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What to look for in a Rescue/Rescuer

These are suggested basic rescue guidelines, for potential adopters to consider. Relinquishing owners could benefit from this as well.

A responsible, reputable, and ethical rescue/rescuer will have strict adoption policies in force. The screening of a potential adopter usually consists of an adoption application, reference checks, and home visits.  If a suitable match is found and the adopter is approved, a contract needs to be signed. Adoptable animals will be spayed/neutered BEFORE they are adopted out. If, for medical reasons, the spay/neuter cannot be effected before placement there must be an enforceable spay/neuter agreement included in the contract. Contracts should include a clause stating “If something/anything should happen and you cannot keep the dog, the animal will be returned to the rescue.”

If a rescue/rescuer does not ask many seemingly intrusive questions of you, if they don’t want to visit your home to meet your family and other pets, if they don’t have the proper paper work( surrender forms, vet records) on the animals they have for adoption, or they can’t answer all your questions about the animals, be very careful!  Rescues/rescuers who don’t do these things are often more interested in quantity than quality in their placements.


You also have the right to, and should screen rescues/rescuers if thinking of adopting from them. They aren’t all the same. If the rescue isn’t comfortable with you checking them out, then it is probably best to look elsewhere.


A rescue should be upfront and forthcoming with all information pertaining to themselves, the animals, and their policies. They should be willing to share with you how they fund their efforts. They should be able to provide you with references, and should welcome you to visit their facility or home.

Rescuers should have an in depth knowledge of the breed/type they rescue. You will need to question some rescuers to get the needed answers, some will tell you more than you ever wanted to know.  Some of the things you need to know:

 1)  What experience have they had with the breed/type?

    a) Where did they gain that knowledge?

    b) When did they start working with the breed/type?

    c) Why did they start working with the breed/type?

    d) What can they tell you about health issues particular to the breed/type.

    e) Can they tell you what the general breed/type's temperament is, should be?

If you’ve done YOUR research on the breed you will have a sense of what these answers should be. If answers are vague ask for specifics.   

2) Where do the animals they rescue come from? Owners who no longer can keep them? Shelters? Breeders who couldn’t sell them?

3) How many do they take in annually? How many do they place annually? How secure have those placements been? Remember there needs to be a contract clause that says they will take back any they adopt out, for whatever reason.  Do they have the facilities to take them back?

4) Do they have volunteers who do foster care? If so, what is the screening process for their volunteers?  Are the foster homes inspected on a regular basis?  What training and/or expertise is required of volunteers? 

5) Do they use a “self foster” policy (owner keeps until adoption)? Has a trained rescue volunteer (or other knowledgeable person) been out to evaluate the animal for health and temperament? Will the owner help with the selection of an adoptive home? Is the owner required to sign a release of the animal?

6) Any rescue, foster (including owners), or volunteer who is housing the animal you are considering, should be able to tell you a lot about the animal, as the dog should have been in their care long enough for a solid evaluation.

Sample questions that the rescue/rescuer should be able to answer
regarding the animal you choose.  Remember, this a only a partial list.

Breed/type? Sex? Altered/intact? Approximate age? Weight? Height?

Are they up to date on vaccinations? If not, why not? Last vet visit?,
 Clear of parasites? On heartworm preventatives? What brand? Is there any known history of abuse, any known accident history?

Why is the dog in rescue? Is the breeder known?  If so, why was the animal not returned to breeder?

How long has the dog been in rescue?

Does the animal have any destructive or bad habits? If so explain?

Does the animal have a bite history?

Temperament: Mild, Average, Aggressive, Viscous? NOTE: aggressive or viscous animals should NOT be available for adoption!

Tolerance to both common and uncommon movements, noises and procedures: Extreme, Very, Average, Low, Not at All

Personality:  many animals will display more than one personality type.
Dominant, Alpha, Energetic, Friendly, Submissive, Laid back, Aloof, Shy,
Timid, Depressed, Frightened (of what/who?) Is this appropriate for the breed/type?

What environment is the animal used to: Inside most the time, In and out
whenever wanted, Inside only at night, Outside always

Is the Animal housebroken? Crate Trained? Good on a leash?

What commands does the animal obey?

Does the animal ride well in a car?

Good with Kids? What ages?

Good with other canines? All, Most, Some, None, Large, Small, Same sex, Opposite sex

Good with Cats? All, Some, None, Indoors, Outdoors, Ignores, Chases, Kills

Is the animal an Escape Artist? Explain:

What are the animal's favorite things to do?

What and how often does the dog eat? Food aggressive? Food motivated?




The rescue/rescuer should be able to answer ALL your questions, not just these sample questions, now and in future. Will they continue to help/advise you in dealing with issues that may arise after the adoption? Responsible rescues CAN and WILL.

Always read the contract carefully before you sign it. Will the rescue/rescuer take the dog back, if things do not work for you and/or the animal, despite all efforts you make? The contract  should outline all the conditions they expect you to comply with. It should also outline all the conditions for which they are responsible.


Note:  We would like to thank a number of people who have been successfully rescuing for a number of years for help with this article.  If you feel something needs to be be added to the above, please contact us.





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