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5 Things I Wish Dog Rescue Groups Would Never Do

I’m not surprised when people are frustrated with rescue groups.

I can totally see where they’re coming from. You know, like, you’re excited to adopt a dog, thinking you’re doing a good thing by saving his life even, and then … Bam! Rejected!

Dog rescue people have a bad rap of being shall we say, socially awkward.

Like, poor people skills, major attitudes and clinging to dogs with all their life because no one is good enough for them. That kind of nutty.

Sometimes I drag my husband to dog rescue fundraising events and it’s embarrassing how well some of these other volunteers meet that stereotype!!

He and I just kind of glance at each other sometimes because there really are no words.

So, I’m going to write this post in the kindest way possible because I know dog rescue volunteers have big hearts (I’m a rescue volunteer myself).

It’s just easy to lose touch with reality sometimes. I get it, we all love the dogs and want what’s best for them.

But …

5 things I wish dog rescue groups never did

Dog rescue groups

1. Criticize someone for returning a dog.

It’s extremely difficult emotionally to return a dog.

Returning a dog makes you feel like a failure. Here is this poor dog that’s been abandoned or mistreated (in your mind anyway), and all you want to do is love him and give him a good home.

Only, he’s trying to kill your cat or he’s able to bust out of his crate or he’s barking nonstop.

These are things you can’t always predict or plan for. And guess what? Even the most experienced dog owner is not going to be excited about separation anxiety or cat aggression.

Returning the dog is sometimes the responsible and best thing to do, so it makes me sad to see rescue volunteers bashing people on facebook for returning a dog that wasn’t a good match.

2. Holding double standards.

This one’s frustrating.

So, if you volunteer to foster dogs and you have 7 dogs total in your home at any given time (your 4 dogs + 3 fosters) you’re viewed as a hero among rescue volunteers. And you probably should be because God knows I could never care for 7 dogs.

But then … if a potential adopter applies for a dog and writes that she has 4 cats and 2 dogs already … well, she might end up getting rejected for being “over the pet limit.” Especially if she’s in an apartment or within city limits.

All I’m saying is let’s judge each situation by the level of care the animals are receiving. The number of animals isn’t really the issue. It’s how they’re cared for.

3. Making excuses for aggressive dogs.

I’m not talking about dogs with obvious, severe aggression.

I’m talking about the dogs that are a bit more under the radar by showing less serious reactivity or resource guarding here and there that’s brushed aside time and time again.

Often, the rescue board members will blame the foster volunteer, not the dog. “So and so should’ve known better.” Or, “this happened only because of the resident dog” or “the kids must’ve been too rough.”


A bite is a bite.

Sure, people make mistakes but all nips and bites and snarls should be discussed and taken seriously. And adopters need to be aware of all these little “quirks” no matter how minor they might be and no matter whose “fault” it was.

5 things I wish dog rescue groups never did

4. Introducing new dogs head on, face to face.

I know this one comes down to knowledge of dog behavior and experience. I can’t blame people for not knowing any better.

But if I could shout anything to rescue volunteers from the rooftops, it would be “Introduce new dogs slowly by walking them side by side!!!!”

These introductions can make or break an adoption.

If either dog snaps at the other, the adoption usually won’t happen. This can be avoided by a slow walk around the parking lot and then doing an intro after 10 minutes. DO NOT RUSH INTROS!

5. Not stepping back to re-evaluate their own adoption policies.

Times change.

If rescue groups don’t take a step back to re-evaluate their own intake policies, adoption policies, marketing procedures, public relations, budgeting, fundraising, etc., the dogs will suffer.

It’s important for any business, team, school, church or nonprofit to pause, slow down and evaluate how things are going at least twice a year. Rescue groups need to make it a priority to do the same.

If you’re so busy you can’t take two hours to evaluate your own organization, something is seriously wrong.

Maybe everything’s going great. How can you be sure if you don’t take the time to evaluate?

So those are my 5 main issues.

Really there are probably more but I better stop here before I say too much.

Let me know if you can relate to any of these or what you’d add to the list.

Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.

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sheryl fair

Sunday 1st of August 2021

I am so glad to hear your thoughts on adoptions or not being allowed to adopt because. I have filled out forms that you would imagine a parent trying to adopt a child from India having to answer. I'm not saying you shouldn't get as much info as you can, but seriously asking who will care for the dog since you are ?elderly? and might just keel over?? I mentioned to my vet my struggles and she had been turned down from adopting a Golden retriever BECAUSE she had a seven year old child...... I did get to adopt an elderly dog, 17, George who did still have heart worms and would remain on meds the rest of his life;like me. Adopting him was one of my greatest achievements because he gave me what was left of his heart. Sadly, just after his first Christmas in a house with his own bed, he had to be put down because of throat cancer. I am thankful I was given the chance, four months, to make his life better because he certainly gave me his world of happiness and joyfulness.


Saturday 24th of July 2021

I tried contacting rescues and shelters when looking for a dog last year. I was offering a happy, permanent home. All I can say is, “Get over yourselves”.

When adopting a dog a couple of decades ago, I went to the pound, pointed to a dog, took her for a long walk, paid the $35, and agreed to have her fixed. We had a happy decade together.

This time around I contacted a couple of so called ‘rescues’. They presented so many obstacles that I had to conclude that they would be much happier just keeping the dogs themselves. I answered a few Online personal ads, met a few dogs, handed over a handful of cash for an 8 week puppy with a health certificate and we have been living happily ever after. All without the drama of dealing with a ’rescue’.

How many of these people understand that they are creating a market for new puppies while their precious rescues sit in boxes?

Lisa Nel

Friday 23rd of July 2021

Hi Lindsay, I have been involved in animal rescue all my life thanks to my mom :-). I am one of the less socially awkward ones but I totally agree you get some real non-people people in animal rescue. Regarding your point on people who return dogs, unfortunately, in my experience it is often simply because they don't want to deal with chewing puppies or the initial unsettled atmosphere in the house before the animal settles in. I agree that in certain cases its the best thing to do but in most cases that i've seen it's just lack of commitment very sadly. I agree with the rest of your points though - there is so much that can still be improved.

Lisa Nel

Monday 26th of July 2021

@Lindsay Stordahl, it is very overwhelming but very sadly some people just decide not to take up the offer of support or take advice and rather return the dog :-(

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 23rd of July 2021

Yes that's frustrating. I think offering support and resources is great for new dog and puppy owners. A new pet is overwhelming.


Thursday 22nd of July 2021

Hi there! I really appreciate your article on adoption places & procedures, etc. We had to relinquish our own pet (dog) a few years ago and it was VERY difficult. She had become very aggressive toward anyone approaching toys, food, etc. There was a biting incident which was severe and we felt we had no choice but to let her go. We had arranged to have her put down after a lot of soul searching. I/we couldn't bear to give her to a rescue society & learn later of an incident of someone--especially a child-- being bitten. On the morning of the arranged appointment, our vet backed out (he had never inquired about the situation & didn't know the full story) of putting our beloved pet down. Therefore we were forced to check out other avenues & gave her to the local equivalent to the SPCA. We wrote out pages of information, paid our $100.00 to relinquish her as well as signing away our rights to know what became of her. This was an excruciating process in an already painful situation. Then, once she had been posted for adoption, the writers out and out LIED about how she'd been treated!!!! How dare they assume that she had bitten because she'd been mistreated. I absolutely lost it & spent the entire night writing an email to them to CORRECT them of their idiocy. We loved our dog immensely--I still miss her terribly--. Anyway, they did change the write up. I trolled their site to keep an eye on her as best we could. The write up changed again, presumably because an employee had been bitten. Our sweet dog had gone from being an acreage dweller, to be confined to a small cubicle with very little attention. I think she became aggressive one day to whomever came to let her out of her crate. The last write up I read had changed to a home needing to be for adults only.....then, a week or two later, she disappeared from the website. I believe that she was then euthanized. My hope is that --- and this may sound cruel--- she was put down to rest; for her own well being as well as that of potential adopters. Vets and these organizations need to get on the same page because "behaviour therapy" does not always work and it is, often, the best thing to do. As well, I have a problem with adoption centers making you sign to return the dog to them if anything happens. I fell this is unfair to the dog too. He/she has a beloved owner and other humans attached and they go back to life in a kennel???? Ridiculous. Thanks for letting me rant.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 22nd of July 2021

Oh I'm so sorry you had to give up your dog. That situation sounds terrible and must've been so hard.


Tuesday 20th of July 2021

I have fostered dogs, working with my local humane society. I quickly came to the conclusion during a recent search for a new pup that there are some good people who volunteer for rescue groups and perhaps get a bit of a power buzz going. I learned fast to think twice about how I responded to questions on applications. But I've seen that in other situations where people are donating their time for a cause; my husband and I experienced it when we volunteered in Louisiana after hurricane Rita, and my daughter experienced it when she volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. This spring I volunteered at my local Covid vaccination center and there was an extremely positive climate there. I learned this week that that positivity was the result of people at the top who were committed to making the vaccine recipients' experience "like going to Disneyland." It flowed from the top down.