If you’re here on the My Furry Valentine site and reading this, you probably already know why it’s far better to adopt than to shop when adding a new pet to your family. The best reason of all, of course, is that you’re probably saving a life. But, where do you go to adopt – to a shelter or a rescue? And what’s the difference? Well, here’s a quick primer to provide you with a basic overview of a few things that distinguish these options:
SHELTERS – OPEN ADMISSION
- Open admission shelters take in any animal in need of shelter regardless of age, health issues, behavioral problems, breed or tendencies toward aggression — factors that may make an animal difficult to adopt. At any given time, as many as 25% of dogs and many cats at open admission shelters may be purebreds, so don’t overlook these shelters if you’re looking for a specific breed!
- Many open admission shelters, including the SPCA Cincinnati and shelters in surrounding Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana counties, also serve as animal control agencies for their counties. In this role they are contracted to respond to calls reporting animal neglect or abuse and to pick up stray animals. In turn, they receive government funding to support those functions.
- Because open admission shelters cannot turn away any dog or cat in need, it’s easy to see why such shelters often become overcrowded. For this reason, open admission shelters traditionally euthanize animals that have not been adopted within a certain period of time. As a result, even healthy, highly adoptable animals are often euthanized in order to free cage space for new arrivals – and, sadly, there are always new arrivals.
- Nationally, many of these so-called “kill” shelters are taking steps toward becoming “no-kill” or “low-kill” by participating in community adoption events, like My Furry Valentine, using mass and social media to promote adoptions, lowering adoption fees and collaborating with area rescue groups – and these proactive steps have helped to significantly reduce the numbers of healthy animals that are euthanized for lack of space.
SHELTERS – LIMITED ADMISSION
- Limited admission shelters, such as the League for Animal Welfare in the Eastgate area and Save the Animals Foundation in Madisonville, are commonly called “no-kill” shelters. These non-profit shelters receive no government funding and can be more selective about the dogs and cats they take in.
- Because their primary mission is to save as many lives as possible, limited admission shelters want animals that can quickly find their forever homes so that finite shelter space is freed up for the next arrivals. Animals in limited admission shelters generally are surrendered by their owners or pulled from the euthanasia lists of open admission shelters whenever possible.
- Intake decisions at limited admission shelters generally are based on an evaluation of each animal’s health, age, behavior and temperment. Since selective intake eliminates the problems associated with overcrowding, animals at limited admission shelters tend to get more one-on-one attention, as well as basic training and socialization.
- Adoption fees at non-profit limited admission shelters generally are higher than at government-supported county shelters, reflecting the more selective intake processes and individual care animals receive there. You will be able to find exceptional animals in these shelters, and most offer occasional promotions that significantly discount normal adoption fees.
- As for rescue groups, there are many variations here as well. The key is to do your research, talk to previous adopters and take your time in choosing well. Many but not all rescues are 501(c)(3) non-profits, which means contributions to them are tax deductible, they have a formal board of directors that provides oversight and they file annual Form 990 tax returns that publicly showing details of their financials.
- There are breed rescues – those that take in only Labs, Westies, Bassets or Boxers for example – so if you are looking for a specific breed, a breed rescue is a good place to start. Volunteers with these rescues know and can give expert advice to potential adopters on breed characteristics, genetic tendencies, the amount of daily activity required and other factors that help to determine if this breed is a good match with your family and lifestyle.
- Other general rescue groups are devoted simply to saving the lives of dogs or cats in need, without regard to breed or type. This can be an overwhelming prospect since these groups must rely on volunteers and the kindness of strangers for donations of time and money, and often dig deep into their own pockets to provide both when times are tough.
- There also are specialized rescues such as those dedicated to saving older animals – wonderful dogs and cats whose owners have discarded them because they are judged “too old,” or who have been surrendered after their person has moved, died or determined they can no longer care for them for whatever reason. These loving older animals make great pets and can be the perfect companions for older individuals and less-active families. All are deserving of great homes to live out their “golden years” and adopting a senior can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever.
- Rescue groups are unique in another way as well. Most will provide for whatever medical needs a dog or cat may have before it can be adopted. This can include major surgeries for things such as bladder stones and tumors, ongoing treatment for chronic but manageable conditions such as diabetes, dental cleanings and extractions, and acute injuries such as broken legs and torn ligaments that most often would be tickets to euthanasia in open admission shelters.
- Adoption fees charged by most rescue groups tend to be higher than shelter fees because rescues provide this extra level of care when it’s needed. And whatever part of an adoption fee is not spent on one animal is banked to spend on the next.
So no matter which route you choose – shelter or rescue — adopting your next furry family member means you’re saving a life and helping other homeless animals in the process. That’s a goal everyone can support. If you’re ready to look for your next adoptable pet, we hope you’ll join us February 11-12 at the 6th Annual My Furry Valentine weekend! Get the details for this year’s event here: http://myfurryvalentine.com/event-details.