Why is it so hard to adopt a dog from rescue?

Adopting a rescue dog can sometimes feel like a very difficult process. From start to finish it can be quite lengthy with forms, rigorous interviews, and home inspections. You may even find yourself rejected, and not just once before you find your perfect pooch.

Suggested reading: adopting vs buying a dog, reasons to adopt a shelter or rescue dog

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So why is it so hard to adopt a dog from rescue?

Adopting a rescue dog is difficult for a reason.

It is important to remember that the organizations, charities, and volunteer teams who run dog shelters and rescue centers truly care about the welfare of the animals.

Years ago you would just turn up, have a look at the dogs, pick one and go home the same day. But the process has changed, and with good reason.

Now you’ll be asked about why you want a dog, about your lifestyle, your family, your work, and if you have had a dog before to make sure that it is not only the right thing for you but for the dog in question too.

It is as important for the shelter to consider whether you are the right owner for the dog as much as it is to consider whether the dog is right for you. So you are being closely vetted to avoid the animal ending up being returned, going to an unsuitable home, or falling into the wrong hands.

This might feel unfair when you are absolutely certain that you are the perfect person to rescue a dog and give them a loving home, but not everybody has thought things through so thoroughly.

Which things are important to consider?

There’s a massive variation in the personalities and energy levels of different breeds. 

There needs to be a match in lifestyle so the animal gets enough exercise, isn’t left for long periods of time, homed alongside other animals if they are not suited to it, or placed with children if it may cause them stress and adversely affect their behavior. 

The staff at reputable centers will have insight into the requirements of each dog based on their personalities, circumstances, their knowledge of the breed, and be best placed to decide whether you are the right applicant.

They’ll also need to know that you have given proper thought to how you will care for the dog day to day, pay vet bills, make sure they are vaccinated, flea’d, wormed, exercised, and fed, and what you will do if you go on holiday, split up with your partner, or become ill. 

They will usually complete a home assessment and ensure the home and outdoor areas are both safe and appropriate for the animal, so you should take care to make sure you have the preparations in place to help avoid rejection.

If you are renting they’ll want to know that your landlord approves of the idea too.

The online effect

A lot happens online now. Animals have their pics and profiles posted on shelter websites or pet adoption websites like petfinder.com for perusal, their stories are shared on social media and sign-ups receive info via email. 

So spreading the word and attracting potential adopters is easier than ever. 

However the role of the rescue center is to ensure you have serious, well-planned intentions and have not had your heartstrings pulled and made a compulsive decision without giving the reality of the idea proper consideration.

The pandemic effect

Since the beginning of the pandemic, demand for dogs has soared. During Covid restrictions, getting a dog was the ideal solution to loneliness, boredom, getting outdoors, and brought fun and joy in an otherwise dismal time. 

People also found themselves working from home, and able to consider having a pet now that they weren’t out of the house all day.

The demand for puppies massively increased and consequently, in the case of some breeds, the price increased beyond belief.

This has turned more people than ever to look at rescuing a dog who needs a loving home, rather than pay hugely inflated prices to buy a puppy. It is most certainly a more budget-friendly route.

Why don’t you hear back from the rescue centers?

Dog shelters and rescue centers are typically run by teams of volunteers who have their own work and family commitments. The time they spend in their role will prioritize taking care of the welfare of the animals and not necessarily the administration side of things. 

With the increased demand for dogs, it can be difficult to keep on top of applications and inquiries so you shouldn’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back immediately.

Patchy communication or no communication can be a result of under-staffing, so perseverance is key. They haven’t stopped rehoming dogs and it is not that they are not interested in your application, it is often simply a case of not being able to keep up with demand.

You may find that different centers have different requirements and rules. Some may be more communicative than others too but don’t be shy about politely chasing things up if you don’t hear back. 

If anything it shows your commitment to adopting a rescue dog and may help you find your perfect pet a little sooner!

It’s not a dream life

Giving thorough thought to all aspects of life with a rehomed dog is something you should really spend a lot of time doing before and during your application process.

You may have considered the reasons to adopt a shelter or rescue dog, but now it’s time to consider the reality and make it happen.

The centers will ask you a lot of questions and having good, well-considered answers will really help your case. Things might be tough as they settle into your home, it’s not all going to be a dream life with a furry buddy by your side who is well-behaved and slots right in straight away.

Rescue dogs may come from all kinds of background situations. It’s possible that they may have behavioral problems or have been mistreated. Some breeds have a strong prey drive or a tendency to disobey.

If you are fully prepared you will be far more likely to be accepted and not run into issues when it comes to the reality of bringing home a rescue dog, you should think about;

  • The safety of your home and garden
  • Is your outside space secure (for escape and from theft)
  • Do you have the support of your family/friends for dog sitting duties if needed
  • What you will do if you go on holiday
  • What you will do if you go out to work
  • Can you afford to pay insurance and vet bills
  • Your experience with dogs
  • Your commitment to training a dog
  • Your lifestyle and how you see a dog fitting in
  • The ages of any children
  • Familiarity with breeds, consider any traits that would be unsuitable
  • What if your circumstances change – eg new baby, split with partner, move home, lose job, become ill.

Recommended reading: Questions to Ask When Adopting a Rescue, First 24 hours with rescue dog

Patience is key

Dogs are given up for many reasons; break ups, moving house, a new baby, new job, no time, and although no one can predict the future, as much caution as possible goes into preventing them from being re-homed again.

All in all, there is a lot to think about, and as daunting, drawn out, and frustrating as the adoption process may seem, ultimately what matters most is that the rescue dog goes to a loving, caring, and dedicated home.

If you are unsuccessful you shouldn’t take it to heart, go ahead and ask for feedback. You can also inquire about fostering a dog to help out the rescue centers. 

This will both prepare you and your household for the reality of having a permanent furry member of the family, and potentially assist your application process.

As hard as it can be to adopt a rescue dog, if you’re truly prepared and committed you will get there in the end, keep applying, keep looking out, and good luck!

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