Whether you are considering adopting an animal from a rescue or a shelter, you are making a great decision to adopt and not shop. But what are the differences between Rescues and Shelters?
Shelters are open-admission, meaning they take in animals in need regardless of age, health issues, breed, or temperament, some factors of which may make it challenging for the animal to be adopted. Animals housed at shelters are obtained by taking in stray animals through the shelters work as an animal control agency, as well as owner and breeder surrenders.
The adoption fees at open-admission shelters are usually low and adoptions are same-day to facilitate easy adoptions. The shelters employees and volunteers spend time with the animals, but the time is limited due to the number of animals housed at the shelters, so they may not be able to tell potential adopters a great deal of details about the animal.
Since shelters are generally public, or community-operated, they are usually government funded, meaning that medical care for the animals, such as vaccinations, spay/neuter, flea and tick prevention, etc. are paid for at a low cost by the government. As they are government funded, there are limited funds available to the shelters. Therefore, open-admission shelters in our country have historically had to euthanize animals that require costly medical treatments, behavioral intervention, and those who have not been adopted within a certain amount of time. Healthy, adoptable animals are sometimes euthanized to free cage space for new arrivals, and sadly there are always new arrivals.
Thankfully, there is a movement taking hold in our nation and locally, for open-admission shelters to also operate on a No-Kill philosophy, which means they save at least 90% of the animals in their care and do not euthanize for space. To accomplish this, they need volunteers, fosters, community partners, and partnerships with limited admission shelters and rescues to achieve this mission.
Of note – although-open admission shelters have little control over the mix of animals coming into their facility, across the nation it is estimated that 25% of dogs and many cats in shelters are purebred. The notion that you cannot adopt a purebred animals is a myth.
Limited Admission/Private Shelters
Private shelters that receive no government funding can be more selective about the animals they take in. Because there is no mandate to accept animals, they can control their population through limited admission, admitting only the number of animals that they can accommodate. Because their primary mission is to save as many live as possible, they generally take in animals they know will quickly find forever homes so that finite shelter space is freed up for the next arrivals, Many times, animals in these shelter are pulled from the euthanasia lists of open-admission shelters. Adoption fees are generally higher than at government-supported county shelters, reflecting the more selective intake processes and individual care provided to their animals.
Private Rescue Groups
Rescue groups are generally private, 501(s)(3) charitable organizations that are foster-based, without a brick-and-mortar facility. They do not receive government funding, so must rely on volunteers and fosters who donate their time, as well as the kindness and generosity of the community for monetary donations. If they are a registered 501(c)(3), donations to them are tax-deductible, they have a formal Board of Directors that provides oversight, and they file annual Form-990 tax returns that publically show details of their financials. There are many variations of private rescues to choose from, so the key is to do your research, look at GuideStar, and talk to previous adopters.
There are three-types of rescue groups:
- General Rescue Groups – These groups are devoted to saving the lives of dog or cats in need, without regard to breed or type.
- Breed-specific Rescues – Breed rescues only take in a specific breed (i.e. Greyhounds, Schnauzers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, etc.). If you are looking for a specific breed, this is a good place to start. Volunteers with these rescues know and can give expert advice to potential adopters on breed characteristics, genetic tendencies, the amount of daily activities required, and other factors that help determine if this breed is a good match with your family and lifestyle.
- Specialized Rescues – These are dedicated to a specific cause, such as saving senior animals, or taking in pregnant or nursing mothers.
Rescue groups are unique in that most will provide for the medical needs an animal may have before listing it for adoption. This can include major surgeries, on-going treatment for chronic, but manageable conditions, and acute injuries such as broken bones that often times could lead to euthanasia in an open-admission shelter where funds aren’t available to provide such care. Rescue/shelter partnerships are the key to savings animals in situations such as this.
Since the animals available through rescues are housed in foster homes, the fosters are able to provide detailed information about the available animals, such as temperament and if they are good with kids, other dogs, and cats. Applications for adoptions are usually required and potential adopters are carefully reviewed to ensure each animal is going to the best-suited home. Adoption fees tend to be higher at rescues than shelters, mainly because the rescues provide extra levels of care when needed. And whatever part of an adoption fee is not spent on one animal is spent on the next animal in need.