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Selecting a Reputable Rescue Organization

Thank you for considering the adoption of a homeless dog. As you've no doubt seen, there are many more dogs than there are available homes, and there are many shelter and rescue organizations from which to choose your new family companion. Petfinder is an umbrella website that advertises adoptable animals from a number of different city shelters, private shelters, rescue organizations, and individuals, each serving their own target adoptive audience. Each of these groups has their own policies, procedures and requirements.

If you choose to adopt a dog from a rescue organization such as ours, it's important to learn as much as possible about the organization and its policies. The better the rescue organization, the better the chances you will adopt a companion that truly fits your family and lifestyle.

Here are a number of things to consider when selecting a rescue organization. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their policies and procedures. If the organization's representatives are defensive, or avoid providing details, you should consider adopting from a different organization.

1. Does the rescue organization specialize in just one (or very few) breeds? An organization that specializes is more likely to have extensive knowledge about that breed, and is an excellent resource for the adopters.

2. Do they serve only a local, defined area, or is it a nation-wide organization? If it is nation-wide, what procedures are in place to ensure adequate screening of foster parents, volunteers and potential adopters? Nation-wide organizations have additional levels of bureaucracy which can potentially cause delays in things such as dogs receiving timely veterinary care, responsiveness to adopter inquiries, and screening abilities.

3. Does the rescue organization limit their admissions to dogs that are adoptable, or do they take non-adoptable, "sanctuary" type dogs? Dogs that are unadoptable can quickly consume an organization's financial and physical resources. Admitting too many unadoptable dogs can potentially become a "hoarding" situation.

4. Are all their dogs free from treatable infections and illnesses, current on vaccinations, heartworm testing and prevention, spayed or neutered, and microchipped for permanent identification prior to adoption? Under no circumstances should a pure-breed rescue release a dog for adoption who is still intact - spay/neuter is a critical part of the rescue mission.

5. Does the rescue organization have a strong, positive, long-term relationship with a veterinary clinic who will do the vet work needed on the rescue dogs? Do they pay their veterinary bills promptly? Do they seek veterinary care promptly? It is acceptable to use several veterinary clinics and/or specialists.

6. Does the rescue organization know its financial limitations? Do they accept dogs into their program when they do not have adequate funds available for their care?

7. Are the dogs placed in foster homes while they await adoption? Dogs who receive foster care have a huge advantage over dogs housed in kennel-type shelters. Foster care enables the dog to learn the basics of housetraining, leash training and crate training. It is also helpful for behavioral evaluation and for developing proper social skills.

8. Does the rescue organization screen its foster parents? Are periodic evaluations done to ensure ongoing viability? A reputable organization does not tolerate "animal hoarding" on the part of its foster parents. (Understand that animal lovers have big hearts, and want to try to save every animal. However, a true animal lover recognizes their limits.)

9. Are the foster parents treated with respect? Does the organization place financial burdens on their foster parents or expect them to absorb the costs of caring for dogs as they await adoption? It is important that organizations maintain excellent relationships with their foster parents. They should consider their foster parents' personal situations and abilities to care for dogs, and not use "guilt" to manipulate them into accepting unreasonable responsibilities.

10. What is the minimum period of time the organization holds its dogs prior to adoption? The recommended time frame is at least 3 to 6 weeks. This is necessary to ensure that no hidden medical conditions exist, and also to evaluate the dog's temperament. Shorter periods of time may apply to dogs who are owner surrenders and for whom there is a reliable health and behavior history.

11. Does the rescue organization provide an informative written biography and good photos of each dog in their program? This provides essential information to adopters so that they know what sort of medical or personality issues to expect.

12. Does the rescue organization respond to application requests, messages, emails, etc. in a timely manner? Do their representatives treat you with respect in a courteous, businesslike manner? If you observe several representatives together, do these individuals interact politely and respectfully among themselves? Under no circumstances is it acceptable to be treated rudely or poorly. Any organization who is antagonistic or tries to lay "guilt" upon a prospective adopter should be avoided.

13. Does the rescue organization strive to match each dog with an adoptive home, or do they place dogs on a first come, first serve basis? Do they try to force dogs upon applicants in order to make room for more admissions? Rescue organizations often have lengthy applications for prospective adopters to fill out. The answers are used to help determine which dogs would be a good match for the adopters, taking in to account such things as energy level, temperament, and adopter expectations. When organizations go to this level of effort, it increases the chances of a successful adoption.

14. Does the rescue organization allow adopters to return a dog if it turns out not to be a good match? What percentage of dogs are returned to the rescue organization? While you can't expect EVERY placement to work out, this is an indicator of how careful the organization is in regards to screening and placement. Organizations with a high number of returns may be placing dogs rapidly, without taking the necessary time to obtain good veterinary care and adequately screen potential adopters.

15. Does the rescue organization provide continuing support to their adopters? This is especially helpful in the first few months after adoption. Dogs may have an adjustment period and have some challenges with housetraining, or other behavioral issues, in a new environment. A rescue organization needs to be readily available to the adopters in case there are questions. A representative should contact the adopters regularly for a few months after adoption until it is clear that the dog has settled in well.

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