Are you thinking about adopting a dog? Rescuing is a great way to both add to your family and save a dog from living many months or years in shelters or foster homes. This post will give you the general process for adopting a dog from a rescue so you know what to expect!
First, I will explain difference between a shelter and a rescue.
Adopting a Dog: Shelter vs Rescue
Shelters have one building to house all of the animals. They might be in cages for one or in a larger area with a group of dogs. The screening process is minimal and, many times, you can just walk out with the dog of your choice. Also, they usually don’t charge a high adoption fee.
On the other hand, rescues don’t usually have one building for their organization. Dogs are kept in foster homes with foster parents and, many times, they have their own animals, too. The screening process is more extensive, with more paperwork and usually one or two home visits. You usually need to wait 3-7 days for your application to be cleared before officially adopting a dog. Also, the fee is typically higher than a shelter.
Overall, I recommend a rescue. Why? Well, that is how I got my sweet dog with a tail of a large raccoon two years ago.
Yep! Today Benny’s cake day.
I loved that Benny was fostered by a wonderful couple who had their own dogs. This was important because he was able to practice socializing. The foster parents knew SO MUCH about Benny (Wolf, at the time) and could accurately describe his behaviors in detail to my husband and I. Shelters can’t do that as well.
Also, although the fee was higher than a shelter, you will pay for it later. Why? Many people adopting a dog from a shelter will find that the money adds up once they go to the vet. Most dogs from rescues are given more extensive vet care than in a shelter. Especially since they are living at foster homes with other animals, as well as children.
I will not be discussing pet store purchases in detail in this post. I do not promote or support them. I urge you to go the adoption route or through a trusted breeder.
But… enough about that! Let me tell you Benny’s adoption story:
I always grew up with dogs. Usually, two or three at a time. It was the norm for me! So, I knew that once Bobby and I moved into our first house that I would want a dog. We lived in a condo on the water in Long Beach, NY for two years. It really bothered me that we could not have a dog. Yes, they are a lot of work. Yes, they cost a lot of money. But, the amount of love and companionship you get in return outweighs all of that.
I began looking into adopting a dog about three or four months before we moved into our house. A month after we moved in and got settled, I asked Bobby to go to an adoption event with me to look at a cute lab mix I was interested in adopting. Bobby was not into the idea of adopting so quickly after buying a home. But, he reluctantly went with me one Sunday morning.
We ended up not having a connection with the lab mix. Sounds odd, but if you went through the process you would understand. You can feel when a dog is yours. So, we left that event and, on the ride home, we stopped at another adoption event by the same agency (click here to visit their website). That is where our journey began. Outside the doors of Petco in Patchogue, NY.
Benny (aka Wolf) was laying outside of the doors of Petco when a customer walked out of the store squeaking a toy. Benny went NUTS! He was so excited, jumping up and trying to find where the noise was coming from. Bobby immediately strolled over to him and began to pet him. I could see it in his eyes. Benny was ours. Click here to see Benny’s adoption page! It is still live on the website.
Long story short, we ended up fostering Benny for five days before we decided the fit was right for us.
Two years later, we are happier than we could ever imagine.
Are you interested in adopting a dog from a rescue?
In this post, I will outline the general process that you can expect if you choose to take this route.
Process of Adopting a Dog From a Rescue
Research what type of dog you want
The first step you need to take is to figure out what type of dog you want. Using Google, research various breeds that you are thinking about adopting.
While you read, keep the following in mind:
- What size dog do you want to adopt?
- Do you want a puppy? An adult dog? An elder?
- What temperament will fit your lifestyle?
If you are someone who travels often, you will want a dog that can come with you on your adventures. So, maybe you would look into a dog under 20lbs that you could take on a flight. Maybe you are someone who works from home. You might be interested in a breed that is low maintenance. For us? We did not want to have to go through the baby-like training process of adopting a dog under the age of 6 months with a brand new home. But, that is something you will need to decide based on your current life.
Yes, your mind might change as you go through the process. That is OK. But, the more research you do beforehand, the less time you will waste as you begin going to adoption events. Without knowing what you’re looking for, you might be overwhelmed easily. Especially if you are getting a dog with someone else. Make sure you have these conversations beforehand so disagreements don’t erupt.
Ask for advice from people who have rescued before
A great way to maneuver any process is to ask advice from others who have already had experience. Why? First, it can shorten the process. When you do not know what you are doing, you might end up takin unnecessary extra steps. Or, you might end up following faulty advice you found through research online.
So, if you are looking at adopting a dog in the near future, talk to people you actually know who have done it before. They can help you figure out what dog is best for your lifestyle. Also, they might be able to recommend great rescues in your area.
My parents have adopted dogs from rescues before, so they were my go-to source. After we adopted Benny, we were able to help a few of our friends with the rescue process.
If you want advice from a large audience, it might be a good idea to go to social media to post some questions you have!
Browse adoption sites & social media pages
Today, almost all rescue agencies have easy-to-navigate websites and social media pages to help people with the process of adopting a dog. An easy way to find rescues in your area is to go to Google and type in “Rescues in ______” and fill in your location. Most will appear immediately on Google Maps!
Start to click around their websites. Most will feature what dogs they have available at the moment. Some rescues might have new dogs weekly, while others get dogs on more of a monthly basis. It all depends on how large the rescue is and how popular rescuing is within your area.
If you are willing, you can even look at rescues outside of your area. This might be a good option of the breed you want is not common for most rescues.
Another aspect to look for while adopting a dog is to check testimonials on rescue websites. See what people are saying! This might be easier to find on their Facebook Pages. Almost all rescues have turned to social media to expand their rescues in order to find more people who want to adopt. You can also find pictures of animals that need a home and adoption information there.
Don’t be afraid to message rescues if you have ANY questions at all! Most are extremely friendly and are more than willing to help you find the dog that is right for you!
Attend adoption events hosted by rescues
You can find a dog on a rescues’ website, but you should meet them before adopting. Like I stated above, you have to make sure the dog is the right fit for you. A picture is just the beginning. It is like online dating. What you see is not always what you get. Personality is so important and that cannot be seen from a half a dozen online photos.
If you are interested in a specific dog you found online, send the rescue a direct message or call them. All dogs are not always at one event. For example, the rescue we used is pretty large. Over one weekend they might have three to five different adoption events. This is because they spread the dogs over various areas on Long Island to reach a wider audience. The same might be for your area. Smaller rescues might have one location every weekend. It all depends.
If you message someone in charge, they can tell you the best time to meet the dog. Remember, rescue dogs live with foster parents. Therefore, the foster parents need to be available in order for the dogs to attend the adoption events.
But, if you are between breeds and maybe have only narrowed down the size and age of the dog you want, make a few visits. Carve out a few weekends to go to multiple events from different rescues. Bring a list of questions. Take notes.
But, treat it like there is a sale going on with limited quantities. It is kind of like buying a house. If you are in love, take a risk. Jump! The dog might be gone by the end of the adoption event that day.
Be sure you meet the adoption requirements
Unlike shelters, rescue agencies usually have a list of requirements you must meet before you are able to adopt a dog. If you cannot meet the requirements, don’t even bother filling out an application.
Most rescues are strict for you to adhere to their rules, which I love! They are not like typical pet stores whom let you purchase and take a dog with giving little to no information.
Here are some general requirements most rescues require people to meet that are interested in adopting a dog:
- Age requirements (usually 21 and older)
- Adopt permanently, no matter how your lifestyle changes
- Everyone in the household is pet friendly
- Show proof that you have a stable place to live with the dog
- Safe and friendly living environment
- Agree to properly train independently or using professionals
- Ability to pay and care for the dog
- Fill out application and pay the mandatory fee
Make a choice to adopt immediately or foster
If you are, in fact, able to meet all of the requirements stated by the rescue you choose, the next step is to make a decision to adopt or foster. I highly recommend fostering first.
Yes, you did your homework. You figured out what type of dog you wanted. Went to those rescue adoption events. Found THE dog of your dreams. There was a connection instantly! But, let’s be real. Thirty minutes at an adoption event does not reveal everything about the dog you want to adopt.
You can ask the foster parents seven hundred questions about the dog you adopted. But, every environment is different. The dog might not get along with your cat. Or, the dog might be too hyper for your lifestyle, even if his fosters noted he was not high maintenance. Some dogs act differently based on living in an apartment versus living on a large property.
Bottom line, you need to make sure the dog fits YOUR life. Including your home, children, partner, backyard, etc. Most rescues will allow you to foster for a period decided by the rescue agency. After then, you can make the decision to officially adopt the dog or you can give the dog back and continue your search.
The application process & adoption fees
Whether you choose to adopt immediately or you want to foster, first… you must apply. Basically, they need to make sure you’re fit to have an animal in your home and that you will care for it properly. Either way, they want this animal to be safe. When you apply to foster, it typically takes 1-2 days to process and there is no fee.
Believe me…they are THRILLED to have you help out.
If and when you are ready to adopt, the paperwork is a bit more extensive. They will provide you with the dog’s vet records and anything they know about them.
The process for adopting can take 3-7 days, depending on the rescue. Most adoption fees are about $200-500. But, some are more. Still, that is MUCH cheaper than a pet store (no thank you) and you are saving a dog that was most likely in line to be killed at a kill shelter (like mine was)!
Also, don’t be surprised if you get visits from the rescue in the beginning months. They need to make sure the animal is being taken care of properly. I LOVE when I hear that rescues do this because it really shows they care. Most schedule their visits, but some are a surprise. Either way, if you are truly caring for the animal, it should not matter.
Take your new fur baby to the vet
“The vet? But, didn’t the rescue provide me with all of the vet paperwork necessary?”
Well, yes. But, I always like to be cautious. Truth is, they have to take care of so many dogs that, sometimes, things can go unnoticed. Diseases can develop afterwards. Accidents happen. Don’t skip this step!
*Note… you usually have 3-7 days to test your dog, according to your adoption paperwork. Most will pay your vet bill if the paperwork they gave you was not accurate.
My dog, Benny, ended up having heart worm disease even though his paperwork showed that he tested negative. Our AMAZING rescue that we went through took care of Benny even after we adopted him and helped cure him, paying for all of the vet bills. This is because we found out he had this within the 5 days they gave us to test. READ YOUR CONTRACT!!!
So, even though testing after you adopt can be $200-500, it is worth it. If I did not, Benny may not be alive today.
Love your dog
Really… that is all your dog wants from you.
If you have any questions about the rescue or adoption process, please contact me!
What are your thoughts on rescuing a dog?