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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?

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.

Roberto Ricci

Friday 13th of September 2019

Rescues and shelters that are putting up such tough barriers to get a pet are going to shy people away for good.

I'm getting to that point myself, it was easier to get a mortgage on my house.

Roberto Ricci

Friday 13th of September 2019

I've been trying to adopt a dog for 9 months now, got denied every single time and every single place had a different excuse to why they would not adopt me the dog.

One was my career choice, I race drones for living part time and I work for my father part time.

They were afraid that the dog would get hurt by the Drone which is not true I take videos of dogs for families with my drones.

Another rescue denied me a dog because they said I had to at least have three dogs under my belt? like seriously?

Another rescue I went with a friend to go adopt a dog but I was waiting for my friend to show up and I did not want to wait in the lobby so I asked them is there a place to get a bite to eat around here and I'll be back. Well my friend shows up later and this chubby employee that was rude to me to begin with told my friend that I asked him if they had dog food at 7-Eleven that I can use for treats?

My friend said let's get out of here this place is crazy like seriously I did not even say that to the guy I just asked him if there's a good place to get a bite to eat because I was hungry.

So he lied to my friend some of these people that they employ are straight-up nuts if you ask me I'm in California I don't know how it is in other parts of the country but in California the people act like they don't like working there at all they're so rude and the experience is horrible.

And another one asked me how much I have saved up for vet bills just in case something happens and I said I have a credit card

They said no because of the possibility of it can get denied and your dog will not get care are you kidding me? If that were the case my family would definitely jump in until my credit card issues worth figured out if that would ever happen I mean some of the questions they ask is ridiculous no wonder why there's an abundance of animals in shelters it's hard to adopt.

I still have not got my dog and I was looking for a puppy to get trained professionally as a service dog but I didn't tell them that because who knows what they would have said then.

But bums are walking down the street with three or four dogs that they can't obviously afford that bills for but that's okay this country is backwards.

I want my dog but I don't know what to do I can't get one no matter where I go in my County. And yes I want to rescue from my County because I want to help a dog in need and some idiot in my County just let go.

Very depressing a Year's going to go by and I still won't get my dog I have no idea what the real truth is to why they will not give me a dog I seriously doubt it's any of the questions they asked it must be the way I look or something :(

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 13th of September 2019

I would try Craigslist or newspaper classifieds. Find an individual who has to give up their dog for whatever reason.