Dog Rescue Agencies: How to find the good ones!

In this post, you will learn how the dog rescue industry operates, how to recognize fraudulent pet rescue organizations, and how to locate good quality agencies to find the right dog for you!

This cute dog was rescued when he was 6 years old in 2014! He's he's now 12 years old and is happy and healthy in his forever home 6 years later!

So you have decided to rescue a dog from a shelter? That’s pretty exciting to know that you will be adopting a dog in need of a forever home!

In the initial blog of this series, I discussed how to recognize puppy mills and backyard breeders. And I provided some tips on how to search for a reputable breeder if you were planning on buying a puppy. So now in the second post of this three-part series, I will provide you with some guidelines on how to avoid unethical and mismanaged dog rescue agencies. Plus I will provide you tips on how to find a high-quality dog rescue organization.

And it’s important to understand that when planning to rescue a dog, you need to be patient and dedicate some time to find the right dog from a good quality agency. Be prepared for some disappointment along the way. But if you keep at it, you will increase the odds of finding the right dog for you!

I interviewed a very experienced dog rescue professional

To help fill in my information gaps regarding the dog rescue industry, I reached out to Luan Egan by email. And she offered valuable input in this regard. So I will be accrediting her insights as I incorporate them throughout this blog.

My trusted source; Here is Luan Egan’s bio:

I have been involved in Border Collie Rescue since 1996, and ran Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue from 2001 to 2015. I got involved in Flyball and Agility and dabbled in Sheep Herding with my own dogs. We also enjoyed participating with some performing dog teams at events like The Royal Winter Fair.

In 2005 I started Roverdale, a pet care business, and in 2008 I bought a licensed boarding kennel and relocated to Georgina at the top end of York Region, where I live with my own Border Collies and assorted Poultry.

I helped to draft the first Code of Ethics for Helping Homeless Pets, and was President of that organization from January 2016 to September 2018. I continue to foster for several Rescues, including Speaking of Dogs Rescue and Collie Rescue Network. ”   

So here we go..

Learn about pet rescue shelters and foster care agencies

You will note that some of the same problems arise in pet rescue agencies as I previously uncovered for you in puppy mills and backyard breeders. This is because there has been an explosion in demand for companion dogs in the past 10 years, especially during this time of COVID-19. And anytime there is a consumer demand, a number of unscrupulous people materialize who are eager to make a profit. There are also good people dedicated to placing rescues, but sadly, many are unskilled on how to do that ethically and humanely.

So in this blog, I will help you sift out and avoid problematic adoption agencies, and will offer tips on how to choose a reputable one. Acquiring a dog from a poor quality animal rescue organization perpetuates such places, and the suffering that dogs endure in them. It’s complicated. So keep reading to learn how unqualified adoption kennels can cause harm to the pets awaiting new homes.

STOLEN DOGS IN CANADa

As you know from reading my earlier blog about puppy mills, it is possible when dealing with a fraudulent breeder that a buyer can receive a different dog than they agreed to purchase. This is sometimes referred to as “bait and switch.”

I asked Ms. Egan if this occurs often in the dog rescue industry and she said that “Bait and Switch is not that common, at least not in Ontario, and I have not heard of any Rescues flipping stolen dogs. However, having said this, I do know that there have been some issues with dogs being taken from Northern Indigenous Communities that were not strays, and shipped down to Southern Ontario for adoption.  Just recently two dogs were identified as taken without owner’s consent. One was successfully returned, the other has not been. Although they did identify which Rescue had it, the Rescue has not cooperated in returning the dog, and I believe that the Rescue is claiming that a lot of funds were spent for necessary Vet care.

She provided a link to the Manitoba story: https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/it-is-a-free-for-all-manitoba-ontario-say-they-have-no-control-over-animal-rescue-groups/

Plus, we’ve all heard about dogs stolen when owners have left them tied up in front of a store. It could be the thief desires the animal for themselves. Or, they plan to hold it for ransom, or worse to abuse the poor dog. But other times, I believe that dogs are abducted to later be sold to innocent people. The buyer thinks they are rescuing the dog from the existing owner who can no longer keep him. But in reality, they are “rescuing” a dog that was stolen from its owner.

So if you are answering a personal social media post that is looking for a new home for their dog, I recommend that you ask lots of questions. And definitely have your veterinarian scan your newly-rescued dog for a microchip because the name of the previous owner should match the person from whom you adopted the dog. If it doesn’t, I strongly suggest that you investigate why the name is different. This is one of the potential red flags. However, there could be a plausible explanation. For example, the prior owner may have adopted the dog from someone else but neglected to update the microchip information.

If, after all your questions you suspect this dog was stolen, you should report it to the police. And it might mean that you have no choice but to return this dog to his rightful and likely heartbroken owner.

Puppy Mills can pose as dog rescue agencies!

It is possible that an organization can pose as a rescue shelter but they are actually a puppy mill selling internationally or possibly locally sourced dogs. They could be offering puppies, older dogs that did not sell as puppies, or dogs they selected to breed but turned out to be sterile. There they are again! Those unethical puppy mills are everywhere to take advantage of people who are anxious to get a dog!

The risks of adopting dogs from foreign countries:

Importing dogs creates health risk

Unfamiliar canine diseases can enter into Canada

If the puppy or dog you want to rescue originates outside of Canada, there are additional human and animal health implications. Ms. Egan indicated that imported dogs “are at greater risk of carrying and spreading parasites and viruses that are not easily diagnosed and treated in Canada, and that can put our resident pets (and wildlife) at risk.” So I decided to look into this further.

In my research, I came across A news story published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation explaining how foreign-sourced dogs have carried unfamiliar canine diseases into our country.

Moreover, Canada Customs screening is only able to detect pathogens and conditions that the government already recognizes. Some unknown disease-causing agents therefore are bound to get through.

And no doubt every country faces the same issue at their borders. So I appeal to Canadians and all of my international followers to reflect on the potential human and canine health dangers before rescuing a dog from outside your country.

What is “organized fraud” dog trade?

HOW DO FOREIGN DOG TRAFFICKERS GET THEIR DOGS INTO CANADA ?

In post one of this series ( puppy mills), you learned that an animal you hope to buy from a breeder may instead hail from a fraudulent international dog trading ring. And I explained that they are not regulated in Canada. Unfortunately, Ms. Egan confirmed that neither are pet rescues agencies. So these dog traffickers have easy access to the Canadian market! The only legal requirements they have to satisfy are the Canada Customs regulations for dog importation.

And one way foreign dog trafficking enterprises can successfully import dogs into Canada is by recruiting a local person to claim the animal at the airport and take him through customs. This person typically advertises and eventually sells the dog to a consumer, but not in this case.

Here’s a story about a dog from Brazil for adoption

Someone once told me that their family was adopting a dog they found on a website from Brazil that was going to be imported into Canada by a local veterinarian. I advised my acquaintance not to adopt any dog from a foreign country. And I explained why. Despite the risks, the man said that his daughter really wanted that dog! As you likely guessed, they ordered the dog from Brazil anyway.

Such a scenario really upsets me! The foreign agency and/or the buyer paid this veterinarian to temporarily “adopt” the dog so it could enter the country. The veterinarian in theory examines the dog’s health when it arrives and likely administers the rabies vaccine which is legally required in Canada. (Later in this blog I will be discussing what health disclosures must be made at Canada Customs).

None of this is illegal in Canada. But it’s definitely unethical for dogs to be used purely as financial fodder for both enterprises involved! And this practice continues in Canada and around the world because of the widespread lack of regulations around pet importation, whether the dogs are purchased or adopted.

What were some of the pitfalls possible in the adoption from Brazil?

In the worse case, bait and switch was possible. A completely different dog from the one shown on the Brazilian website could have turned up. Luckily, that did not happen in this case. The dog they expected did arrive.

But even more worrisome was that there was no way for the buyer to confirm the health and behavioural information about the dog that lived so far away!

We are challenged when we want to adopt locally too. Often shelters simply don’t know an animal’s health and behaviour history. So expect it to be impossible to confirm such information from a foreign entity! But as Ms. Egan pointed out, good quality rescue agencies always take the time to get to know the dog before adopting him out. Local is obviously a better choice since you can more easily verify the integrity of the shelter than in a place far removed.

So what happened when that dog arrived from Brazil?

Several weeks after they rescued this dog, that man’s wife stopped me as I was walking Roxy. She told me that the dog they adopted from Brazil was biting people and asked for training assistance. I gave her my card but she never called me.

There are many likely reasons why their newly adopted dog was biting people. And it’s possible that this Canadian family wasn’t told that this dog was a biter back home in Brazil. But there could be many other factors that contributed to this dog being a biter when he arrived in Canada. And I will explain more about this later on.

So this segues nicely into my next topic!

Importing dogs from foreign countries can harm the dog!

An example of a dog rescued from Turkey brought to Canada

Several years ago I received a call from a new potential client who inquired about boarding his recently rescued dog with me. His story was an example of why you should not rescue a dog from a foreign land for the dog’s sake.

A man became friends with a dog in Turkey

This gentleman was visiting Turkey for an extended number of weeks for business. While he was there, he saw numerous stray dogs living on the streets and there was one dog with which he became friends! Every day, he went to where that dog lived and sat with him. He brought food for the animal and they ate together. He said this dog was so friendly with him and got along with the other strays on the street. The man and the dog became good friends!

He tried to get this dog to a shelter

At some point during his visit in that region of Turkey (he never told me which city), he took the dog to a local veterinarian for a full examination and vaccinations. After the veterinarian finished examining the dog, he confirmed that the dog was healthy and did not require any medical attention. So the gentleman paid the bill. Then he asked the veterinarian where he could find a shelter to take the dog to be cared for and adopted. But the veterinarian said that there were no such places in Turkey. Plus, he told the man that he should take the dog back to the street where he found him because the dog knows how to survive there!

He couldn’t leave the dog to live on the streets

So the man did as he was told and was very upset about allowing this dog to continue living on the streets. He eventually had to return to Canada after his work was done in Turkey. And when he got back home to Canada, he couldn’t get that dog out of his mind! He felt so guilty for leaving him on the streets of Turkey!

After a couple of weeks, he went back to Turkey specifically to find that dog to bring him home to Canada. Yes! He actually did this! He incurred the cost and time to go back to Turkey to get him! That’s how much he had loved the dog that he left behind!

So What happened next?

Once he was back in Turkey, he went straight to the street where he met that dog and was so thrilled to find him! Then he worked on getting proper veterinarian certificates of health and vaccines etc. ready for Customs Canada so the dog would be accepted upon arrival to Canada.

The journey home….

So unless a dog is small enough to fit under the seat in the cabin of any commercial aircraft, most dogs must fly in cargo where the luggage is stored. And based on the size of this large mix-breed this man was rescuing, the dog would have been placed in cargo.

And this is what happened. From the moment this dog landed in Canada, he was aggressive with all other people, but friendly with this man only! And it quickly became obvious that this dog was reactive with most other dogs! Within a period of days, the man found a dog trainer who began to help him work with the dog to address the behavioural issues.

Why was this dog showing behavioural problems when he arrived in Canada?

It is entirely understandable that this dog was unfriendly when he landed in Canada. Everything was confusing, frightening and new to him! He:

  1. was away from the only home he knew
  2. was held in a crate in the cargo area for an extended period of time
  3. could hear unfamiliar noises and smell strange odours in both the airport and the cargo of the plane
  4. had to cope with airplane’s movement in flight, perhaps in complete darkness
  5. was held in the airport in Canada until the man arrived at the cargo bay to claim him
  6. throughout his ordeal, he lacked the comfort and security of the man’s company

Ms. Egan added the following: “Many of these dogs have lived a stray life, moving around freely, breeding freely, and scavenging for food. Being scooped up and transported to Canada to live in a Condo, or even in a house, is a severe culture shock for them. I truly do believe that these dogs have a more developed brain than our average pet dogs, and they do not understand why they are now confined and left isolated for long periods. “

What else caused this dog to be stressed?

When the man claimed him from cargo in Toronto, this poor dog must have continued to feel very scared by all the new sights, sounds, and smells in this strange city. And there is little doubt of his mounting frustration on being controlled on a leash. Nothing like this would have happened in his entire life!

So I think you get the picture. All of this can be far too much for any dog to understand and accept!

ending this story:

The man told me this entire story to explain that it was a work in progress. And that he and the trainer were gradually succeeding in reducing the dog’s fears in his new homeland. But in the meantime, the man was still required to travel for work and had to find a high quality caring place to board him. And as much as I wanted to help, I explained that I couldn’t board his dog because I don’t have the space or setup to keep his dog separate from my other pets in order to keep them all safe. Additionally, since his dog was also hostile towards unfamiliar people, I did not want to place my husband or myself at risk of being bitten.

It’s important to note that just as this dog was adjusting to his new home and homeland, the man was going abroad again! This meant the man and his eventual pet sitter must work together so the dog could gradually get used to the pet sitter and his environment before the man left for his trip.

Understanding the dog’s point of view

Although we imagine in our minds that we can make a dog’s life so much better if we “rescue” him from what we perceive as his “dreadful” life elsewhere, it isn’t necessarily so! And you can also understand that extracting a dog from the only life he has ever known and relocating him to an unfamiliar place that restricts his freedom can be traumatizing! This doubly applies to dogs who were surrendered to foreign shelters in 3rd World Countries! They may not have lived a life of total freedom on the streets, but they must cope with being transported to a totally different environment in our country! Another important reason why I recommend that you adopt locally!

There are so many local dogs that need homes!

It’s important to also keep in mind that by choosing to import a dog, you are denying a local dog from being placed in a forever home. And there are thousands of them in shelters that need to be adopted right in your home town!

Specifically, in respect to adopting locally in Canada, Ms. Egan further explained that there is a serious problem with the number of dogs in shelters in Quebec. Here’s what she said:

There are plenty of unwanted dogs in QC. [Quebec] So many of the Municipal Animal Control contracts in that Province (and many parts of rural Ontario) are tendered out, and only costs covered are to pick up and hold a stray for the required period. Humane euthanasia is not included in the covered costs, so they are killed in the cheapest ways possible, i.e gas, heartstick, or a bullet. If the Contractor wishes to hold a dog after that and place it for adoption, they will be incurring all the expenses in doing so. 

We really don’t have to go further than that to find small-breed dogs in Kill Shelters needing homes. Far too many Puppy Mills in QC [Quebec] also. 

So what do you need to know to avoid unscrupulous adoption agencies?

As noted above, unscrupulous pet adoption organizations may actually be a front for puppy mills even though they claim to have rescue dogs. There are multiple ways to reach customers, but I believe the two most common are social media platforms and buy-and-sell sites, like Kijiji.

Beware of Social media posts that claim the urgent need to re-home a new puppy!

Often these social media posts or Kijiji ads show a stock photo of a random puppy. They provide no full-view pictures of the pet with the family. And they emphasize that this puppy urgently needs a new home. If this were actually true, the family would post real home-life pictures of the dog.

And these scam posts usually declare that they got the puppy last week (or last month) but now they have an urgent unexpected reason they can’t keep him or her. Prior to COVID-19, these reasons ranged from: they need to move for work and can’t take the puppy with them, they changed jobs and now can’t be home enough for the puppy. Or, they might allege that their building no longer allows dogs. During the pandemic they have no doubt added some equally suspicious rationales.

Of course your first thought when you read these reasons is, “how could they have not known ahead about these life changing events before they got the puppy?” Plus, “how could they give up their puppy?” And you would be right to think this!

Yes, these scenarios are not impossible. But they are unlikely.

Expect unknown health and temperament from TODAY’S Shelters

Today’s shelter dogs are more likely to have poor health and temperament compared to the dogs found in shelters 40 or 50 years ago. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rescue a dog from a shelter. You just need to understand that the vast majority of dogs in shelters today have been poorly bred and neglected. Plus rescue animals are presumed to have had a stressful life just by the fact that they are now homeless. So you must have patience and undertake at least some training with the help of a force-free trainer to resolve their behavioural issues.

Here’s where to find force free dog trainers internationally:

* (Indicates they provide an international directory of force free dog trainers)

When you adopt a small breed dog, health and temperament can be more of an issue than when you adopt a large dog. The little ones often come from a puppy mill or backyard breeder for reasons covered in my earlier blog. And whether they came from a puppy mill or even a loving home, small dogs are susceptible to behavioural problems. This is because in puppy mills, the puppies are neglected and are given little or no socialization. And with family-owned dogs, people don’t dedicate the time to train little dogs. Plus they often coddle them because they are small and cute! So it is true small dogs from any source can be barkers and biters, sometimes even when they are purchased from a high quality breeder!

Ms. Egan agreed and added “Yes, you are absolutely right. There is such a demand for small dogs, and so many are poorly bred, and poorly socialized. It is much easier to keep a small dog shut up, and often they do not get the same level of training or socialization as medium to large breed dogs do. Then, when they are being re-homed, they are fearful, have more handling issues, are more prone to biting, and often have severe dental problems [due to poor genetics].

How to recognize a reputable dog rescue shelter:

So on the surface, a credible agency should do the following:

  • ask you lots of questions relating to what level of experience you have with caring for a dog and what is your lifestyle in order to match the right dog to your home.
  • (in non-COVID times) request to visit your home to ensure that the dog will be placed in a safe and suitable environment

I say “on the surface” if they do these things they might be a good quality shelter. But there are many unethical agencies that appear to be reputable but are not. And Ms. Egan referred to the term “McRescues“.

And she explains that “All reputable Dog Rescue Organisations should be conducting home visits. However I know of any number of less stellar Rescues that have lovely websites and will do home visits, and then approve homes that are not ideal. They can also create applications and adoption screening processes that look good, but don’t hold up under knowledgeable scrutiny. That is part of the problem, McRescues will use tactics that make them appear credible, but they are not there for the adopter when the adoption fails, or when the adopter needs support. That is when the blame game begins.”

Such dishonest dog rescue organizations are simply in it for profit because of the enormous demand for companion dogs.

I asked Ms. Egan if a high-quality dog adoption agency would keep dogs in foster homes instead of an institutional kennel? She explained how she is involved with a caring approach to interacting with rescue dogs.

In Ontario not many Rescues have their own facilities and rely on volunteers and foster homes. I operate a small dog boarding kennel. The kennel building is attached to my home, and there is a fair bit of back and forth between the two. I am often asked by the Rescues I work with to do an evaluation/assessment of an incoming dog, to ensure that they are able to place it in the most compatible foster home.

In fact the dog I am fostering right now was surrendered to the Rescue, picked up and transported to a foster home, where the poor dog lost her marbles. She was very anxious around the 11 & 15 yr old kids in the home, and that escalated quickly. She was also highly reactive to all the movement and activities in a typical urban neighbourhood. She was removed after only 8 hours, and brought here.

On arrival, she had a chance to decompress, and take stock of her surroundings without all the trigger[s] stacking. She spent a few days here before she was booked to get to the Vet for vaccinations, exam and bloodwork. I was able to introduce her to a basket muzzle (yay for peanut butter!) and then took her for a car ride and a quiet visit to the Vet Clinic the day before, no people, just places. So when she went back the next day, she was better able to cope. The Vet agreed to meet us out the back door, and she aced the exam. I do believe having a place for intake dogs to decompress is important. Sometimes a “kennel” is an important step in assessing what kind of home is ideal. She will be moved to an appropriate foster home, when one comes available. 

I feel that Ms. Egan runs an ideal rescue operation, but unfortunately she does not provide dogs for adoption directly to the general public. Rather, she functions solely as an aid to the established dog rescue agencies that she mentioned in her bio. So you will not be able to inquire about adopting a dog from her.

Cautiously search for dog rescues on social media.

When I asked M. Egan about where to find reputable dog rescue agencies on the web, she said “Petfinder started posting dogs on Kijiji a few years ago. Bad idea imo [in my opinion], and I think they stopped it. However most Rescues have social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and use them extensively.” And she added that “There is no legislation or regulatory body overseeing Rescue activities. It can be very difficult for consumers to determine which to choose.

Good resources to find dog rescue agencies:

Ms. Egan indicated that there are non-profit organizations trying to create high quality standards for the care and placement of dogs in need of a forever home.

Helping HOmeless Pets: foster care code of ethics

She indicated that “Helping Homeless Pets did take steps to develop a Code of Ethics for their member Rescues. www.helpinghomelesspets.com

So if you live in southern Ontario, you may start your search by going to this website, scroll down the page and review their list of vetted dog rescue agencies to see if you might find your dog to adopt there.

I reached out through email to Helping Homeless Pets (HHP) to ask if they may be able to provide you with a referral to similar resources in other regions. I received a response from one of their Directors, Terri Daniels. And Ms. Daniels explained that “as a registered charity and umbrella organization, Helping Homeless Pets financially assists our rescue members primarily with veterinary costs.  We also provide support to our membership in other areas of rescue.  

Members of Helping Homeless Pets must agree to adhere to our codes of ethics for our dog and feline rescues.  We also have a code of conduct for our members.  An ethics committee is established to review concerns that (rarely) arise.

She also indicated that HHP has foster care members throughout Ontario and “A small number of the dog rescues – primarily some of the breed specific rescues – operate with foster homes across Canada and some are connected to American rescues.” So she highly encouraged me to invite you to contact her organization to see if they can refer you to an ethical pet rescue foster home in your region in Canada or the United States!

Speaking of Dogs rescue agency in Ontario

Another Ontario resource for a reputable dog rescue agency in Ontario that Ms. Egan mentioned was Speaking of Dogs .

And she provided the following information about municipal shelters, saying they are a general good resource to begin searching for a reputable dog rescue organization. “Toronto Animal Services have [has] a list of Rescues that they utilize as “partners” in finding placements for shelter dogs that do not meet all their strict adoption criteria, and that they feel would become better candidates for adoption after spending time in a foster home. Most Municipal Shelters have local Rescues that they work with. They also get a pretty good idea of which Rescues don’t stand behind their adoption contracts, as they get the poor animals dumped on them when the Rescues refuse to take them back. Unfortunately, they won’t make negative public statements. ” 

What should it cost to adopt a dog?

Ms. Egan said that “Asking an adoption fee of $400-600 [CDN] is not unreasonable, especially given the high costs involved in obtaining Veterinary care. However for that they should be ensuring that the animal is given a thorough medical exam by a qualified Vet (and all results disclosed to adopter), is vaccinated, HW/4DX tested, microchipped, and altered [spayed or neutered]. If any other medical issues are diagnosed, the Rescue should be prepared to be transparent in disclosing them, and also which Vet Clinics they used. In many cases, the adoption fee just covers the medical costs, and often the medical costs exceed the fee.

Far too many of the McRescues are importing dogs that have already had much of this done before transport, and charging the same amounts as the Rescues who are paying it themselves. Adopters should be entitled to copies of ALL medical records. 

13 Questions to ask dog rescue shelters

Here are some important questions (in red) that Ms. Egan recommends you ask: (I have provided my opinion (noted in black) of how to manage some of these questions.)

  • Who are the principal members of the Rescue?

They should have a Board of Directors and ideally should be a registered not for profit corporation. How long have they been in operation?

(There are some perfectly legit small Rescues run by just a few people, I used to be one of those myself. But back when I was more involved, there were far fewer Rescues out there, and anyone could call Toronto Animal Services and ask “do you know Luan Egan who runs a Border Collie Rescue” and get confirmation and hopefully an endorsement.)

  • How many animals does the Rescue place annually on average? 

This will give you an idea of how long you will need to wait to adopt a dog from the agency. If they have a large number of placements per year, then you may not have to wait long. But if they only place a few hundred per year, you could end up waiting significantly longer given the high number of people that are currently seeking to adopt a dog. And I would also ask them how many dogs per year are returned to the shelter? Then you can determine their percentage of success rate. So for example, if they say that they place 500 dogs a year and get 50 dogs returned in that time period, you will know that on average, they have about a 90% success rate of placing dogs in the right home. With a 90% success rate, it might be worth the wait!

  • How many foster homes do they have, and what is the minimum period that the animals stay in one before being made available for adoption? 

Ms. Egan said that “this is important, as a period of at least a few weeks is needed to decompress and get a better sense of the animal’s true character“.

  •   What training and support do your foster homes receive? 

Ms. Egan did not specify the type of support that foster care homes might need. But when I spoke to people who adopted pets from foster homes, they said pet foster homes sometimes need resources from their organization such as having the cost covered for food, veterinarian services, maybe grooming appointments, and to transport pets to these appointments.

  • Will I be able to meet or talk to the foster parents about this pet?

Ms. Egan did not provide an answer for this question. So in my opinion, if they say “no”, ask why and judge for yourself if the answer sounds honest. But chances are if they won’t let you meet or talk to the foster parents, they may not be a credible organization.

  • What do you know about the pet’s history?

Sometimes credible dog rescue agencies have information on the pet’s history but often they don’t. So it’s not a red flag if they don’t know the pet’s history.

  • Is there any trial adoption placement period? How long?
  • What is the Rescue prepared to do, if the adopter finds that the pet’s behaviour is not a good match for their family? Will all or part of their adoption fee be refunded within the trial period?
  • What is the Rescue prepared to do if at any time, the adopter can no longer care for their pet?

You need to have a plan in case your financial or physical circumstances change and prevent you from properly caring for the pet. You may have family members who have agreed to care for the pet for the rest of his life if something stops you from continuing to do so. But if you have no one that can do that for you, then find out how the agency might be able to help (if they are still in operation when the time comes). Keep in mind that lots of shelters come and go because they run out of resources to continue operating.

  • What basic Vet care does the Rescue ensure is done prior to adoption, and what disclosure/medical records will the adopter receive?
  • Does the Rescue work with local Shelters? Do they work with any rural Shelters or Communities within Canada that may need more support?
  • Does the Rescue work with local Dog Trainers, and do they support positive reinforcement [force-free] training practices?

Avoid the agency if they don’t work with local force-free dog trainers.

  • Does the Rescue have liability insurance? Who are they insured with?  

You need to make sure that the organization is financially sound and can compensate you if any unforeseeable circumstances occur in which the organization becomes liable. Definitely avoid the ones without liability insurance.

Legislation to Microchip all dogs prevents the need for rescue shelters

Finally, Ms. Egan added that “The U.K. introduced legislation in 2016 requiring all dogs to be microchipped. That way they could trace them back to the breeder or Rescue, and track the owner if the dog turned up stray. An excellent idea, that we need to adopt!”

And I agree with her! A microchip is so important in helping people find their lost pet! If you move or have a change to your household, make sure you always update your microchip contact information. That way, they can reach you if your dog goes missing. And you can review my earlier blog on how to update it.

Moving forward

So now you have a good foundation of how to begin your research to find the right dog for you! And I hope that a lucky dog ends up in your forever home!

Coming soon!

In Part III of this series, you will learn about choosing the right breed for your lifestyle. And I’ll discuss the costs and other aspects involved with the commitment in bringing a dog into your life.

Yours in better dog care, Judy

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3 thoughts on “Dog Rescue Agencies: How to find the good ones!”

  1. I have been involved in different aspects of rescue for most of my life and I couldn’t agree more with the warnings that you shared about untrustworthy rescue agencies. There are far too many fronting as an organization that prioritize the animals in their care only to be money-hungry machines worried only about the bottom line. We adopted our last boy from a rescue in Ohio and drove there to pick him up (we’re in Southern Ontario, so it’s not far at all). That being said, there was a lot of digging into the rescue first before agreeing to adopt from them.

    1. Thank you for your comment! It’s so nice to hear that you did du diligence to research that rescue organization! And given how close of drive it was for you to pick him up, it wouldn’t have been anymore traumatic for your dog than being driven that distance on our side of the border. But I’m just curious, what was it that you discovered in your research that caused you not to adopt locally where you live?

  2. While this Post is clearly oriented around Dog Rescue organizations, Humane Societies and Animal Shelters should not be discounted. However, every seller should be checked out thoroughly.

    Based on numerous dialogues with a local Dog Rescue business, and based on personal experience of our local Humane Society, I would suggest that a search for a prospective dog be limited to those organizations. Private sales are so often simply “fronts” for puppy mills or financial scams that it is not easy to detect a legitimate sale.

    My preference will always be a rescued dog rather than adopting from a breeder. The rationale is quite simple. Adopting a rescued dog not only gives that dog a new home and an opportunity to live out his/her life happily, but (bonus) it frees up space for another unfortunate dog.

What are your thoughts?