18 months after losing our previous dog, we've finally decided we are ready for another dog. We'd like to get a rescue dog, but after some initial searching, we're finding a lot of different breed specific and general rescues that show up in basic Internet searches. Some are local, other are national.

How do we go about finding a "good" shelter?

By "good" in this context, we are looking for a reputable shelter that will care more about getting a pet put into the right home rather than just getting the pet adopted. We don't have anyone we know that has adopted a pet locally and the only people who have provided a reference amongst our friends, and family are people who have used a breed specific rescue for a breed we are not interested in.

Basically - what do we look for when speaking with a shelter to determine the quality?

We are living in the USA.

  • Where are you? What country? Much will depend on this. Ourselves, we found a dog through the Humane Society shelter, but we're in the US Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 1:34
  • @HovercraftFullOfEels I'm in the US Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 9:57
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    Don't look for a good shelter; look for a good dog. The Humane Society is where I'd start. Also some rescues do more harm than good, e.g. they consider buying puppy mill puppies "rescues", when, in fact, it supports the puppy mill. This isn't a full answer because the existing answer already covers the rest. Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


Years of experience of taking in second hand dogs here - I quickly gave up trying to deal with the sort of private shelter you apparently want to get a dog from. Many of them treat you with a degree of suspicion, you have to fill out five pages of paperwork, they insist on inspecting your home, charge huge amounts for what are now often unsocialized, unhousebroken, elderly puppy mill breeding dogs, and then have you sign an agreement that keeps ownership of the dog in their name and and allows them to seize the dog without notice or reason.

Yeah. Such a deal. No thanks.

Do yourself a huge favor and locate the nearest large urban animal control shelter in your area. Their requirements are usually basic and reasonable, their fees are lower, once you pass muster with them they won't bug you or demand the right to march through your house and call up your place of employment to check how much you make a year. They want the dogs to find good homes but aren't obsessive/compulsive over doing an FBI background check on you as soon as you walk in the front door of the shelter.

I avoid the private rescues like the plague. Had nothing but bad experiences with them. And I'm not the only one. One fellow I knew - bred some of the top show dogs in his chosen breed in the country and the owner and editor in chief of one of the top all-breed show magazines - was turned down by a local rescue because he (GASP!) actually bred dogs. Like, he had a Toy breed that averaged two pups a litter and he'd breed maybe one litter every two years and the few pups he did part with went to carefully selected pet homes. But he didn't pass inspection and he told them their rules were so stupid the Queen of England would not qualify for one of their second hand dogs. Which was true.

So skip the private rescues. They are mostly run by people who are hoarders at heart. Go to the animal control shelters as the dogs there are under a time limit and if they are not adopted by a certain number of days they are toast.

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    I agree with you. I bred Border Collies (very responsibly!) and owned five (all passed, now, except one.) I only bred one female because she was such an exceptional dog in every way. When I sold my last house (a lot of land), I chose my current location because there is a 26 acre field in the middle where I would exercise my dogs. But I've been turned down by every Border Collie rescue I tried because "Border Collies need a lot of land" or "Border Collies don't do well with noise". It was painful to know that some dogs will go to homes for the wrong reasons or not at all. Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 11:17
  • Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't necessarily ruled out ASPCA or a government run agency - this is exactly the kind of info that would be helpful to me or anyone else searching for a rescue Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 17:17
  • One thing I'd add is that the restrictions are of such a nature to make it impossible for anyone who doesn't own their own home with a fenced-in yard to "adopt". Add that to charging around half a grand, and you've got a very classist setup. Purposely. Add to structural classism personal subjective interviews and no oversight of any kind, and in most places it will be functionally racist. In many overtly racist as well.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 20:09

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