Etiquette for Applying to and Dealing with Rescue and Shelter People

Yesterday, I had a lengthy and understandably difficult conversation, with an intelligent, highly articulate and obviously educated woman about the treatment she received from a rescue person over a dog she wanted to adopt.


This woman, we’ll call her H., had applied for a dog in a rescue organization and was basically told she was not qualified, basically, because she asked questions. Imagine!


The first thing everyone should remember is, it is very difficult to correspond with a rescue or shelter.


“WHAT?” You might say, “If I don’t correspond with them how will I ask questions or inquire about a dog I am interested in?”


The easy answer to this is…you can’t…or better yet, you shouldn’t.


Rescue and shelter people are, in most cases, volunteers. They may have jobs and families and do rescue in their spare time. Their spare time is just that…spare or sparse. You need to read what is in the listing with the dog. If it says, “No Children” and you have kids. Don’t apply or even ask
questions, as you probably will not even hear back. There is usually a reason why it says no kids. The same with “Fence required.” If you do not have a fence or only have an e-fence, they will not adopt to you. Period! Trying to discuss
it is not your best option.


Sometimes, even if everything on your application is perfect, you still may or may not be contacted. They get many applications over the course of a week, especially on highly adoptable dogs. Often a rescue or shelter will scan them, pile them in a “reject” or “possible” pile to be looked at further.


So, what should you do? You should send in the best application you can to match what they are looking for. Try not to only answer “Yes” or “No” on the questions. Answer in full sentences and give details. Fill in all the questions and don’t leave blanks. When I was reviewing applications I always felt more was better, than incomplete or short answers. If one

question asks something like, “Is there anything else you wish to tell us?” or
something to this effect…answer it and put in all your reasons you really want
this dog. One line on H’s application that would have had me put it in the
“possible” pile is this: “I want a new schmoopie to love and spoil (other
than my husband!)” It may sound silly, but this one line tells me she would
love a dog. Don’t be afraid of putting your real feelings in the application. 


You might say, “Don’t they want to find homes for these dogs? Why do they put me through the ringer? It is harder than adopting a child!”


The answer is because they care about the dog. He or she is their priority and finding the right home so that the dog does not come back to their program or worse, is returned to a kill-shelter, is the main goal of most rescuers. You are not their priority and it is a little like adopting a child

and you should look at it this way, also. Most rescue people believe in a Lifetime Commitment and want that for the dogs in their program.


Many rescue people foster the animals in their own homes and become very attached to them. I know I do with my foster dogs. They know the personality of the dog, how it gets along with other dogs or cats in the house and how he interacts with people or children in the house. The foster has
“tested” the dog to see if he or she can be hand fed, if he can be touched while eating or have something taken it out of his mouth. They will walk them to see if they are agreeable to leash walking or if skittish to it, the rescue may insist on a fence for the dog. Other dogs are less jittery and can be
walked and trusted but many rescue dogs are scared of new people and situations and will bolt and run if not in an enclosed area, especially until that bonding
has taken place. It usually takes a rescued dog between 2-4 weeks to know their
territory and feel they are home.


These are the reasons why the dog is listed as “No kids,” or “No Cats,” or “Fence required” because the rescue or shelter has decided this by the needs and actions of the dog. As hard as it is, you will need to respect that and if you don’t match those requirements, please don’t apply for the dog.


Fill out applications but don’t send notes that say, “Can you tell me more?” They may not know more. Don’t ask, “Can I meet this dog?” If you are a “possible,” they will contact you. Many times, you might not hear anything at all but you shouldn’t take that to mean that there is something wrong with you. It may just mean that you were not a match for that dog or they

found someone was a better match. That is why I tell people to fill out many applications.


Sending in many applications to many rescues and/or shelters will increase your chances of being picked for one or more dogs. Plus, once an application is approved, most rescues and shelters will keep your app on file for the next dog that comes along that does meet your needs, if this one does not.


If you are called and it is not a right fit this time, you can always decline, but if it is a right match, you will have found your Forever Friend and that is everyone’s goal after all.


Lynne Fowler

The Rescue Resource Collective

Oodles of




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I agree, Sue and it can be difficult, to understand how to deal with and handle adoption issues.


Especially if you are trying to adopt a dog long distance. I have people, states away who want to adopt one of my dogs and they just don't understand why I won't send them that far. What happens if it doesn't work out? How can all family members, including other pets in the home, meet the dog? 


We rescue that animal, have them in a foster or our own homes and know that pet. I know for me, I don't ever want that dog returned because it is so hard on them after they have bonded with people. To be returned is heartbreaking.


People need to stop thinking they are adopting "just a dog" and do some research and make sure they are adopting the "right dog" for their family.

Jody, it sounds like you are learning under pressure. How sad for you and that dog.


You're right, the process is inadequate and at times horrible, but in reality, it's all there is. Every rescue and shelter has different rules but as an adopter, you need to know what you need, too. I have people say they want a Labradoodle, because their neighbor has one and he is cute/well behaved/hypoallergenic/insert other reasons here but they had small children and no fence and work 8 hours a day. These dogs are active dogs and smart and will become destructive if not given enough exercise and left alone so many hours. And every one is different, not all are hypoallergenic and it's important that people learn about the breed but sadly, many do not. It's important to take the entire family to meet the dog. It's important to understand that there is a 2 week, honeymoon period before that dog feels safe and at home. 


So many are sitting and waiting and dying in shelters, that I wonder sometimes, too, if we wouldn't be better with better laws and procedures, too. But this is what we have.

This topic just came up, again, this week. Every one of our Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet ads clearly say, "Please Read the Entire AD" and "If you do not have what we are asking for, please do not apply, It wastes our time and yours" and "If you match the Needs of the dog, you will be contacted, as we are all volunteers and cannot answer every inquiry." What more can I do? I have an Auto-Responder set so people know that their application has been received. I do answer many of the many, many inquiries that come in asking things like, "Is she still available?" or "Why does he need a fenced yard when all my other dogs have been fine without one?" Where is the fine line between being nice and ignoring these questions?

As someone who has adopted before, I understand not hearing back after filling out such a lengthy application. I can imagine the pins and needles of waiting and not hearing. We are human too! BUT...

This past week, on Christmas Eve, I received an application for a dog in NC, from a woman in GA. That by itself is not a problem if everything else is there. This particular dog has severe Separation Anxiety and we asked for an adopter who is home all day. This family was out of the home for up to 8 hours a day. We also have in the ad that this dog does not get along with smaller dogs, the applicant has 2 cockapoos. Clearly, they do not qualify. It's Christmas!

It's Christmas! I am out with my family enjoying the day. Spending time with my sister and her family and trying to leave the rescue alone for one day. This is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, volunteer job. I get that and have been living it for almost 4 years. I have dealt with a lot. Those who know me, know what I have been through. We have built something wonderful...twice. For those who don't know what I am talking about, there is some negative press out there about me, this website and our rescue. (Here it is

It has been out there, growing larger and larger, since May 2010 when I resigned from the rescue I built and kicked  off THIS website, that I purchased and paid for and created. Because someone puts something on the Internet makes it true, right? Keep searching and researching me and you will ONLY find this by one person and one group. You will not find other's with such a vendetta, you will not find more "dirt" on me, hopefully you WILL find the PROOF and TRUTH that these are total and complete lies ( This link is also posted on our Main Page and on every members page, we have the information that we are not associated with the rescue we began here.

I don't hide from this nonsense. I have it in the open and not hidden behind closed doors. When asked about it, I am happy to tell you the truth and point you toward the proof it's all lies. When I was asked by an investigative reporter from a radio program, I provided the proof. When my ex-rescue partner was asked for proof of her allegations, she said she didn't have time to scan it all. In 2 years, she didn't have time to scan it all? How about scanning ONE? Nope. (The transcript and audio is in my proof link.)

Anyway, the GA applicant, because she wasn't contacted to adopt NC - Annie, went researching me and found the slanderous post by my ex-rescue partner, joined her copy website and posted that "Now that I have read this information, I wonder if she even exists." Huh? 

Three inquiries, an application and then an email berating us for not considering her wonderful home were received, written back to and "handled" by me, personally. One was on Christmas Eve while I was out with my family. So, while I understand waiting to hear back on an application or inquiry and we would love to see our dogs placed in Perfect Homes, as I explained to this lady, "we received many, many applications and Annie is not in a shelter, but a loving foster home." We are NOT in a hurry to place a dog miles and miles away, even if it was perfect. We are NOT in a hurry to place one of our dogs, just anywhere. We are NOT on the same page as to what the Perfect Home even is, just because you may think so. On top of all this, she fed Beneful and Purina products and those who know me know what I think of that. 

I guess my point is, whether you are dealing with our rescue, another rescue or a shelter, most who do this are volunteers. We try our best to be nice, we try to do what's right and we devote quite a bit of time ensuring the animals in our care, have the VERY BEST home we can possibly find for them. NOT everything you find on the Internet is true, NOT everyone is nice or has the right motives. But WE try to do the best we can and always will.


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