What you didn’t know about rescue (but really need to)

IMG_1803 As a sort of follow-up to last week’s post that got a lot of people all hot n’ bothered, I figured I would stir up some discussion on what exactly is the purpose of rescue. This post applies to most dog rescues; I fully understand that there are indeed rescue groups who do take it upon themselves to fill the niches provided below. Those groups are few and far between, however.

Dog owners tend to have a lot of misconceptions about rescue groups and animal control, and what their job is in society. Spoiler alert: it’s not to fix your problems.

1. We’re not rehabilitators

So you got a dog, and now that dog is causing you trouble. It’s snapping at company, herding/nipping your kids, tearing up the house, whatever… The likely reason is that you didn’t train it right, didn’t do your research, got a dog from a crappy breeder, or all of the above. Maybe you genuinely did everything right, and it’s just the dog. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter, because either way it’s not our job to fix your basket case. Don’t email me saying, “He deserves better,” or “She’s a wonderful dog, she just needs a farm,” or the like. You’re right, the dog probably does deserve better, but why do you think I’m going to risk getting my hand bitten off, or my dogs attacked, or my drywall eaten? Take some personal responsibility, change your methods, get a trainer, or, if the dog is a serious threat, do the right thing and have the poor thing humanely euthanized yourself.

2. We’re not your rehoming shortcut

By that I mean, if you decide your dog needs a home, do it yourself. It’s really not our job. We will gladly list your dog as a referral, share, spread the word, direct adopters your way, etc. We are constantly inundated with dogs from animal shelters that will DIE if they don’t have foster space. You took on the responsibility of owning that dog – take the responsibility of finding it a home if it needs it. And if your dog has some issue that keeps you from doing this, see #1.

(While I’m on this topic – it’s also not your local animal control facility’s job to find your unwanted dog a home. Animal control exists to hold and place strays, and protect the public from dangerous animals. If you surrender your dog to animal control, they will kill it in 24 hours.)

3. We’re not in the “business” of rescue

Those of us who are doing rescue ethically are not making any money off this venture. In fact, we’re probably losing money. Dogs are expensive, and we don’t exactly get the cream of the crop as far as health goes. So, no thank-you, we are not interested in you “donating” your dog to our organization (unless, of course, you want to “donate” a litter of purebred, vetted puppies). Our dogs are not “for sale,” they’re for adoption, and we have plenty, thank you very much.

4. We’re not your safety net

You didn’t spay your dog, and now you have eight wiggling bundles of joy in your bathroom (or your backyard, depending on what caliber of person you are). Guess what! That’s your problem, not ours. You’re the dum-dum who broke the number one rule of dog ownership.

Zelda and Mako were “accidents” – Zelda was born in the shelter and Mako is deaf, so his breeder dumped him.

Similarly (this goes out to you backyard-breeder asshats) – we’re not here to take the puppies you can’t sell. We’re definitely not here to take your inbred, handicapped puppies that were born because you were either too stupid to know better or too greedy to care. If you want me to take your unwanted puppies, you better as hell sign an agreement to have that bitch spayed, or give me her as well. I will not encourage or enable your breeding habits.


5. We’re not retirement communities

If you send me an email, and it says, basically, “Our dog is 12 years old, and we love her very much, but we just don’t have the time to give her what she needs,” I will pull out my voodoo doll and stick a dozen pins in your eyes. You are the lowest of the low. Tell me, please, what you think we’re going to do with your poor old dog.

Cyrus is eight – ancient for a Great Dane.

I’m not sure what la-la land you live in, but there aren’t exactly lines out the door for senior dogs. You’re going to honestly sit and tell me that that dog is such a burden on your life that you can’t handle the last few months, maybe a year or so, of its life? I’ll tell you what – I’d hate to be your parents. Mom’s too old to be bothered with, just leave her in the bed to fester. Seriously, you disgust me.


Bruce’s owner gave him up because she was dying.

Okay, I’m sure you’re asking by this point, so what the hell are we here for? That’s very simple, my friend. We’re here for the homeless, for the abused, and for the sick. Our job is to take dogs from shelters that don’t deserve to spend the last week of their lives in a loud, smelly, scary concrete prison cell. The dogs that can be rehomed with families that genuinely appreciate their presence.  The dogs that have never known love in their entire lives – only fear, hate, and abuse. We’re also here to help the people who love, cherish, and want their animals but life just won’t let them. For example, the elderly lady who’s being moved to assisted living, or the single man or woman who lost their job and can barely feed themselves, much less a four legged companion. Doesn’t your plight of “just don’t have time” or “we have a new baby” sound pretty pathetic next to all of that?

Dogs – all pets, actually – are lifetime commitments. You are their lives; you are all they care about and all they have. Stop shirking responsibility, and don’t try to rely on third parties to do all the heavy lifting for you. You thought you were good enough for that dog in the first place, now prove it.


310 thoughts on “What you didn’t know about rescue (but really need to)

  1. Rosalinda Desrochers April 19, 2016 / 10:15 am

    We have three dogs. Our chocolate lab was adopted from a shelter, yes purebred, who knew shelter have those, and she was a two year old, 70 lb. furball of trouble as she had been a breeders dog and was very traumatized. She peed all over the house, on our bed, chewed up shoes, bras, socks, pants and countless other things that were not chewable. Ran off to see the neighbors cows multiple times. It was four years of hell. She is today 9 years old and a beautiful old lady that we love and would not change her for the world. She was poorly socialized so she is a little aggressive to our other two dogs, but they are patient with her. We also have a Pitbull type dog, which we rescued off the streets after some dog had humped her. We rushed her to the vet to get spayed and took in the other dog. She tore up the house too. But today she is settled and a very calm girl. The other dog was adopted by an awesome couple. And our Australian shepherd Husky mix, he was just perfect all around. He is silly and chews on things but nothing compared to his sisters. What I am trying to say, is that if you hang in there and are there for your dog, and invest in him or her patience, it always pays off. Relationships don’t come easy, human or canine. Anything difficult to have is worth it. I wouldn’t know what I would do without my dogs, they’ve been patient with me as well. I just wish people would realize that having a dog, NOT owning one, is to nourish that relationship and see it grow and realize the changes that happen to you as well as the dog. It is beautiful. I’ve fostered a couple of dogs that come to me pretty beat up, both physically and psychologically, and I’ll tell you, the experience is amazing. You see the changes right in front of you. And it makes you very happy to see that you’ve affected something in your world in a positive way and for this a beautiful creature gets another chance at life.

  2. Terry Roenker April 20, 2016 / 12:15 am

    The more patience you have with your rescue and begin with “A SOUND BEGINNING”, WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD… do not try and dominate them right away, give them a calm place to rest, and get used to the changes. Play them some soft guitar music, as they have only had bark, bark, barking. Now it is too quiet! Lots of pets and treats, then let the work of bonding begin, treats and more treats…lots of hugs and pets… and they will love you for life. Trust me i have been there, My Boys were ‘RESCUED’ in another country, “FOR 6 YEARS” IN A CONFINED LARGE CRATE WITH HUNDRED OF DOGS. I don’t think their behavior comes much worse, I had no idea what I was getting my self into… Now they are part of our family, they run with the Fosters from Rescue and I think they tell them how well they love us as we do not have any issues with the new ones, young or old, big or little they help welcome the new pups into our home.

  3. kbartkusblog April 20, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    I would like to mention that not all shelters kill surrendered pets in 24 hours. Many hold the pets for a certain amount of time depending on space. Progressive municipal shelters are moving closer to low kill facilities.
    Please recognize the reality of these shelters and consider editing your statement. By perpetuating the falsehood that all shelters operate under this policy municipal shelters are often condemned and defamed by citizens who don’t bother to investigate for themselves, but would rather believe erroneous information published by reputable organizations.

    • Carolyn Long April 21, 2016 / 10:45 am

      She did not say that all animal shelters kill dogs within 24 hours; she specifically was talking about animal control. They are not the same thing.

      • gunnardawg May 4, 2016 / 9:52 pm

        Our animal control does not kill surrendered dogs. They usually go straight up for adoption if they are adoptable (healthy and pass the temperament testing) and even if they don’t then usually breed rescue reps come in and take the dog to rehab it. Yes, some will euth quickly, but don’t paint all city-run animal control centers with the same brush.

    • Karen Maxwell Bowden May 5, 2016 / 11:34 am

      Why edit the statement, when it is true with 90% of municipal shelters? While there are more shelters moving towards No Kill, the numbers doing so are not as great as one might think. The statistics are masked by the fact that they get more public attention for doing so, so people think there are more of them. You don’t hear a lot of public media announcing “Hey, we’re a high kill shelter!” do you? No, only the No Kill is celebrated. Meanwhile, the No Kill is selective intake, which keeps their no-kill statistics higher. And what happens to the dogs that don’t make the cut? Well, they go to that “other” shelter where they are euthanized unless a rescue group steps in. This author has many, many years in animal rescue and probably has a better understanding of the reality of what happens to dost in most shelters than many of us readers do.

      • Becky Torgerson May 10, 2016 / 2:05 am

        Where I come from, an elderly lady left her money to build an SPCA. When you surrender a dog there, they walk it straight to the back give it the needle, throw it in the trash and don’t even bother to check and see if it is dead. I bet that woman is rolling over in her grave.It just depends on what mood they are in if they feel like cleaning up after them.

  4. Connie Smith April 26, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    This.. So very very much this!! *cheers from atop a soapbox*

    Sadly, the people who need to see this never will.

  5. Margaret Good May 5, 2016 / 3:12 am

    Weather you purchase a puppy or rescue a dog they are not here just for you, you are there for them they need to know they are loved and wanted then they will love and want you and be your best friend and love you unconditional forever, they are scared and confused but you persevere and you will be rewarded with a love like no other.

  6. tessarooo May 10, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Gee whiz, if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that I POSTED this! So very well said… I preach this all the time! Thanks for putting this out there! 😊

  7. Maria Padron January 2, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    I am trying to help someone adopt from rescue but they have a specific age, breed and kind of dog in mind which is not a crime, folks. I have found some online but they are all in other cities like Fort Pierce, Orlando etc. (I’m in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and the shelters will not adopt to me even after I explain that I adopted my Randy from a shelter in GEORGIA, drove 9 hours for him, and they made an exception to their “no out of state adoptions” rule because they used their common sense after I presented them with character references, including from people who have known me for decades and know I am warm, loving, and kind, and from my bosses at the institution where I have been employed 30 years.I also showed documentation that I have lived in the same home for the last 11 years (i.e., I am not a flake or an unstable person). I wanted a Boston Terrier-Pug mix between 2 and 4 years old without serious behavioral or health issues (because I work and with those kinds of problems you really need to be home all day with your pooch) and that’s where he was. Thank God that particular shelter staff was not as high and mighty and choking on righteousness as almost all the other rescue people I have encountered. I have exhausted all my options and am tired of listening to preachy, judgmental fanatical rescue folks and might just have to go to a breeder to help this individual, who actually PREFERS a mix! Yes, I know you’ve gotten that way because you love animals and are want them all to go to flawless homes with perfect owners who are willing to take the most needy animals over the breed, size and age they prefer but not everyone is a saint. So now another puppy in a shelter will not go to what I know for a fact is a good home with loving owners because of these rescue people’s inflexibility, fanaticism and self-righteousness. I know so many of these cases where people got tired of being judged and just gave up trying to rescue and went and bought a puppy. There I said my piece.Thank you for listening if you got this far and if you didn’t I totally understand — this is kind of long although it needed to be said.

  8. drfairydogmother June 9, 2017 / 7:32 am

    I haven’t read all of the articles on your blog, but can I just say this? CAN WE PLEASE START EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT HOW TO HELP RESCUES/SHELTER DOGS DESTRESS and give them the time and space to do so? PLEASE? I have and probably will write many more blogs of my own about this very topic and sit on a Humane Society board, where I intend to work on that VERY issue. In the meantime, the more we help people help their pets, the fewer we will see in shelters and rescues, IMHO.

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