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Dog rescues: good things and red flags?

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  • Dog rescues: good things and red flags?

    DH and I are considering adopting a dog in the next year or so. The two we have now both came from county animal control, and they have both worked out pretty darn well and are wonderful to be around. I don't want to upset the happy family we have now, where everyone gets along and shares beds/crates/toys politely, and behaves around the cat, etc., so it seems like going through a reputable rescue might be wiser than crossing fingers, pulling another poor soul from the shelter and hoping for the best.

    Thing is, I have very little experience with rescues. So help me out, COTHers ... what are the hallmarks of a good, reputable, not-crazy rescue? What things should raise big red flags and send me running in the other direction?

    I'm finding things already that either sound sensible or ridiculous, or ridiculously unprofessional, but I'd love more input from people who've adopted from rescues and/or people who volunteer with rescues.

    Full-time bargain hunter.

  • #2
    I wasn't too involved with the situation but my grandparents got a dog from the Nebraska Springer Spaniel rescue and they never should have been given the dog. They were at the time in their early 90's and feeble and wanted a steady eddy springer. I know the lady that had the dog had about 15 dogs in her home and gave this one glowing reviews but he turned out to be an insecure, fear-aggressive, sickly crayzee dog. They felt sorry for him though and wouldn't return him though he attacked my grandfather when he got up in the middle of the night. I think the dog had been hit by a car or beat badly b/c his skull and teeth were malformed and any time a man lifted a hand higher than their waist the dog would attack them. OMG what a mess. They refused to give him back and honored their adoption so the whack job dog is still theirs but they don't enjoy him and my poor grandmother is suffering through a dog that is All Wrong for them. Other than avoiding that particular "rescue" I'd say to do a vet check on your own and spend time with the dog; my grandparents wanted that particular breed and were suckers for a sad story and a cute picture. ugh.
    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


    • #3
      I volunteer with a rescue and thought i'd have so much to talk about here, but I don't know... it all depends.
      A lot of what i could say is dependent upon my personal views of what a rescue 'should' be doing on an ethical level, but each rescue has their own mission and values (ie, where they stand on taking in medical/special needs dogs, heartworm/health testing before accepting to pull a dog, raising sponsorship before accepting to pull a dog- and whether or not their financial situation would greatly allow them to take in $$ cases, or prohibit it...) unfortunately, what the rescue group may say on their site may differ from how they act. Just for one example, I know of one group that vows passionately to 'end pet homelessness in [city]' and yet they hardly ever take in bully breeds (which are ev.ery.where. in that city), and pull many many (small, cute, fluffy) dogs from rural animal controls even in surrounding states. To me, that's not really helping your own city, and not exactly honest. But they're a hugely popular, well known rescue in the area so my opinion is the minority.
      I donno, that sort of thing may or may not matter to adopters who are mostly concerned with getting a particular type of dog, and/or just want to get a dog and don't care about the 'culture' of whatever group has a dog they like. Not a value judgment from me, just an observation.
      If the mission statement- and i don't think it's a requirement, but i would want a group to have some form of their values/goals/mission written down somewhere- says something about taking in special needs dogs that need extra help, look at their site or ask them (many may not have a great website... some of us, ahem, procrastinate in that part, ahem...) what they've done recently for special needs dogs. If they say something about helping pet owners keep their dogs and avoid them going into shelters, ask how they do that (our group is VERY proud of this part of our work. We have a medical fund for owners facing unexpected emergencies, a dog food pantry donation of several hundreds of pounds of food per month, and other programs. If someone asked us about that, they'd eventually have to hush us up or we'd talk all day!), and so on. Don't overlook the smaller groups with the less flashy websites. Smaller groups have their pros as well Visit them at an adoption event or outing and see how they interact with their dogs, the public and other volunteers. Ask animal control facilities for recommendations- they may not go into their own opinions, but it's a starting point. You can also ask animal control if there's been any legal trouble with the rescue group before, or anything like that.

      I guess you could go through word of mouth with the public too, but many people have SUCH varied perceptions of what a rescue 'should' be doing, and so many people seem to be more willing to share the horrible experiences they've heard of rather than the good, hitch-free, normal experiences.

      I guess I'm not much of a help here, i'd say do some research and if a group has a policy what you're unfamiliar with, be upfront and ask them politely about it, and if they ever allow exceptions (and explain your situation if yours would be one). Some groups DO have unreasonable expectations, especially for puppies and small breeds (someone to be home all the time for the first 6 months of puppy's life, no small children ever to set foot or to be born into the family so long as twiggydog is alive, lol), but i think it's not impossible to find at least one group whose requirements line up with your own.
      Also understand that some of their rules, wacky as they may sound, might have stemmed from repeated negative experiences, usually resulting in dogs being dumped or returned to the group with many issues. Rarely does a group have a policy without having a reason behind it. Whether or not you feel it's a reasonable reason is another thing, but do ask!
      (We did have the "fenced in backyard" policy at first, but then found- and were confirmed by a speaker during a seminar- that people were more likely to demote the dog to backyard-only status if they were able to conveniently chuck him outside, rather than having to face the behavior and fix it. We now don't require fenced in yards for most of our dogs. Loosening that restriction isn't a magic fix, but it's something we value.)


      • #4
        Don't get one from here. When you read the blurbs on the dogs, they ALL have some sort of serious history and many of them are dangerous.


        • #5
          I live in the northeast (NJ), and I adopted a dog from a rescue based in the Washington, DC area. They go to southern states, visit the "high kill" shelters (I hate that term), pull the dogs, vaccinate & spay/neuter them while the dogs are still down South and bring them north to be adopted.

          With my girl, she was transported from the southwest corner of NC to MD the day before adoption. She spent one night in a foster home. We were told she was fine overnight, slept on the couch, all was well.

          We brought her home and within two days, we realized we had a dog with one severe case of separation anxiety. We were not willing to return her to the rescue as we were afraid of who or where she would end up.

          It took us two years, a local veterinary behaviorist, and finally a visit to Univ. of Penn behavioral department - but we now have a "normal" dog. She is on medication and we have put in over a year of intensive, daily work with her (behavioral exercises tailored for her by UPenn). We'll likely be reinforcing the exercises for the rest of her life.

          Moral of the story: Do not adopt a dog that the rescue is not intimately familiar with. There is a local rescue that keeps their dogs in a knowledgable foster home for a minimum of two weeks before making the dogs available for adoption.

          I really think that's a great idea - that way the rescue has time to observe the dog's true temperament & figure out any quirks they may have.
          Last edited by tarynls; Mar. 6, 2013, 02:21 AM. Reason: typo


          • #6
            I think rescues can be a total crapshoot. And I almost think that the more they want to interview and do home visits before giving you a dog, the better (though, I do think a lot of rescues shoot themselves in the foot with super strict requirements and ultra high adoption fees!).

            I do not regret my dog in the least. She is the best, and I adore her to itty bitty little pieces. But she came from one of those rescues that shows up at Petsmart on the weekends. They really did not know her the way they thought they did. Supposedly, she doesn't like kids (loves them). They weren't sure about her with cats (which, I don't get how they could have had a dog for 9 months and not have tested her with cats. She's great with cats, btw). They told me she would be a velcro dog. HA!!! She is the most fiercely independent dog I have EVER met (which I love about her!), and she does have a major case of wanderlust. They just had no clue about her. Thankfully, when I adopted her, I was coming off another challenging dog (in different ways), and she is my best friend. I adore her, but they got her all wrong.

            I was seriously unimpressed with the rescue that my employer used for their last dog. While the group did a home visit and introduced the dog to the other dogs and cats in the house, they came late one quiet evening. They should have brought the poor dog back on a busy afternoon, when we have a barn full of boarders coming and going, haul ins coming in for lessons, and just TONS of traffic. The poor dog has STRUGGLED with the traffic and is an anxious mess because of it. It was not a good fit for him, and the rescue all but pitched him out of the car and away they went. He's a sweet dog, but the poor guy spends a lot of his days being anxious and borderline aggressive.

            So, I would want to feel a group really gives a s**t about the home the dog is going to and that they really, truly KNOW the dog and what it needs to be comfortable. Otherwise, I almost rather pull a dog out of the county shelter and take my chances.


            • #7
              I think its so hard to say, because it even depends within the rescue. I got my dog from a petsmart rescue too. She was sitting in a crate outside, I walked up, and it was love at first sight! Though I've had her less than a week, she's been everything the rescue has said she would be. Her foster mom was extremely open about the dog and we discussed my living situation at length. The only thing they did not do was a home visit, but they did require proof from my rental co. that I was allowed dogs. They made sure I knew what I was doing - which vaccinations dog needed, to give heart worm/flea meds, etc.

              There was another rescue I seriously considered but they made me nervous for a few reasons. Firstly, there was a lot of misinformation. One of the dogs I knew I wanted to see said on his ad he would be great for an apartment. The lady at the stand said he would be great for an apartment. Luckily I was there when his foster dad dropped him off, because the first thing the foster dad said to me was the dog was very high energy and would need a high fenced in yard because he had been known to jump fences. Secondly, they were adopting a puppy to someone who wasn't even present. The woman's friend was filling out the application for her, and was going to bring the puppy to her. That made me nervous too - I'd want to know who my dogs were going to, and especially puppies.

              I spent a weekend looking at different rescues outside petsmart/co, and did lots of online research beforehand. I would definitely do both, and if anything seems off to you, trust your instincts.
              "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
              "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


              • #8
                I think one just has to remember that often the rescues/foster homes have not had the dog for very long and don't really know much about it.

                I had a truly wonderful GSD mix who I adopted at the age of 4+ who was "perfect" in every way except for aggression towards men. And I mean serious aggression towards men (especially on leash). I don't think the girls who pulled her from Animal Care and Control were lying, I just think they were all women and hadn't tested her out with men. She lived until 12+ and really was lovely with babies, kids, old ladies, etc. I worked with her for years, told men who came up to me and wanted to pet her because "I love dogs" that they couldn't and never had an incident. Men who lived in my home were deemed "ok" once they were around for a while but I never let any man just reach down and pet her.

                I recently adopted my next dog, a black dog (lab/hound/herding?) mix. This rescue had "meet and greet events" at a doggie day care so you were able to "hang out" with the dogs in a group setting, take them for a walk, see how they interacted with other dogs/people and I found that very helpful. I spent 3 hours with her. I could get a sense of her energy level and her ability to connect with people. They said she was "perfect". For the most part she has been really easy. They did not mention or did not know that she had separation anxiety if left in a crate - she tried to dig out and gave herself a bloody nose . However she is fine if she is left out to lounge on the couch so that is what I do. She is also terrified of kitchen utensils. I suppose she was hit with them. There was another dog that looked nice on paper but I believe had a serious case of ADHD (or the doggie equivalent!). I wouldn't have known that had I not watched her for a while and am happy with the choice I made.

                My sister-in-law has always done "breed specific" rescues. She has had Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and Labs. All with varying issues but in general really nice good dogs. One Chessy had aggressive tendencies that were mitigated over time and in the early years I just always showed up with steak in my pocket so he liked me

                I think it is a combination of your gut and a crapshoot no matter how you get your dog.


                • #9
                  I don't know what to tell you. I volunteered with a breed rescue for 6 months and resigned after what I thought were major ethical lapses. And this appeared to be a "good" rescue.

                  Just check them out as thoroughly as you can, use a rescue that someone else can recommend and has adopted from, ask about the rescue here on COTH and cross your fingers.

                  Really though,the most important thing to realize is that it will take months for the dog's true personality to emerge. Just like with a purchased puppy, you need to be committed to training and helping the dog fit into your family.

                  Your best bet might be with a dog that's surrendered by a family hit by financial misfortune or death. Those are the dogs that are least likely to have been mistreated and will come with less baggage.

                  OP, I don't know where you are or what breed or mix you're considering, but feel free to PM me with rescue possibilities...if I know anything, I'll be happy to share the good and the bad.
                  Last edited by LauraKY; Mar. 6, 2013, 10:32 AM.


                  • #10
                    Depends on your lifestyle. Yard not fenced all the way around with 6-foot fence? You won't sign a statement saying that your dog will never, never, NEVER EVER EVER be off leash? Then most "rescues" won't have anything to do with you. And never, ever get one from Roxie's Fund. http://www.roxiesfund.org/

                    These people took a dog, spayed it, and put it on Petfinder when the owner died, even though the owner had stated IN WRITING that in the event of her death the dog was to be returned to the breeder so the breeder could re-home her. When the woman died unexpectedly, "friends" took the dog and turned it over to rescue, not only refusing the pleas of the breeder but of anyone who knew the breeder and of anyone who was referred by her. Breeders are evil! Breeders are bad!


                    • #11
                      As to the written instructions. Read and learn: The woman in this case was having some health issues, but certainly never expected to die, esp. suddenly. She and the breeder both signed a letter stating that in the event anything happened to her and she could no longer keep the dog, said dog was to be returned to X (the breeder).

                      Well, the poor woman died very unexpectedly. There was only a sister as a relative; they weren't close & sister wanted nothing to do with the dog and was more than happy to let deceased's dog training friends (the dog had a TD and a BH and was active in AKC obedience & was also training in Schutzhund) take the dog. "Friends" were anti-Schutzhund and anti-breeder.

                      Breeder presented her letter, signed by the owner, and those of us who knew the owner also knew what were her wishes for this dog. Attorneys' comments were that such letters are worthless because they become invalid the moment one of the signers dies. The agreement was between A and B and stated that if for any reason A could not keep the dog, the dog was to be returned to B. Because the letter did not say "in the event of A's death," that was not covered and the letter became null and void the moment A died. If she had mentioned the dog in her will as having to be returned to B, that would've worked, too, but the dog was not mentioned in the will because she thought the letter covered it. Wrong.

                      Very sad.

                      You'd think just reading her letter would've been enough for Roxie's Fund, but nope, they took the dog anyway, changed her name, and posted her on Petfinder with a sob story about her tragic life. Meanwhile, at least 8 people who had her littermates, her sire, her dam, or who knew these dogs, asked to adopt her and were all denied.
                      Last edited by Anne FS; Mar. 6, 2013, 12:12 PM. Reason: Apologize for hi-jack


                      • #12
                        I do some work fostering for a breed specific rescue, which I became familiar with after I adopted my boy from them. Things I like about them

                        - they take in dogs from shelters and private owners who cannot keep them
                        - they spend the money to make sure the dogs are healthy before being listed for adoption
                        - they only have foster homes, no shelter, so the dogs get more personal attention, and the foster/rescue knows more about them.
                        - they stay in touch after the adoption to help with any potential issues any way they can
                        - they don't have one size fits all rules about home environment, for example they will adopt to people in apartments if they are familiar with the breeds needs

                        Just a few of the things that makes me happy to work with this group, and why I feel very comfortable reccomending them.
                        You can't fix stupid.... but you can breed it!


                        • #13
                          I am on the BOD for a rescue and I foster cats, and I find adopting dogs from rescues frustrating. The good is that in our rescue, the fosters have the dogs long enough that they should be able to tell you what the temperament is like. Unfortunately most of the dog fosters don't have cats, so that is an unknown, and many don't have children either. When I have wanted to adopt a dog, I have become extremely frustrated dealing with private rescues because they are slow to answer questions, want a lengthy application completed before talking to a potential adopter, or won't adopt to a person without a six foot fence, as mentioned. I have had good luck adopting from our county shelter. In one case I took an older dog, who was good with cats and other dogs, luckily enough, and in another, I took a 4.5 month old pup who was going to be euthanized because he was huge and no one would take him. He has been a super dog. If you have an idea about what breed you want, I would look by breed, and search both private and public options, keeping in mind that either type rescue can be a risk.
                          Mystic Owl Sporthorses


                          • Original Poster

                            Thank you all for these responses!

                            DH and I don't have a particular breed in mind. Both our dogs are mixes, but they are of a similar type, and that type seems to be what we are drawn to when we browse pictures of dogs up for adoption. I am way less concerned about breed than I am about finding a dog whose temperament meshes well with the humans and other animals living here.

                            We would do the same with new dog in terms of manners that we've done with our current two: basic obedience, housebreaking, crate training, polite leash manners and whatever else is required for the dog to be a general pleasure to be around. We would do a better job of socializing a new dog; both our current dogs are fine with people, but one is not great with other dogs, and neither of them are good at being alone without getting anxious.

                            The culture of the rescue is important to me. I spent a long time last night reading through various local rescues' websites and blogs, and several of them had a definite "no one can possibly care for these dogs the way we can, and you should be falling-on-the-floor grateful that we would even consider you as a potential adopter" vibe to them. I also noticed a few that had more than a little bashing of other rescues, people who surrendered dogs to shelters and general bashing of people who did not do with their animals what the rescue thought was "right." Even when they were justified in some of their comments (yes, people who surrender dogs to shelters for stupid reasons, like "the dog got too big," are irresponsible and likely shouldn't be pet owners), the negativity seemed really unprofessional to me, and it was a turnoff. When I read stuff like that, I start wondering what it'd be like to have an adoption contract with folks like that ...

                            Others seemed really professionally run and very positive about their dogs and potential/past adopters. Those tended to leave me with a better feeling. I also appreciate seeing lots of well-organized, detailed info online, particularly a section on how the adoption process works for that particular rescue.

                            Is having a trainer on staff/available for consult generally considered a plus?

                            How common is it for the rescue to retain ownership? That was something else I came across last night that squicked me out ...

                            We thought the main benefit of going through a rescue would be a much better overall knowledge of the dog, what it likes, what it doesn't, etc., and also potentially a recourse if the dog doesn't work out, and that last part is something I'm a lot more aware of now.
                            Full-time bargain hunter.


                            • #15
                              I'm sending you a pm.


                              • #16
                                Retaining ownership is not at all unusual, although it is almost always very difficult for them to seize a dog. It has to be outright abuse and even then, it's not easy. Look for the less controlling rescues...if you have to submit photos and vet reports for an extended period of time...they're controlling.

                                Check out their facebook pages, that will probably tell you more about them than their websites.

                                Have you thought about an older, senior dog?


                                • #17
                                  In my case, once I paid for the dog, they made it clear she was mine. However, as with most rescues, if she did not work out they would take her back. That, along with knowing the dogs habits/personality, was my main reason for ultimately deciding to go with a rescue (and specifically one that fostered dogs not kept them in kennels) rather than the humane society.

                                  I agree with LauraKY that if constant updates and vet reports for a long period of time were required I would say no thanks.

                                  Facebook pages are definitely a great resource.
                                  "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                                  "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


                                  • #18
                                    I find it is a total crapshoot. You can get a jekyll and Hyde from a pound, a rescue or off Craig's List. I probably will NOT adopt from a rescue again (even though I volunteer for one) because I'm so tired of filling out applications, giving my life history, 16 references, blah blah blah. Now I know that is a GOOD thing but it j ust sees that everytime I turn around it's another application. Jobs, fosters, apply to be volunteers, I'm just done. Now of course that is a LOT of applications I've filled out, someone else might not be so annoyed! But I do not like it when rescues do not stand behind their dogs. I adopted one, she turned out to be totally opposite of what she was like at the kennel (not a foster place but a no kill shelter). In fact she tried to kill my dog a couple of times over the next year. They would not take her back (well they MIGHT have EVENTUALLY) and I was just flat out the adoption fee, no exchanging for a less homicidal dog that was a better fit. Thanks to Cesar Milan we finally have come to an understanding and she's a pretty good dog now. Other rescues seem to think their dogs are made out of GOLD with $250-400 fees for ancient, medical problem riddled pugs. A young pug is sometimes $400 and up. I mean for that money I'd much rather go to a reputable breeder, spend more and get a NICE puppy with guarantees! It isn't like these are in any danger after all. Rarely do I find much at our pounds, sadly they are mostly pit bull types and that would probably not be a good fit here!

                                    So to make a long story s hort, read the fine print and ask what will happen if the dog doesn't work out, dies, is sick or needs expensive vet work (like hip replacement), tries to kill your dog, etc. etc. Then when you find one you agree with be sure it is all in writing.

                                    My best "finds" have been word of mouth or friend of a friend and a really cute pug from Freecycle. And they were all free! And fixed and some had shots... Just look everywhere for the right dog for you, not from the right place.
                                    Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                                    Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                                    • #19
                                      [QUOTE=summerhorse;6874394]A young pug is sometimes $400 and up. I mean for that money I'd much rather go to a reputable breeder, spend more and get a NICE puppy with guarantees! It isn't like these are in any danger after all.[QUOTE]

                                      I think that is fine. I am a fan of a certain breed, and I wanted a young dog to participate in dog activities with. Every reputable breeder I've ever purchased a dog from or inquired with had an application and required references, as well as a telephone interview. It isn't a breed commonly found in rescue, so the breeders do tend to be protective of them - and part of it might be that.
                                      I would suggest talking to local people about area rescues since you have already started your own research online. Ask your vet or dog trainers or groomers that you have used. If you have to give a rescue a reference, there is nothing wrong with asking them for a reference either.
                                      In my area, there are some rescues that are pretty reasonable in terms of their requirements and the way that they deal with people. They aren't always able to keep dogs in foster care for a really long time, and it *does* take dogs a while to come out of their shells and start acting like themselves. Also always remember that the foster will always be different from your home, so there may be bumps in the road. I think that Laura makes a really good point that no matter where you get a dog from, there is always an adjustment period and you never know for sure how the dog will be in your home.


                                      • #20
                                        I work for our cities animal control, the good rescues I have dealt with tend to be more of the foster only type rescues. No actual mass housing facility(not saying that's bad, JME). They will pull a dog(or cat) from us, place it in foster and not put it up for adoption till after the dog has settled in and they've had a chance to evaluate it. Then if any behavioral issues come up they work on the issue till they deem the animal fit for adoption. There are some local shelters that will also foster animals out and take the time to do a basic evaluation. Personally I'm not impressed with having a dog behaviorist on staff. One particular rescues behaviorist deemed a dog "dog aggressive", my friend adopted him and he's turned out to absolutely love EVERY SINGLE dog he meets. Some people take their power a little too far.

                                        As for the rescues that retain ownership....I don't know if any truly enforce that. I've lost count of how many people that have surrendered an animal to our facility that was originally adopted from a rescue with same policy. When we contact the rescue to see if they want the animal they either won't return our calls or state they are full and can't. I've found more breeders that take the animal back then rescues! A good rescue(and breeder) will microchip all animals prior to adoption and make sure they are listed as an alternate contact with the microchip company. Very frustrating to pick up an animal with a chip that the owner hasn't bothered to register. No better then putting blank dog tags on the collar!