I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit straight away that animal rescue has some serious image problems, and that these problems are merited. Not all animal rescues are bad news, of course, but enough of them are that chances are good that you know someone who has had a terrible experience.
Here are the complaints I’ve heard the most often:
“The person I dealt with was unpleasant or even abusive.” This one is true far too often. A lot of rescuers prefer animals to people, and some of them actively dislike humans and lack social skills. They often don’t trust people to be responsible pet owners, and they don’t hide it. To such rescuers, all applicants are assumed to be unsuitable or even dishonest. Suffice to say, adopters don’t like being treated like prospective animal abusers.
“I was told I could adopt this dog, but the rescue changed their mind at the last moment.” This happens too often, unfortunately. A person will see a dog on Petfinder, get approved, and meet the dog, only to be told near the end of the process that the foster is going to keep the dog because they have just become too attached. Sometimes the foster will part with their dog, but not before reminding the adopter repeatedly that this is a huge sacrifice for the foster. Anecdote time: When I volunteered for another group, I remember going to a pet show early on where an approved adopter was scheduled to get her puppy. The puppy’s foster was there and was crying so hard she was incoherent. The other volunteers had to wrestle the puppy away from her and hand the traumatized dog over to her adopter, who was becoming pretty traumatized herself.
“The dog wasn’t as described.” I regularly hear complaints that a dog was significantly older or larger than they appeared on Petfinder. When the applicant asks about this, or indicates that they are no longer interested in the particular dog, they are treated like superficial monsters, even if their reasons are extremely valid. For example, when a 30-pound dog turns out to weigh closer to 50, applicants whose condos have a weight limit can no longer adopt that dog. Unfortunately, some rescues’ response to this news is to try to guilt the applicant into moving.
“The dog was clearly unhealthy and kept in terrible conditions. It was all very shady.” Adopters have told stories of rescues that completed all of their transactions in parking lots, or of visiting foster homes where the dog was one of a dozen dogs. Now sometimes rescue dogs are in bad shape, for example if they have just come into care, but the applicants were not told that this was the case, or were told just the opposite.
“The dog was really expensive.” A lot of applicants seem to discount the fact that they are adopting a dog who has been fully vetted, and that those costs factor into the adoption fee. However, there are also rescues that charge significantly more for in-demand dogs (e.g., a beagle would be $300, while a poodle would be $650). If that isn’t selling dogs, it’s awfully close.
“They tried to guilt me into adopting an older dog or a sick one.” I’ve certainly encouraged adopters to consider something other than a puppy, but not via manipulation or pressure. Rescues that do this regularly succeed in making a lot of their applicants feel guilty and judged.
All of these are reasons why rescues are viewed negatively by a lot of people, and why some people end up buying an animal rather than deal with the unpleasantness that they associate with adopting one via rescue. If rescues want to save more dogs, this needs to change. In a future column, I’ll write about how to find a good rescue, and whether rescue reform is viable.
18 replies on “Why People Hate Animal Rescue”
I’m not an animal rescuer, but I can imagine that when your life’s work is dealing with the damage done by animal abusers, having faith in humanity is hard work. I like coming here because I always learn something new when I visit the site.
Thanks, Anisa. It’s true you encounter some evil people, but as a rescuer you have to be able to take a mental Silkwood shower afterwards. You can’t take it out on future adopters.
The first rescue I dealt with was OBSESSED with when my SO and I would have kids. It was awful. By the end of the interview, I got a little snarky.
Rescue: Do either of you have allergies to dogs?
Rescue: If you were to develop allergies, what would you do with the dog?
Me: I don’t think it will be a problem. We’ve been around dogs our whole lives. But if either of us did develop allergies, we would make it work.
Rescue: Okay, but what if y’all have kids and this kid of yours develops an allergy. What would you do with the dog?
Me: It depends. Are they sneezing or are they in anaphylactic shock?
I was so angry. Every single damn question eventually led to, “yeah, but what happens when you have kids…” I get it. You see a lot of people give up their pets because of kids, but don’t be an ass when I patiently tell you that I have no desire for a kid any time soon, if not at all. Ugh. Furthermore, not all new parents just give up on their dogs! It was so discouraging to be deemed “unqualified” (their word, not mine) just because we were a young couple who might have kids.
Fortunately, we gave another rescue group a shot and it was a much better experience! Our rescue pup has been with us for five and some years and we couldn’t be happier. :)
Sheesh. Allergies are an Act of God as far as we are concerned. Sometimes they are going to occur, and they are going to be serious enough that the adopter can’t keep the dog.
We almost adopted a dog from a family that had a baby that was allergic to EVERYTHING! It was a basset named Oscar (said with a French accent) that we saw advertised at the local dog park. We met the family and they had to put their entire menagerie up for adoption…cat, bunny, bird, dog….they were absolutely heartbroken.
They ended up backing out the night before we were due to take Oscar (French accent) home-they said they just couldn’t do it and were going to replace their carpets with hardwood and vacuum a million times a day. Happy ending: we would occasionally see them at the dog park and we ended up with Gershwin the Giant Butthead :)
Awe! Happy story. :)
And Gershwin the Giant Butthead! Such a great name.
Yeah, they were…intense. Luckily, they’re the only bad experience I’ve had when it comes to rescue groups. Mr. Nonsense and I have been looking at adopting a second dog and all of the local rescue groups (new town) seem great so far.
Speaking of which, do you have any advice for introducing a second dog into the home? I thought I might have seen an article pertaining to such, but I can’t find it so I’m wondering if I just made it up. =)
We haven’t written a step-by-step one yet, but we will.
My dog trainer was one of those better with animals people. I adopted a neurotic husky mix who was afraid of everyone and I knew step 1 was socialization. I took her to a highly recommended trainer who was the most unpleasant person I’ve ever met. But funniest thing, my dog who cowered from everyone but me took to her immediately. To this day, I’ve still never seen her react so positively to another human.
Needless to say, I swallowed my hostility and kept bringing my dog to that trainer. She never got any nicer to me, but she did wonders for my dog. (I’ve since moved to another state or I’d still be bringing my dog to her.)
Yep! We had a vet that I HATED because she had no people skills, but Daisy, who’s always nervous, would stand still for and just chill in the vet’s office. It was a great way to introduce her to the idea that the vet is not a scary place. That vet is gone now and we don’t have a vet phobia that I was worried would develop. “Vets give cookies, never look at you for too long, and let you go home. This is an okay place.”
I’m glad your dog flourished under the trainer’s care. It’s true, there are some awful people who are beloved by dogs. Go figure.
I definitely recognize the point about some people being better with animals than with their (prospective) owners.
As with a lot of things, patience and trying to see the other person as an individual are key, but animals bring out all kind of things in humans :)
It’s so true. People surprise you on both ends of the spectrum.
Yes! And rescues here are often semi-openly racist.
One I volunteered for definitely was. It was appalling.
Oh, and here I thought it was because when you’re FRIENDS with people who run a rescue, they consistently try to convince you that “life is better with more dogs.” :) Great article, Moretta! I’ve heard a lot of these complaints before, and it saddens me that it puts people off rescued animals.
I’m sure your rescue friends see you as the ultimate get.
I’m sure what you meant is “easy mark.”