it's just easier. what more- most of the people deemed "acceptable" to adopt dogs, return them later on because the kids won't take care of the dogs, and the parents brought the dogs "for the kids". it's ridiculous!

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 25th of April 2020

So sorry to to hear about your poor experience.