About Shelters and Rescues

Inside the Shelter

A typical shelter will look something like this image. They can be very loud with dogs barking, cats meowing, sometimes a bit drafty, or stale.  Prepare yourself to see some adorable pets all begging you to take them home.  Many of the animals feel scared and confused and may not project their true spirit.  Most shelters will have a visiting room where you can spend time with the pet quietly. 

Some of the faces will look like these:

   Are you coming to rescue me?            I'm not feelin good here            yea I got out-hence the extra lock

What to expect

At Pet Shelters:  Pet Shelters are your local Animal Care and Control, SPCA, Humane Society, they are a brick and mortar building that may or may not include foster homes. 

At most county run shelters, ie) Animal Care and Controls, you can walk in and view the available pets ready for adoption.  Some facilities function on a 1st come 1st serve basis, meaning who ever brings the paper work from the cage gets first dibs on that pet.   They then allow you to spend time with the pet, talk with a adoption counselor about the pet, they usually ask a bunch of questions to make sure this is the right pet for you.  They will ask you to fill out an application, show proof of home ownership or rental agreements allowing a pet and may not release the pet until all members of your family (including other pets presently in the home) have come in and visited the pet.  Most have test results on the pet showing temperament ratings and other pertinent information.  Some but not most require you fill out the adoption application first.  They may also require a separate adoption agreement.

Most shelters have a get acquainted room where you can visit with the pet uninterrupted, unless it is an exceptionally busy day.  Usually the adoption counselor  accompanies you.

A good shelter organization takes the time to discuss the many aspects of the pet, making sure this is the right pet for you.  They also share the information they have gather during the animals stay with them.  They may or may not have previous owner information.  Usually that information is limited to lost, stray, owner relinquished due to ...., returned to shelter because ....

Most shelters smell like pets.  The cages will probably have a mess or two, but should look like they are cleaned daily.

Most shelters have printed literature on various behavioral issues for you to take home.  Suggest you take one of everything.  Some have folders with relevant pet care information and pet care topics.

Some issues to expect are that the animal is already neutered or will be before releasing it to you.  Most shelters insert microchips, but definitely ask if they don't bring it up.  Most will provide a basic collar and leash, but if you already have one, bring it as it saves the shelter money if you have your own.  Some shelters sell basic supplies on site.

Do ask the brand name they are feeding the animal.  Most vets say to stay with the same food and slowly introduce something else.  If you want to that is.

It can be time consuming to adopt from a shelter, but well worth the process.  If for example, you went by yourself, found a pet you want, and then you have to come back with your other pet(s), family members, housemates, you have to return at least one more time.  Its good though as it gives you an opportunity to really determine this is THE PET FOR YOU.

The adoption counselor usually has information on if the new pet would be good with other pets or KIDS.  They usually know what they are taking about.  If there is any question at all about the pet being with children, it's best to find another pet.  Same for if there is a question as to if the dog can be around cats.  If they don't have any information on suitability with kids & cats, I'd ask why and go someplace else.  Most good shelters do multiple tests to ensure the animal is good with kids and other pets. 

Most shelters do not require a home visit, but some may.

At Pet Rescues: Pet Rescues are usually not a brick and mortar building, most times are run out of someones home with the animals kept at volunteer foster homes.

In addition to listing the available pet online, most Rescues have adoption events held locally in the community. These are a nice way to meet the animals, but may present some difficulty in the pets comfort level if the event is loud or near traffic.  You won't have the opportunity to spend time quietly like at the shelter.

The Rescue will require you fill out an application and sign an adoption agreement.  As each is individually run they may require other paper work.

If multiple people apply for the same pet, they usually consider everyone.

Many rescues require you fill out an application before meeting the pet.  After they review your application they contact you with the time and place of their next community event so you can meet the pet.

Some Rescues after reviewing your application may decide that a pet you are interested in is not the best choice for you.  This is in your best interest, but can upset some people.  Most will tell you why they do not think the pet is a good fit and suggest another more suitable pet if they have one.

Most Rescues do require a home visit.  They are quite concerned about their animals and do not jump at the first person.  This is a good thing, remember they rescued them from kill-shelters, nursed many back to heath, they have put much time and in most cases, much money into getting this pet ready for you.

The foster pet person should have lots of information on how the pet behaved in their home.  In addition, how the pet progressed, and any issues still needing work.  The foster person is usually the one who has spent the most time with the pet and either speaks to you directly or through the organization.

Like with the shelters, most Rescue pets are neutered and have a microchip.  Do ask if they don't offer the information.

Like Shelters, the Rescue folks should have information on IF the pet is suitable for home with children or other pets.  Again, if there is any question it is best to find another pet.

At Both the Shelter and Rescue: There are adoption fees for both. The amount varies depending on the organization and particular health issues of the pet.

Generally require: an adoption application and an adoption agreement.  They may have other paperwork as well.

Have you read Choosing a Pet?  It may give you some additional insight.  Have fun finding your new pet!


According to the Humane Society of the United States, "Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year."

Adoption the best Option