Why rescues are hesitant to adopt to families without a PHYSICAL FENCE...

We can't know the entire history of shelter or rescue dogs except that they have been in a shelter or rescue. Sometimes we know some of where they came from and what they have been through, but not always.

What is common, however is that it takes about 2 weeks for a dog to bond to someone. In that two weeks time, a loud noise or some unknown fear can send them running. Rescuers call this "bolting." We have seen many stories of dogs bolting from a new home who have no idea where they are. They are scared and lost.

Electronic fences only work with extensive training and even then, they are not 100% reliable. I got an e-fence when my standard poodle, Magic was a puppy. My backyard is completely fenced in but my front yard is open to the street on one side and wooded acres, on the other side. I liked to be out front with the boys when they were little so we got an e-fence. Magic went through the training with the company that installed in and then I kept up her training and we felt very comfortable with her on it. But every once in awhile, kids in the street or deer in the woods would send her running. With a long gallop, she would go right through the fence. And she was here for years.

A new rescued dog has a different history. You can't know what might set them off. They will run until they can't run anymore. Many rescued dogs have been lost, hit by cars and even some, never found again because they bolted from the people who rescued them.

We get emails all the time about dogs who ran from transports between shelters to homes. Lost Dog ads appear on our Facebook page, almost everyday. Dogs lost due to bolting. Many rescues have made the decision not to adopt to those with no fence or only an e-fence and the reasons are because of what I outlined above.

This is also the policy of many shelters and rescues and we hope other's can understand this. Even with a physical fence, when you adopt a rescue you must be extra careful in those first few weeks until that bonding has taken place.

Lynne Fowler

Oodles of Doodles Rescue Collective

The Views from Around the Internet by Other Rescuers:

Sometimes.  Poodle Rescue of New England prefers that all of our dogs have a securely fenced yard to play and run safely in.  We will require a fenced yard if you live on a busy road or the dog you are interested in is “high energy”.  However, if you do not have a fence but you have a plan for the proper exercise for a dog, we may still consider you for adoption. Poodle Rescue of New England will not place dogs in a home with an electric fence. An electric fence is not a barrier fence

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This is something that varies by the rescue you work with. Not all will require a fenced yard, tho it's true that many do. This isn't so much for exercise as it is for the safety of the dog they will place with someone.

I know specifically of a private rescue that placed a young dog with a vet. That vet had a farm, tons of acres, but no fenced area and the dogs had a doggie door to utilize as they pleased. The problem came when this young rescue dog followed the husband outside, without the husband noticing and he proceeded to his vehicle. He ran over and killed this dog. Less than 3 months of placement, this rescue dog died. A situation that could have been entirely prevented if this owner had simply had an appropriate fenced area for their dogs. It is irresponsibility and people like this which rescue that make it harder on those of us more responsible. These cases are why rescues require a properly fenced yard often. It's simply safer for the dog.

I understand what you are saying and I think that as long as you seek out a rescue that will work with you, you can successfully rescue a dog without a fenced yard. But while you are frustrated by this requirement, it's important to remember this story, and that there are many more like this, which cause rescues to be more rigid with the rules of fencing. This was an entirely preventable situation, either with a proper fenced area, or a more vigilent owner keeping a better watch on their dogs comings and goings (and this was a vet, which one might expect to be better than the average pet owner, but apparently they were not).

Gabbie: Yes, dogs sometimes can and do dig out of their fences. Dogs that behave in this fashion are typically the "toss in the backyard for exercise" types that need a job and don't get one. I am well aware of that. In this case, this dog was NOT a digging type and was also being properly trained in herding, so the dog had a proper mentally stimulating job to do which often deters the urge to "dig in the yard" that some dogs will do out of boredom. It was a large farm in the middle of the country which had housed many loose dogs this way in the past, so the rescue assumed all would be okay. Yes, it was the fault of the owner, but what you need to realize is that in the eyes of most rescues, requiring a fence is a safety net for their dogs they place. It's FAR less likely an accident like this would arise if an adoptive owner actually HAD a proper dog run for the dogs to utilize that didn't allow them full access to open areas, as was the case here.

The problem for rescues is that no application form or even a home visit is going to assure them that someone without a fenced yard is actually going to properly tend to their animals. At least if they can show, on their home visit, that they have a secure area where the dog can be off lead to potty and play with the family, that is a little more than nothing at all. Dogs may dig out of fenced areas, but that is still SOMETHING between that dog and the road and an attentive owner would keep watch and fill holes, or better yet, give the dog a real job so it relieves the urge to dig in the first place.

Requiring a fenced area is a precaution for the safety of the dog and you just can't be assured that an owner without a fence will actually properly watch their dog. Case in point in this incident I sited here. This was a vet, someone with lots of dog experience and many other dogs over the years lived just fine with her this way. So that rescue took a chance based off that history. That was a mistake on their part. But because of this owners credentials and references, they thought it would be "OK" to place without a fence in this case. Had they had a proper dog yard, fenced as usually required, this would not have happened. They would have made use of that yard when the dogs were not out with them to work and train.

I'm not saying families without fences can't properly care for their dogs, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of people out there just simply don't do right by their dogs. For rescues, that's a big risk that at least having a fenced yard will reduce. They have every right to require fencing except in certain cases, but as you see in this incident, this "certain case" still killed a rescue dog.

Why We Require Adopters Have Fenced Yards:

At the risk of stating the obvious -- Bassets are HOUNDS! It's not that they follow their noses . . . all dogs do that to greater or lesser extent. It's that hounds live in an entirely different world, not only from us, but even from other breeds. They use their noses like we -- and other breeds -- use their eyes. They're utterly relentless once they catch a scent. Believe us, we know from experience: you've never seen single-minded determination until you've seen a hound on a trail. That's why the poet, Francis Thompson, used the phrase "The Hound of Heaven" to describe God's love for, and pursuit of, us -- it was the most powerful analogy he could imagine! There's a reason for that . . . 

Hounds catch a scent -- and they live in a world chock-full of them -- they take off after it and are gone. Nothing -- NOTHING -- will deter a hound on a hot trail . . . NOTHING, that is, short of a heavy leash held by a strongarm (or two), a very sturdy fence or, sometimes, only death itself, and we are not exaggerating! Ask any houndsman, they'll tell you the same. That's one reason they keep their hunting hounds in kennels when they're not working. 

Therefore, it is utterly imperative that every potential adopter has a fenced yard! NO EXCEPTIONS! If your yard is not fenced, please do NOT waste your time, or ours, bothering to apply for adoption. Sorry, but that's just the way it has to be for the sake and safety of all our rescued hounds. How do you think so many of them ended up here in the first place? That's right -- they wandered off and couldn't find their way home, or be found by their people. 

Thank you for understanding.

A Safe Environment

People often ask us why Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue requires most adopters to have a fenced yard or area for most of their adoptive dogs. The experiences we gathered from other breed rescues, shelter personnel, animal control officers, and from speaking with many pet owners has impressed upon us that the safest environment for a Rescue CBR includes a fenced yard or area. Generally speaking, second-hand dogs need limitations because they do not have the benefit of having bonded with their new owners since puppyhood. We feel strongly that dogs allowed to wander unsupervised or that are tied out unsupervised are dogs that are at risk of getting lost, stolen, injured, attacked (by another dog, animal or person), poisoned, or struck by a car. Dogs that run loose or are tied out are at risk of exposure to rabid animals, potentially bringing this fatal disease home to the family. Also, over time, being tied out alone can lead to undesirable aggression, as the "fight" portion of the natural "fight or flight" response to perceived threats becomes the only option a tied dog feels he has.

Therefore, it is our policy to place dogs in homes that provide a secure, fenced area.* Appropriate senior Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (eight years and older) may be more readily placed in a home without a fenced area. The fenced area is intended to guarantee a secure outdoor area for the dog. It is not intended as a place for the dog to live or spend its days. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are intelligent, inquisitive dogs who should be with their families, or should be safely inside the house if nobody can supervise them. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers left outside alone even in a fenced area for long periods of time can develop problems such as digging, barking, and fence frustration at not being able to join people or dogs outside.

A satisfactory fenced area may be built of stockade, chain link, heavy wooden posts with heavy gauge wire, or metal posts with wire. No dog should be left unattended for any length of time in general, but especially not in the latter type of enclosure because it is relatively easy for the dog to escape. The enclosure should be four feet high minimum (six feet is preferred) and include a lockable gate. Equal attention should be given to the security of the fence along its bottom in order to prevent dogs from digging out. Invisible fence systems and portable pens are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Location of the fenced area should also be taken into consideration: it should be installed so it is directly accessible from the house so it will ensure an increased measure of safety for your dog and prove convenient for you. The fenced area must be large enough to provide the dog with a comfortable space in which to get some exercise and fresh air, and to eliminate. Shade and shelter from sun and the elements should also be provided. You do not need to fence in an entire yard - just a portion.

We deeply regret that this policy may eliminate some otherwise fine homes, but our first concern must be for the safety of the dogs with which we have been entrusted. Thank you for your understanding.

* If you are unable to provide a satisfactory fenced area and are not interested in adopting a homeless Senior Chesapeake Bay Retriever then in most cases we cannot proceed with your application. Although CBR Relief & Rescue feels strongly about the need for fencing and will not compromise on its obligation to ensure a safe environment, you may petition for an exception to the fencing requirement if you believe you have extenuating circumstances.

In this case, your application must include a detailed letter describing your circumstances, life-style, previous dog ownership and how you plan on safely exercising and managing a young Chesapeake Bay Retriever safely. A letter of recommendation from your veterinarian regarding the care and well-being of your previously owned dog(s) must accompany your application as well. Without these two letters, your exception request will not be considered. If your exception request is accepted for consideration, a home visit will be conducted. A decision will be made after the home visit is completed.

Thanks go to the German Shepherd Rescue of New England, Inc for permission to reprint this article that they use in their rescue efforts.

Fenced Yard. This is a strict requirement; please do no ask to be the exception. We require a fence in order to allow for safe, off leash playtime the dogs.

We require a fenced yard for all our Pyrs. Please do not ask us to make an exception to this rule. The fence must have a minimum height of 4 feet. Electric fences, as a rule, do not successfully work with Pyrs. Pyrs must always be on a leash when outside a fenced area.

I know that many people out there considering adopting a dog have no fence. You may think:

  • I can train my dog to stay in the yard.
  • My dog will never be out unless I'm with him.
  • My road isn't very busy.
  • Or any number of other reasons.

Please consider the following:

  • Vet bills, which can become astronomical if your dog gets hit by a car (assuming that he lives).
  • The gut-wrenching feeling of seeing your dog get hit by a car.
  • The devastating loss of your dog.
  • Having to bury your best friend.

Furthermore, there are other possible ramifications of not having a fence:

  • Lawsuits, which could amount to many thousands of dollars and the loss of your dog, if your dog chases and bites joggers/cyclists/the UPS delivery person/neighborhood children.

  • Fines and possible loss of your dog if he is a wanderer and is picked up by animal control too many times.

  • Extreme anxiety if your dog leaves your property and disappears, possibly forever.

  • Poor relationships with the neighbors, possible fines, and the specter of loosing your dog if he becomes a nuisance because of wandering.

WE DO *NOT* HAVE A BLANKET POLICY FOR FENCES ON ALL OUR DOGS. Fences are required on a CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, depending on your living situation and most importantly, the individual dog. Those that DO require a fence, will be noted as such in their bios.

If you do not have a fenced yard (and are not willing to install a fence), please do not inquire about these particular dogs. You should also note that not all dogs requiring fences are good candidates for invisible (electronic/radio) fences. Please discuss this with the dog's rescue contact.

If you are planning to fence your yard and are interested in a dog that we have noted requires one, we will not schedule your home visit until your fence is fully installed.


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Lynn did you get the craigslist link about the two standard poodle girls?
No worries.
Would that be a YES?
Sorry. LOL No worries went to the other comment. I just sent an email to the CL ad. Hopefully they will contact me or a Poodle Rescue. Thanks.

Thanks to Lynne for all the info here.  It really makes a difference for people to know the reasoning behind the policies.  -  To respond here to Beverley's comment, it is completely understandable that it is either physically or financially impossible for some people to have a physical fence.  To that I say, that means that it is physically or financially impossible for you to have a dog safely.  And while I am sure that you personally may be committed enough to keep the dog on the leash 100% of the time, the people at the shelters are having to make that judgment call, and I can imagine that EVERYONE SAYS that they will do x,y, and z as required, (like not giving the animal to someone else it they don't want it) but doing it is another thing.  People are busy, and well meaning, but notorious for not following through (or just flat-out lying - you know, the check is in the mail) and for the workers and volunteers of shelters and rescues to responsibly adopt to you, they would have to MAKE SURE that and you did what you promised and frankly, they don't have that kind of time. Can you imagine? 

"ask new owners with an e-fence to refrain from using it for at least 3 months, and commit to keeping the dog on a leash at all times. Also useful would be to make sure that at least one adult is home with the new dog full time for at least 1 month to allow for bonding"

Having a physical fence, prevents, if nothing else, the accidents, like slipping out the door.  Its like the two gates at the dog park.  With two barriers you don’t have to "never make a mistake".  This policy is the best they can do with what they have, because life happens.  They already have to decide if someone is going to neglect/abuse/abandon the dog. They DON'T have to decide if a person is going to make an innocent mistake, because the odds say we will. The fact that they even consider adopting to someone without a physical fence on a case-to-case basis is fabulous.  But even this "bending over backwards to make it work for you and the dog" sets them up for abuse, if they decide no.  


Great points, Kath. This is why I love having the forum, hopefully others can read and learn and hopefully understand why things are the way they are and how things should be. If one person understands and just one dog is saved, it makes it worth it.

We are looking to adopt and we do not have a physical fence in our yard. Would we still be considered for adoption?  Years ago when we had a dog,  we never took it outside off of a leash, and we live in a community that your are required to leash your dog. We definitely plan on fencing a portion of our yard in the future for our dog, but I feel that spending time with your dog and not just sending it outside in the yard is more beneficial for the animal, as well as long jogs or walks to get the sufficient exercise they need.

I agree that having a fence will reduce the chances that a dog will escape, but by no means will it prevent a dog from escaping.  Most houses are not fenced in the front yard (in some places, zoning law prohibit it), and there is nothing to prevent a dog from escaping from the front door.  Even if the proeprty is completely fenced in, there can always be holes in a fence or a gate left opened, or some dogs can dig under or climb over a fence (I've seen a  shepherd climb a 6-foot fence). My apartment had an interior entry, which meant if my dog escaped through the door, she couldn't get outside.

Another consideration is that a fenced yard sometimes means a dog is let out in the back yard by itself for long periods without owner interaction.  Or the dog could be stolen from a fenced yard. I now have a fenced yard and Scout spends very little time in it.  We go for long walks, to an enclosed dog park, and hiking for exercise and play. I spend more time with Scout than several neighbors spend with their dogs, who are left out in fenced yards.

So a fenced yard does not equate to a perfect or even a good home.  I realize most rescue groups are primarily concerned for their dogs well being, but there is more than one way to provide a good home.

Amanda, don't give up looking. There are many rescues who will not adopt to you. That is just a fact and the point of some of this discussion. I can't change that. But there are rescues who will take each case individually. I try to do that with my fosters and the rescue that used to operate out of this website did also, even though they claimed not to. So I guess if you want to adopt a dog you need to be honest, learn all you can about why a rescue would require a fence, and then do all you can to ensure you impart to them all you plan on doing to prevent a dog from bolting. If they know you are aware of the problem, they may also change the rule.

Kary, you are certainly right about what you wrote. I agree with all of it. That's why, I think, it's very important to take things on a case by case basis. When I was single and living in an apartment, my dog was walked and worshiped. I would have fed my dog before myself and lived in a box before I ever gave her up. But sadly that is not what all dog owners would do and are doing. Most shelters have less stringent requirements as to who can and can't adopt their dogs. Some will adopt to anyone with the fee. But rescues have "rescued" that dog. Many times at the brink of being put to sleep in a kill shelter. The little guy I have coming this weekend had 2 days remaining on his stray hold and then would have been euthanized, if I didn't tag him and pay for his neuter, shots and transport to NJ.


This boy will be scared, nervous and unfamiliar with where he is. I will need to spend time socializing him and preparing him for adoption. I have time, money and love invested in this boy and you can be sure I will not settle for just anyone to adopt him to. This is the situation many rescues are in. They care about their dogs as their top priority...not the adopter, but the adoptee. As Patricia said, she has gotten hate mail because she didn't adopt one of her dogs to someone. Eliz Gunn has had the same experiences and although so far I have not, I fully believe I will eventually.


Most people want a dog. In our dog's case, the doodle, they want a designer dog that breeders get thousands of dollars for. These people don't do the research to learn about the qualities of the two breeds involved. They don't know how smart and active and individual each one is. They don't want to pay the top breeder prices, so they go to a pet store or look to rescue thinking they will get just as good a dog. But that dog was not bred well, and he was given up because he was too active, or shed, or any number of reasons. We rescue the hurt, the rejected and the abused and then search for the right fit and family to adopt them to. 


So, to stop being so long winded and get off my soap box, yes having the rule that "no fence no dog" might not be the right way to do it and it should be taken on a case by case basis. It truly is because we only want what is best for that individual dog and that he never is given up again, for any reason. I think that is the ultimate goal all rescuers have in mind. At least I hope so. 

What state are you in?  Have you tried Shelters, especially HIGH KILL Shelters? 
So Lynn, if I wanted to adopt a dog from your group (or become a foster parent - I am in Eastern PA), will you consider us even though we don't have a fence?  We tie our dogs on a lead attached to the deck when we can't be out with them (think potty first thing in the morning), and then walk them or keep them on a leash while in the yard.  We have owned dogs for our entire lives, and our current lab is spending the last of his days being horribly spoiled (cancer).

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