5 Things to Know about Animal Rescue Groups

Over the past decade, breed rescue groups have become a major force in dog adoptions. These rescue groups limit their effort to a particular breed of dog including purebreds. This is a help to people who want a certain breed of dog but can't or won't use breeders.

To make the best use of a rescue group, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Watch out for scams.

Some wholesale breeders and brokers who can't meet federal and state laws advertise themselves as "rescue" organizations. Crooks have even collected money for non-existent rescue groups.

Unlike animal shelters and local humane societies, rescue groups usually do not have storefronts. They are a collection of breeders and breed fanciers who perform their services from their homes.

Ask any rescue group if they are incorporated or registered as a nonprofit group in your state.

The best way to find a rescue group is to go to the American Kennel Club's (AKC) website at www.akc.org and search under the breed you're interested in getting. If no rescue group is listed, contact the national breed club and ask for references.

2. Don't trust everything a shelter tells you.

In some areas, the county or charitable animal shelter feels they're in competition with rescue groups and take pains to color these groups as irresponsible.

Some people who volunteer at shelters are animal rights extremists who despise anyone who breeds dogs to serve as pets. This is a source of tension as many rescue group members are hobby or professional breeders.

Some rescue groups have made this worse by advertising how they "rescue" dogs from the shelter implying they are the guys in the white hats.

A further issue of contention between the groups is the fee charged to obtain a dog. Some rescue groups deliberately undercut the fees the shelter's charge.

Shelters may be limited by law or organization rules to charging a certain amount and can't compete on price with rescue groups.

3. Ask about foster care for the dog you're considering.

Responsible rescue groups place dogs in foster homes to assess the dogs and determine what behavior problems, if any, exist with the dog.

This information is crucial to determining what type of permanent home would be best for the dog. For instance, one without children or one without other pets.

Be leery of a rescue group that is trying to place a dog that it has just obtained without having an interim placement.

4. Expect to be interviewed.

Responsible rescue groups do attempt to match a dog and his personality with an appropriate owner. They can only do this by asking questions including what your experience is with dogs, what you know about the breed and what type of lifestyle you have.

Please do not be offended. I would never accept a dog from a rescue society that did nothing more than ascertain if I could pay the fee they want.

5. Be prepared for anything.

There are no overarching laws, regulations or oversight of rescue groups. Some are run very professionally and some are basket cases. Unlike shelters, they are rarely subject to any state or local inspections.

You may call a rescue group and never get a response. Part of the problem is the rapid turnover of volunteers involved in rescue groups. Realize that you may need to be very, very patient when dealing with a rescue group.

Always ask how the dog came into rescue. Some well-meaning group members "rescue" any dog, especially a neglected looking dog, they find outside without an owner.

The dog may or may not be abandoned but few rescue groups, in my experience, make much of an effort to try to find owners especially if in their opinion the dog does not appear to be well treated.

Find out if they check for microchips or tattoos and if you do get a rescue dog, have your vet check them right away for this as well as diseases.

You may expose yourself to emotional trauma and even liability issues if you wind up with a lost dog whose owner tracks him back to you.

As a final caution, it pays to make two or three visits with the dog you're considering adopting before making the final decision.

Louise Louis is a long-time dog person and operates the ToyBreeds.com website.

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