Adopting pets, particularly dogs and cats from rescues or saving them from shelters have become two of the most popular and inexpensive ways of finding a family pet. There are, however, some very important differences between rescues and shelters. This article will outline some of the biggest differences to help you choose which might be best for you to find your family pet.

Adopting from a rescue group can be a somewhat long process, depending on the group. Many rescue groups require you to fill out an application where you will need to list veterinary and personal references. Once your references have been checked, most groups will want to do a home visit. The entire process can sometimes take up to several days, depending on the number of volunteers they have available to assist in the process. Adopting from a shelter can be a much faster process. Although you will be required to fill out an adoption application, many times you can take a pet home with you the same day. Either way, before starting the process of adopting or rescuing a pet, you should have an idea of what you want as far as breed (or mix of), size, age, activity level, etc. The volunteers at the shelter or rescue group can then help match you with a pet that will fit your personality and lifestyle. This can help speed up the process.

Adoption fees may be another consideration for some people. Generally, adoption fees are a little lower at county shelters than with rescue groups. Fees can run anywhere from $25 at a shelter to $175 or more with a rescue group, depending on the area in which you live. Rescue groups generally charge higher fees because they usually depend on donations from individuals. In either case, the adoption fees generally cover a medical exam, vaccines, and spaying or neutering. Also, if the pet had any previous health issues when it came into the shelter or rescue, those are taken care of before the pet is put up for adoption. Many times (especially with rescue groups), the pet has also had some basic obedience training.

The ability to visit several pets in one trip is one major advantage to visiting a shelter. You can choose to visit with as many pets as you want in an outdoor area or separate room until you see one that you think is right for you. With a rescue group, you may have to set up a few meetings with different pets and their foster parents before finding the right one. However, most rescue groups do have adoption events that allow you to visit several of the pets they have available, although you may have to “compete” with other people wanting to get to know the same pet.

It may be harder to determine a pet’s true personality in a shelter setting. Unless the shelter has a foster program, they cannot really say for sure how the pet is in a home setting. Pets from a rescue group have more than likely spent time in a foster home where they are exposed to other pets and possibly children. It can be determined if they are housebroken and any behavioral issues can be addressed.

If you are looking for a purebred dog or cat, there are many breed-specific rescue groups. You can find groups in your area by doing an online search. Purebred pets do occasionally show up in the shelters, but they end up being adopted quickly. You may check with your local shelter and let them know you are looking for a specific breed and they will contact you if one comes into the shelter, but a breed-specific rescue group is probably a more efficient source.

Unfortunately, some shelters are “kill shelters”. Pets at these shelters are usually only given a short amount of time to be adopted, sometimes as little as three days. So when adopting from one of these shelters, you can feel good knowing you have literally saved a dog or cat’s life. Many rescue groups get their pets from shelters. They stay with the rescue group until they are able to find their forever home. By adopting from a rescue group, you are making room for them to save another pet from a shelter that may be on “death row”.

There are many good resources out there to help you find a shelter or rescue group in your area. Most shelters and rescues will have a list of pets available for adoption, along with a bio on each pet. Visit any of the following websites for more information and further resources:

Whether you decide to adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, you can feel good knowing that you are giving a pet a second (or third) chance at life and they will spend the rest of their lives giving back to you and your family with unconditional love.

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