Etiquette for Applying to and Dealing with Rescue and Shelter People


Posted by Lynne Fowler – Admin on August 17, 2010 at 11:09pm in Rescue Topics


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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  1. #1 by jeanine christie on April 2, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    Thank you for this information. I wish I had read this before I filled out my application to adopt Allie. I only have half of my yard fenced but will happily finish it immiediately if I get a dog. How quickly do you think I will be eliminated beacuse of this. I did state that I plan to fence the yard completely.

  2. #2 by Doodle Mom on April 2, 2011 - 9:21 pm

    Hi, Jeanine. Some rescue require fencing for all their dogs. Physical fencing, not electric fences. Other’s will go on a case by case basis. I cannot know which the rescue you applied to is, but if you have intentions of finishing it, you should. It will increase your chances to adopt that rescue pup. Check out the blog on here about fences. Click on home and scroll through.

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