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Do dog rescue groups make it too difficult to adopt a dog?

I’ve fostered several dogs, so I know where rescue groups are coming from with certain adoption requirements.

But when the adoption application process for these dogs is too difficult, it creates a bottleneck in the sheltering system.

Currently, 3 to 4 million healthy dogs and cats are killed annually in U.S. shelters, and I believe it’s a shame we aren’t trying harder to get them into good homes. They don’t even have to be perfect homes.

Today I am featuring three women who have found it difficult to adopt a dog. (Two of the women asked me not to use their last names.)

Two senior black Lab mixes

Here’s what they had to say about the adoption process:

Adopted dogs can make great pets

Jennifer P. said it’s important to her to adopt a dog because she feels these dogs deserve homes and can make great pets. Her current dog was adopted from a humane society in Illinois and is “absolutely the best dog.”

She has been attempting to adopt a second dog for the last six months and has faced several rejections.

“Getting rejected multiple times while trying to give a loving home to a dog has been frustrating to say the least,” she said. “I want to be able to give a home to a dog that doesn’t currently have one.”

She’s not alone.

Kristyn S. also tried to adopt a dog a little over two years ago, and she said that same dog is still available for adoption through PetFinder.

“It’s so sad to see that he could have had a loving home for two years, but instead they chose to keep him in a foster situation with lots of other animals,” she said.

Kristyn had dogs growing up that were adopted through the ASPCA. She said her parents always emphasized the “importance of giving rescued animals a chance at a better life.”

Not having a fenced yard is a barrier

To Jennifer, one of the most frustrating obstacles in the adoption process so far is that she does not have a yard. She currently lives in a two-story town house with a large patio area.

She said she has applied for several dogs and has been rejected each time based on her written application.

“I don’t even get to speak to anyone on the phone about my application or get to meet the dog,” she said. “This is the most frustrating part, not even being considered. I feel they are missing out on helping a dog.”

She said she is willing to hire a dog walker and will do anything to give the dog the best life.

Woman with her adopted dog

Not having a fenced yard was also a barrier for Kristyn.

She said her previous dog Sis (pictured above) was perfectly suited to apartment living and went for long morning and evening walks with a midday bathroom break.

“She led a happy and comfortable life, even though she didn’t have a fenced-in yard,” Kristyn said.

Lenore Hirsch had a similar experience getting rejected.

She “ended up with a wonderful dog” (check out her dog’s memoir here), but first she was turned down from adopting a border collie.

The humane society told her the border collie was not a good match for her apartment lifestyle at the time and would need space for running.

“I was heartbroken,” said Hirsch. “Talk about feeling that you’re not good enough!”

Home visits are a barrier

Black Lab mix with red collar

Another barrier Jennifer has faced is the home visit, where a volunteer will visit your home to make sure it’s appropriate for a dog.

She said she was rejected from adopting one dog because she lived more than 2 hours from where the dog was located. This was too far for the adoption organization to send someone to complete the home visit, even though Jennifer said she was willing to make the drive to meet the dog.

“I was flabbergasted that this was the reason,” she said. She had even offered to take a video of her home or to Skype.

Advice for others who hope to adopt a dog

The dog adoption process can be challenging, Jennifer said. “A few years ago it was easier, but times have changed.”

She said she wants adopters to know it’s important to keep looking.

“The dog will pick you, and then it’s time to jump the adoption hurdles,” she said.

“While I have had a difficult time, I do have a dog and a cat which adds a level of complexity. I am sure there are places out there that are easier to adopt from.”

What could rescue groups do differently?

Jennifer said she understands that some of the adoption agencies have a lot of applications for each dog, making it very difficult for volunteers to follow up on every application. However, she believes every person should be considered and deserves a follow-up call.

“It is very hard to judge a family based on a paper answer,” she said.

If the dog the family applied for is not a good fit, then perhaps a different dog could be a good match, she said. Sometimes you just don’t know if the pet is right for you until you meet the dog in person.

Hirsch also wonders if there is a better way to match potential adopters and pets. She suggested some sort of survey to hand out to potential adopters. That way, each person can determine the type of animal that would best suit their family situation and lifestyle.

“Better to let the human rule out certain types of animals than to let the person fall for an animal and then be turned down,” she said, which is what had happened to her.

For example, if the pet is too skittish, too aggressive, needs too much grooming or too much exercise.

Woman with her adopted dog

If you are a foster parent to a dog or a cat, Kristyn (above) suggested you ask yourself this question:

Would this animal be better off in a loving home being offered by this adopter, allowing me to take in another animal that would otherwise be killed?

“Obviously there have to be standards,” she said. “Many of the animals were rescued from abuse. And the foster parents are very attached, and want them to have good homes.”

Still, a fenced yard doesn’t make a good home, Kristyn said. “Good care makes a good home.”

What suggestions do the rest of you have for finding the right balance on this issue?


Thursday 7th of July 2016

I'm in AU. For a long time I would look on this rescue site at the dogs they had and I never enquired about any because I wasn't ready to take it. When I was ready, and I saw a dog I liked I applied for it. Not only did they turn me down, they told me that they were sure I'd find a dog at another rescue - in other words, don't ask here again, we're not giving you a dog.

I've had 10, mostly maltese, for 30 years. I keep 3 or 4 at once. A few were given to me from people who didn't want them anymore. They live inside, have a dog door and yard, and all but one has died of old age.

The experience was so offensive that I will now buy from a breeder (and am currently waiting for a litter), simply because it comes without this judgement. Many people are going to be so offended that they will not go back to a rescue. Rescues, in my experience, encourage the very thing they are trying to stop.


Saturday 11th of June 2016

Wow! This was a great, accurate read. My husband and I are currently in the same situation- we keep getting rejected, and we don't know why.

We own our own home, fully fenced large yard, no stairs in our home, no kids, no other pets, we both WORK FROM HOME, we have both had dogs in the past (not together), and we can both afford the medical expenses and fees for a healthy dog.

I work with 3 animal rescue orgs through my own small business, and volunteer at 2 shelters. I have fostered dogs.

So why do we get rejected? Your guess is as good as mine.

I think rescues are being too picky, and unfortunately, what I've seen happen is that happy, loving families end up BUYING a puppy from a puppy mill or breeder, because they got rejected multiple times.

Is it right? No. Are they ways we can improve? Yes. But maybe, if one rescue reads this article, and implements changes, it will catch on.

Also, this is another great article here:


Thursday 2nd of June 2016

I bet if I made a sizeable donation to the rescue ,I would get the dog I want.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 2nd of June 2016

I don't know, Robert. Some rescue groups are pretty darn difficult! Good luck with your search, no matter where you end up getting your dog.


Thursday 2nd of June 2016

We have been trying for months. We get great references from out long time vet and still nothing. We are going to a breeder now.


Thursday 7th of April 2016

Seeking to adopt a dog and I am on every web with applications. Sad part is that rescue is good but it makes you tell yourself just buy a dog. The rescue groups being volunteers just do not make it a good experience. It breaks my heart but think it's time to give the pigs that make $ on dogs what they want. I thought there were so many homeless animals. Talk to the rescues I have and they have no answers etc. Would like to give a happy home to one but they frustrate me to the point of who really cares...