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Tips for Purebred Rescue Groups

Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT, Director, Special Projects, Animal Sciences ASPCA



Ah, if only rescue was as easy as dropping off your breed identification brochure and business card at the local SPCA and waiting for the shelter to call you when your breed walks through the door! Unfortunately, life is never quite that neat. You must be prepared for calls on animals that are not purebred and, in some cases, not even vaguely reminiscent of your breed. You must be prepared for curt messages that inform you that you have less than 48 hours to retrieve the dog before he/she is euthanized. Or you may never get “the call” at all. Here are a few suggestions to make your collaborations with local shelters more fruitful.

  1. Make sure your breed identification brochure has lots of photos (preferably in color) of dogs of all ages including shots of very young puppies (4-7 weeks of age) as well as both pet and show quality dogs in pet and show quality coats. A photo of a dirty, ungroomed dog would be of tremendous use to shelter staff since that is often the condition of dogs brought to shelters. List height and weight ranges including those seen in dogs from “backyard” and “puppy mill” breedings. Describe all coat variations and colors/patterns possible in the breed – not just those approved for the show ring. And highlight any unique identifying features.
  2. Check to see what the area shelters’ protocols are for working with purebred placement/rescue groups. Each shelter will be different. Do you need to fill out a “partnership” application and provide references before they will work with you? Do not be insulted if asked to do so; this is for the animal’s protection. Hoarders and those with less than honorable intentions have posed as rescuers. Will you need to pay an adoption fee in order to remove the dog? Shelters run on tight budgets. If they have provided any medical care, spay/neuter, or behavioral evaluations, they are looking to recoup some of their losses. The fee may be negotiable especially if few resources were spent on the animal. Discuss this in advance. At what point during the dog’s stay will they contact you? Some shelters will contact rescue partners immediately in order to free up cages as quickly as possible. Others will only call if they deem the dog “unadoptable”. How long will they be able to hold a dog for you so you can arrange for a foster home? Make sure you are both on the same page here. Nothing makes shelter workers angrier than rescuers who don’t show up when they say they will. Nothing makes rescuers angrier than finding out the dog they have come to pick up was euthanized a few hours before they arrived. Has your group drawn up guidelines for what types of problem dogs you are able to rescue? Are there age limits? Will you take aggressive dogs? What about dogs who need surgery or long-term care?
  3. Decide among your volunteers what your policies are on taking crossbreeds, mixes and look-alikes of your breed. Seventy-five to eighty percent of dogs in shelters are mixes. (Puppy mill states are an exception. There, the percentage of purebreds is much higher.) You will get better cooperation from the local shelters if you occasionally take dogs that are not purebreds.
  4. Always return calls from shelters ASAP – especially those from animal care and control facilities. Depending on state laws, strays may be euthanized as quickly as 48 hours after intake. Cage space is at a premium in many communities and shelters need your group to take out dogs “yesterday.”
  5. Utilize the programs provided by (PF), the ASPCA’s on-line adoption partner. Search the adoption directory for dogs of your breed type – both under the proper breed name and under possible look-alike breeds and group type categories. For example, Havanese rescuers should check out Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier, Coton de Tulear and terrier. Two other segments of the website that will come in handy are the Petfinder Library ( which houses more than 400 articles on companion animal behavior, care and advocacy and the public message boards – both are terrific resources for both volunteers and adopters. Petfinder is also the hands-down best place to list your adoptable dogs. This free service also provides two months of pet insurance to PF members’ new adopters.

By preparing ahead of the first rescue call – or the next rescue call – the shelter/purebred placement partnership can be strong and free of misunderstandings.

© 2003 ASPCA

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424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804

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