The Difference Between Shelters & Rescue Groups

Shelters and rescue groups both do great work for the animals of their communities. Whether you’re looking to rehome your pet, or you’re looking to add a new member to your family through adoption, knowing the differences between these two types of organizations will help you make the right choice for your needs.

While both shelters and rescue groups offer many of the same services—like temporary housing and care, veterinary services, adoption preparation, euthanasia services, training and behavior programs—there are some important differences that can make one a better fit for your situation.

What is an animal rescue?

Animal rescue is all about pet adoption. They’re typically dedicated to one type of animal, whether that’s dogs, cats, a particular species of exotic pets or wild animals, or a certain breed. They can even be more specific and work only with pets of a specific breed that have a common condition.

Animals in rescue groups come from a variety of places. They’re often seized from abusive or neglectful homes, picked up as strays, or taken from shelters to prevent euthanasia, improve the animal’s chance of adoption, and make room for incoming animals.

These organizations are usually run by volunteers that perform duties like transportation, advocacy, promotion, networking, and fostering. Fosters take rescued pets into their homes while the organization looks for a suitable family. Some fosters are responsible for finding an adopting family themselves.

What is an animal shelter?

An animal shelter or pound can be a government-run or private facility. Similar to rescue, they take in strays, seized pets, and surrendered pets. Surrendered pets are those that are brought in voluntarily by their families. This happens for many reasons that are usually heartbreaking to everyone involved.

Some shelters are self-designated as “no-kill” shelters, meaning they have a policy against euthanizing any healthy, adoptable animals. Shelters in areas with a high volume of surrenders and strays have difficulty maintaining “no-kill” status because they don’t have enough resources.

Some animals are euthanized almost immediately because they’re sick, too young to thrive, or are otherwise considered non-adoptable, like pit bull terriers. Shelters often work with rescue groups and their own foster volunteers to minimize euthanasia.

Adopting from a Shelter or Rescue

Adoption through shelters and rescues is very similar. Applicants fill out the required forms and usually pay a fee. The fee can help cover spay and neuter, vetting and immunizations, feeding, and transportation. The price also helps show that the adopter is financially capable of caring for the pet.

The fee is a hurdle to some, but most places keep it as low as possible. It rarely covers the organization’s cost of caring for the pet, so they rely heavily on government funding, private donations, and the selflessness of volunteers.

One difference is that rescue groups often require a home visit. A member of the organization will briefly look at your home to ensure you have a safe and suitable place to bring your new family member.

Surrendering to a Shelter or Rescue

If you have to surrender a family pet, you have a difficult choice to make. Which organization is going to give your pet the best chance at a good life? Which one is going to do the least amount of emotional and psychological damage? In truth, both of these options are difficult for pets.

In a shelter, your pet is kenneled in a room with over a dozen other anxious animals. They’ll spend their nights alone and receive minimal interaction during the day.

If your pet goes to a rescue, they will probably be kept at a temporary home while a foster is located. Then, they’ll be moved to the foster’s home. Depending on the length of time it takes to find a permanent home, your pet may go through multiple fosters.

Since shelters and rescues share the volume of pets that need homes, they’re both usually operating at max capacity. The more surrenders come in, the more animals are euthanized. Everyone involved is doing their best with what they have, including the surrendering families.

What’s the solution?

To fix this broken system, we have to step out of it. We have to create and promote a new way to rehome pets while taking the burden off of the shelters and rescues so more animals can be saved by their resources.

Rehome With Love is our solution. We offer a hands-on approach to networking and pet advocacy. Our listed pets are actively networked, just like a rescue would do, except they never have to go through the trauma of fostering and sheltering.

If you’re out of options and you’re looking for a safe way to find your beloved pet a new home, click here to reach our rehoming team.