People looking for a new pet may think that to get specific breeds or characteristics, they need to go to a breeder, but rescue animals can offer the same choice as purebred pets. Some families automatically think of going to a shelter to pick a new pet, just like some people automatically think about a breeder. While both are valid choices, there’s a lot about rescue animals that will surprise all kinds of pet lovers.
Shelter or Rescue: What’s the difference?
Before we get into facts about rescue animals, let’s make an important distinction between shelters and rescues. Many people will use them interchangeably, but a rescue organization is distinctly different from a shelter.
A shelter, AKA the “pound,” is a privately funded organization that accepts animals from the public, whether that’s a private owner surrendering a pet or a concerned citizen with a stray. Most people, when they say “pound,” mean a government funded shelter organization that also accepts animals from government employees such as animal control or park rangers.
Rescue organizations are groups of fosterers and volunteers who accept animals from private owners and shelters who can’t hold them due to overpopulation. Instead of being held at a facility, rescue animals are often in the homes of volunteers as foster pets. This home environment makes rescue animals different in many respects from shelter animals, since they get more individualized attention.
This goes to show that not all rescue organizations are the same, though both shelters and rescues provide valuable services to the community. Homeless pets need all the help they can get, so it really doesn’t matter where someone adopts from.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are around 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US, and nearly three times as many rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America. If you find these facts about rescue pets surprising, there’s more.
Fact 1: You can find rescues of any breed or type
Many people think that going to an animal shelter to get a pet means that you’ll get whatever kind of dog or cat they happen to have available. That’s simply untrue. Rescue organizations, since they’re volunteer operated, have more freedom than government-run shelters to focus on specific dog or cat breeds. This means that if you have your heart set on, say, a Basset Hound, you can find a rescue that specializes in purebred basset hounds that have been surrendered by owners or breeders giving up substandard dogs. The American Kennel Club even has a breed specific rescue search.
Fact 2: Not all rescue animals are older
Shelters and rescues have a lot of misconceptions floating around them, and the biggest has got to be that many pets at a shelter are older animals, which are harder to take care of, have more health problems, and can’t bond with new owners easily. This last part is simply untrue, as older animals need forever homes and love their owners just as much as young animals.
The facts also show that rescue organizations take all ages of animals. Research by the Humane Society found that nearly 80% of rescue animals are adoptable, with no major health problems that would keep them out of a forever home. There are also many rescue groups devoted to kittens and puppies, so it’s easy to find a younger pet to add to your household. Some people even prefer the mellow energy of older animals, and they can foster too.
Fact 3: Many shelter animals are healthier than pet store animals
One of the most damaging myths about rescue animals is that they’re sickly or less clean than pets from a store or breeder. While of course shelters can get animals with health problems either from neglect or just nature, many rescues (especially government funded shelters) have access to veterinary care and are skilled at assessing and rehabilitating animals with health challenges. All rescue organizations and shelters will also have vet records starting from when the animal was surrendered.
In fact, a shelter pet may have seen a vet more often than a pet from a breeder. Even reputable breeders produce animals with hereditary problems, and puppy mills often have unsanitary conditions that lead to disease. Shelter and rescue animals receive great care, so they are often healthy.
Fact 4: Adopters can find out more about rescue animals compared with others
Another myth about rescues is that their origins are total mysteries. While it’s true shelters and rescue groups take in strays and surrendered animals with no histories, they can often get a surprising amount of information about the animal.
Some organizations have detailed intake information from the previous owners, so they can provide a history for the animal. Even without this history, rescue groups are trained to observe animal behavior and understand their personalities. This means that you can get detailed information about a shelter pet from the staff and find the perfect type of pet for your household.
Fact 5: Rescue pets can often have more training than other animals
While breed is a great indicator of personality, one of the most important things that successful pets have is house training and exposure to people. Rescue organizations often train dogs before adopting them out, even if they’re not designed to, because rescues groups are composed of foster volunteers. These volunteers house train the animals to stay with them, but they will also often correct problems the rescue animals can develop.
Many foster volunteers have their own pets in addition to the animals they foster, so they also have to train rescue animals to live with other pets. This means that you’ll often get a more well behaved and socialized pet from a rescue.
Rescue animals rock!
With all these facts about rescue animals, it’s a no brainer that you should adopt, not shop for your next animal companion. Whether you pick a pet from the local pound or a breed-specific rescue, you can find the perfect addition to your household.
If you’re not sure what breed that should be, you can take this handy quiz at the American Kennel Club, and then look for a breed specific rescue to find the new rescue pet of your dreams. You can also take your needs for a pet to the shelter or rescue and talk to a volunteer. These dedicated animal lovers know all the facts about rescue animals, and they can help connect you with your ideal pet.