Do breed rescues drive away adoptors?

With the passing of Max, (and thank you again for the many messages of condolence) our thoughts have been turning to the future and how we come to meet new pets. For dogs in particular – though it’s equally true with some other species – there are three primary routes which most people follow aside from adopting from a friend or family member. These are adopting a homeless animal from a shelter, going through a specialized breed rescue, or purchasing a dog from a breeder or pet store. We’ve mostly gone the first route, feeling that it’s a huge waste of money to buy a custom dog when there are so many out there in shelters waiting for homes, but that’s up to the pet owner.

The second route, however – going through a breed rescue – was one that we had one experience with when we adopted Mr. Basset. For those who have never done this, it’s an unusual experience, and really different than going to a shelter. Dedicated groups of people collect up specific breeds of dogs who have lost their homes and match them up with new families. There’s a definite appeal to this, and it worked out well for us, but there are questions about the culture of breed rescues which Bridget Johnson brings up this week.

Do Animal Rescues Drive Adopters to Breeders?

Everyone knows that I’m an advocate of pet adoption. But lately I’ve been questioning whether many animal rescues are defeating the purpose and driving prospective pet parents into the arms of breeders.

I didn’t really think much of the motives and modus operandi of rescues until after I adopted my chihuahua, Chi-Chi aka the puppacita. I found her at one of the last old-school pounds in the area. The shelter staff handed her to me, I asked a couple of questions about her history, and a minute later signed a spay contract, waited while they microchipped her, handed over a $70 check and was on my way to PetSmart to spoil the puppa with whatever she wanted.

No counselor screening, no adoptive matchmaking, no home visits, no drama (though I fully acknowledge people can pick a dog that’s wrong for their situation without some guidance). And puppacita’s perfect. And she knows it. I did the things a rescue might do: spaying, shots, dental extractions, and house-training. Rescue groups often note that for the price you pay you get a shelter dog that’s been fixed up, so to speak, with the necessary vet work and training.

Bridget’s story goes on to describe some of the less helpful situations which prospective adopting families can run into when dealing with these rescue groups. There are certain things which it’s only sensible for such groups to know before green lighting an adoption. Do you have a big enough home to accommodate the pet? Can you afford the long term costs involved? Will you be providing good veterinary care and proper food? It’s also fair to consider whether someone is at the right place in their lives to take on such a responsibility. (Adopting an Irish Wolf Hound to a college senior living in a dorm with no idea where they are going after graduation might not be the best move for the dog.)

But I too have heard some of the troubling stories Johnson describes. Some groups will insist on multiple home inspections, even after the adoption. If you don’t have a good reference from a vet, they may turn you down. (So what happens to the person who is looking for their first pet and has never had need of a vet?) Also, the fees which sometimes run up for the adoption process may stagger the budget of a couple who will otherwise be able to afford the normal cost of care. In worst case scenarios, those who don’t read the adoption contracts closely may find that they don’t every actually own the dog, but are instead “secondary owners” with rights that can be superseded by the rescue group later. In short, some of them can get a bit carried away, perhaps to the point of leaving some dogs without homes rather than sending them to a family that isn’t 100% perfect in their profile.

We happened to get lucky. We found Rascal through All Bassets Cherished, and the adoption process was fairly straight forward. Mr. Basset was already a senior dog with a history of cancer when he joined us, but he went on to live to the age of 17 and things worked out great. But apparently, there are other groups which are more problematic. I don’t think this means rescues have no place in this process, but it’s worth thinking about if you are considering a new member for your family.