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Rescue Organizations vs. Shelters vs. SPCA’s [Humane Societies]

Rescue Organizations vs. Shelters vs. Humane Societies ~ aka:  SPCA’s

There Are Big Differences


You have been browsing the Internet and SaveARescue.org’s 100,000+ adoptable dogs & cats listed from your local shelters, humane societies, and pet rescue organizations.  But do you know the difference between a Shelter & a Rescue Organization?

Shelters:  Government funded.  Usually are supported by City, County, State Budgets, along with non-profit fund raising campaigns.

Paid employees salaries come from our tax dollars.

Rescues:   The Majority of Rescues nationwide are “Mum & Pop” private non-profit organizations.  These are passionate pet lovers doing their best every day to save dogs & cats in their community.  Using their own money, transportation, funding, friends, etc. to save, usually pulling dogs & cats from their local high kill Shelters.  They do not ‘kill’ any pet that can be rehabilitated emotionally or physically.  Yes, sometimes they have to make the hard decision to euthanize only when it is the best decision and most humane thing they can do for the pet.

Animal Control:  This is a Service, again your tax dollars at work, that is contracted via the City, County or State, that often operate out of the Shelter, Police Station, Sheriff’s Station, City Hall, etc., facilities and are dispatched during normal working hours to go out and pick up strays, abandoned and often dead animals; retrieve pets from hoarding situations, animal cruelty reports, etc.



#1.  Animal Shelters vs. Rescue Organizations

Your local city shelter, often also called Animal Services, Animal Control or even “the pound” —are contracted/funded by their City, County or State.  Many are overwhelmed with the numbers of pets coming in, because they ‘take in’ everything that is dropped off to them. It also means, and they don’t tell you, if they are overcrowded, full up, that many will be euthanized.  They likely have an “open door” policy & that means they do not turn away any animals and are forced to put animals to sleep to make room. While that fact is depressing, many modern shelter facilities themselves are bright, clean, and inviting, and the pets are ever optimistic that they’ll be one of the lucky ones — that they’ll be adopted by someone like you!


Before you adopt from a city animal shelter, understand that most city shelter pets have an unknown history. Bring everyone in your household that will be part of this animal’s new ‘pack’ and spend plenty of time with the pet you want to adopt, outside of their kennel, like in an adoption office play yard, or even just a hallway or lobby.


Many shelters have volunteers that help the adopting public, but most have little to no formal screening process — it is up to you to select a dog or cat that will be a good match for your home.


Be prepared for learning about your pet after you bring them home.  Be patient.  These pets have had tremendous emotional, and many times physical, hardships and they’re scared, no matter how friendly and happy they appear, their emotions are fragile.  It’ll take several months for their total characteristics and personalities to reveal themselves.


Be prepared to possibly need the help of a trainer or adoption-experienced friend to help you through the normal adjustment of your new dog/cat into your lifestyle, especially if you have other pets or children.


Make time to take your new dog or cat to your vet for a full checkup, and understand you may have to help them get through a common shelter cold, that they often contract,  in the first few weeks.


#2. SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or “Humane Society”

Each one is an independent organization, “Humane Society and SPCA”  are just descriptive words — like the word ‘bank’ is in US Bank and Bank of America? not connected to each other. It can be confusing!


Many people even mistakenly think that the Humane Society of the United States runs all humane societies. They do not! They do help animals through legislation and in disasters, but do not have a shelter themselves.


Some Humane Societies and SPCA’s are “limited admission”. Limited admission organizations often have their animals for many months, and use foster homes.   That means they do not have to euthanize animals to make room for new pets they take on.


Others, are “open door” with animal control contracts, just like a city shelter, so they do euthanize to make room.


Many “open door” humane societies run programs that have helped reduce pet overpopulation in the cities they serve.  They may have the pets for many weeks, and know more about their behavior and health than a city shelter.


Aside from if that makes your heart ache when you visit, it may affect how much they know about their pets.


Some operate exactly like a city shelter, overwhelmed and holding pets only a few days.


Adoption fees vary greatly! In Southern California, they range from $20 to $325.


#3. Rescue Organizations ~ Many are “Non-Profit, 501 (c)(3)

A rescue can be a private citizen or a non-profit organization. They vary as much as stores vary from one to another!


Rescues are typically “limited admission” and use foster homes or boarding kennels.


Because they pour so much time, love and money into saving dogs & cats, their adoption fees can range from $150 to $400. They will usually have you fill out an adoption application, conduct a phone or in-person interview, and ask to visit your home to evaluate it for the safety of the particular dog or cat you’re interested in adopting.


The price & process may sound like a lot, but in return you typically get a lot — a pet who’s behavior and medical history is well-known, after-adoption support with training, and a solid return policy should the pet surprise everyone and not be a ‘best match’ for you.


But since each rescue is so different, make sure to ask about their policies.


You can find your local rescues, humane societies and shelters  here on our website, www.savearescue.org, and you can browse our over 200,000+ dogs & cats.  We have the largest, most current listings and we too are a 501 (c)(3) and ALL our donations & grants go to helping Rescue Organizations be more successful at re-homing, nationwide.


We here at SaveARescue.org pride ourselves on our Pure Breed listings as well ~ it is the largest available to dog & cat lovers.  . And since you now have a better understanding of the differences between the types of adoption organizations and know what to expect, we hope you’ll have a better experience adopting your new dog or cat.

11 responses to “Rescue Organizations vs. Shelters vs. SPCA’s [Humane Societies]”

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  5. Pamela says:

    If the adoption fees were not so outrageous, the shelters would not be so full. I know how much time, money, and lover goes into these animals. However, is it worth a few bucks to keep a poor animal from a loving home just because someone doesn’t have tons of money, a perfect house, and very references? Maybe you could spend more time with the people who wish to adopt and how they are with the animal instead of focusing on their pocket book. There are so many families who want to give s loving home to a sweet animal but just don’t have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to spend up front.

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