I started out planning to write an article about the importance of animal rescue in general. But while doing research, found that there is some confusion between animal rescues and animal shelters (at least in my mind). And honestly I have never given much thought about the differences. Have you?
Animal shelters are well, a whole different animal than rescues.
The first thing to note is that many of us have may have different ideas as to what animal shelters and rescues are. And depending on where you live, an animal rescue may act as an animal shelter. In other words, they may be one and the same, hence the confusion. Usually, the bigger urban areas have separate shelters and pounds with animal control officers. So what is the real difference then?
In general, an animal shelter is a physical place where animals are surrendered or brought when their owners either cannot take care of them anymore, don’t want them for various reasons or someone finds them on the streets. They are usually the local “pound” and government-owned but can also be privately owned by volunteers.
A shelter will take in all animals (strays and pets) and because of this are almost always full. The result is that they usually have space issues which ultimately ends with the shelter having to euthanize animals. Of course this is a difficult decision and hopefully last resort for the shelter but their philosophy is that letting the animal be put to sleep is the best option for a homeless animal and the community (that’s a whole other topic I don’t even feel qualified to touch). As a result, shelter animals are typically seen as having their days numbered if they aren’t adopted out.
Because most shelters are inherently overcrowded, it is stressful for both the animals and staff. So if you are looking to meet a future pet at a shelter, it’s a good idea to try and schedule some alone time with him/her before committing to adopt if possible. Ask if the shelter has a quieter meet-up area where you and your family (don’t forget current pets) can spend some time together. Of course not all shelters will have the time or the space for this luxury.
Shelters are also beneficial because they make sure that the overall animal population is healthier and the spread of disease is slowed by ensuring that the animals receive veterinary care especially once they are adopted. They also benefit us humans by battling diseases (think rabies) that can spread from animal populations to people.
On the other hand, an animal rescue is normally a private organization which takes in certain animals (mostly pet or companion animals) from abusive homes, homeless situations or litters of kittens and puppies. What an animal rescue does is provide the animal a temporary home through a network of volunteer foster parents who agree to take care of the animal until it is adopted.
Animal rescues can also be focused on one or two types of animals only. For example, some are breed or species specific. This is actually a good thing because it means that those who are fostering the animals have a real passion for the specific breed/species of animal the rescue is focused on and will be sure to give them very good care.
Generally speaking, animal rescues run solely on donations, volunteers, and the generosity of animal lovers. They can sometimes partner with businesses such as pet stores for help. These businesses often let them use space to hold adoption events which is a huge help in allowing the animals to get out and be seen by potential families. To adopt an animal through a rescue in foster care, normally an application is filled out and a meet and greet is set up with the foster parents and the potential adoptees.
Some advantages of adopting from a rescue are that animals in foster care retain their social ability and are accustomed to humans. And since they spend more time living with their foster parents, there is usually more information available about the animal.
Animals from rescues are more likely to be healthy, spayed and neutered, and have a complete round of vaccinations, eliminating a lot of the guesswork because their backgrounds are known. Also the adoption process can take a little bit longer which is also an advantage because it allows for a more gradual adjustment. In the long run it will be less stressful for both the animal and you.
So which should you adopt from – a shelter or rescue?
There is no straight answer (sorry). The most important thing is to do your homework. Do as much background checking as you can on the facility that you would like to adopt from. Look for online reviews. Next get to know the adoption process for the organization. Make sure you are ok with it and how long it might take.
You’ll want to have an idea of who the people are that run the shelter or rescue and how well they care for the animals. Rather than choosing a facility, it’s more important that you make sure your future furry pet is a perfect fit and you can make the long term commitment to take care of him/her. After that it will be fate. Keep looking and you’ll know when you see the perfect companion and he will probably adopt you first.
Note: I have been a volunteer with a local no kill pet rescue in my community for many years.
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April is animal cruelty prevention month. To raise awareness for this cause, Color Street has released nail strips called “Paws for the Cause”. The nail strips cost $13 and now through the end of April, $2 from the sale of every set of Paws for the Cause will benefit Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation.
The ARF is a non-profit based in California, with 40,000 animals rescued to date, the organization is a national leader in the rescue and recovery of at-risk dogs and cats. Their work in animal rescue includes the following:
- National natural disaster recovery and relocation for animals affected by hurricanes, wildfires, and other catastrophic events
- Rescue and relocation of dogs and cats from kill shelters across the country
- Pets for Vets, a program that partners rescued dogs with veterans in need of service dogs
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