Many people choose to get a dog through a rescue organization for a variety of reasons. Rescue groups can be an excellent way to get a wonderful pet. Some people prefer to get an older dog because they have small children or they don’t want to deal with housetraining or teething. Some people just like to know they are helping a dog. All are excellent reasons for getting a rescue dog.

Rescue organizations get dogs from a variety of sources. Sometimes an owner moves and cannot keep the dog, sometimes an owner dies and nobody in the family wants the dog, sometimes people are unable to deal with behavior problems and sometimes people just decide they don’t want the dog anymore. In some cases a rescue organization is contacted directly. Sometimes the dog is turned in at a shelter and a rescue group is able to get them out.

Most rescue groups were started to help dogs find good homes. Some people and organizations, however, have taken advantage of the emotional response people have to rescue and re-home dogs for a profit. This does not mean, of course, that the dogs don’t need homes.

A typical rescue group will most likely have questionnaires for you to fill out, and may even require a home visit before allowing you to purchase the prospective dog. All this is done to ensure that each dog goes to it's best possible home. The rescue group should also be willing to take back animals they adopt out.

A typical “real” rescue group may or may not be 501(c)3 (There are several different kinds of non-profit organizations—501(c)3 is a non-profit organization whose donations are tax deductible.). However, dogs are not re-homed with profit as a motive. Usually there is a flat adoption fee that is the same for any dog adopted (usually $100-$300 depending on the organization). Dogs are groomed, spayed or neutered, given any vaccinations needed (usually given all vaccinations if the medical history is not known) and wormed. If the dog is heartworm positive it will be treated for heartworms and any other medical procedures it needs will be done (teeth cleaning or pulling, etc.). The dog will usually live in an experienced foster home for a week or two (and often longer). This gives the organization a chance to find out if the dog has any behavioral problems (such as urinating in the house, chewing, jumping on people, biting, etc.) as well as how it relates to men, women, children, other dogs, cats, etc. Behavior can be modified and the group will know if the dog needs to be placed in a home without children, other dogs, etc. In some cases the adoption fee may be enough to cover all the expenses, in other cases it won’t be. But the group charges the same fee regardless. Hopefully the ones who have a lot of expenses will offset the ones with few expenses, but this is rarely the case. Foster homes are volunteers and do not get paid for doing this work. The group usually relies on fund-raising to meet the expenses of providing this service to dogs that need help.

Some groups call themselves “rescue” but do not provide the services that real rescue groups do. These dogs do need homes, but you will need to make sure the dog can accept your household (children, other dogs, cats, etc.) and that you can handle (or get help with) any behavioral problems these dogs may have. You may also have additional medical expenses that you weren’t expecting. These groups generally operate to make a profit.

It is up to you, as a prospective owner, to determine where to get your dog. It is also up to you to determine where to donate your money to help dogs if you want to make a donation to help a group.

“Second-hand Dog: How To Turn Yours Into a First-rate Pet” by Carol Lea Banjamin is an excellent resource for anyone obtaining a dog from a rescue group or animal shelter.

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