What to expect from breed rescue

Disclaimer: Every breed rescue has a different way of operating. Since breed rescues are normally staffed by volunteers, and each person has their own way of doing things, these descriptions may not be entirely accurate in all cases. This was written to give a prospective adopter a general idea of what to expect from Breed Rescue.
Most people think that there are two ways to get pet: getting a “mutt” from the pound, or going to a pet store and getting a pure-bred. A few might add checking the newspaper for a “free to a good home” ad, or for the occasional backyard breeder. With a little education, others discover the responsible breeder and get a pet, either show quality or pet quality.

However, there is another way to get a pet called Breed Rescue. It is a way to get a dog, cat or rabbit that needs a good home, like at the pound, while getting the known quantity of a purebred. By the way, many of these terms are sweeping generalizations, as there are often purebreds at the pound, and some breed rescue organizations also place pets that are not purebred, but have most of the qualities of a purebred.

First of all, pets in breed rescue are not “misfits” and are usually not defective in any way. They are usually placed in rescue through no fault of their own. Common situations are that an owner dies or becomes incapacitated, a new baby arrives in the family and the previous owners feel they must give the cat or dog up, a move overseas or across country, or people who got a pet without thinking about the fifteen year plus commitment that pet ownership requires. In some cases, a pet is placed because of an abuse situation, and special care is taken before an adoption can take place.

A breed rescue volunteer normally takes the pet in, evaluates it for adaptability, provides any necessary veterinary care, spays or neuters the pet, and either places it with a family on the waiting list, or places it in a foster home until adoption.

I’d like to take a few moments to go over some of these steps in detail before going into getting a breed rescue animal. First off, the dogs are always evaluated for adaptability. Known biters, aggressive dogs or pets who are simply too ill to be adopted are not offered to new families. “Borderline” pets are offered for adoption within strict guidelines such as no children, no other pets, or fenced yards only (dogs – cats are almost always adopted with an “indoor only” clause).

Dogs and cats are given any necessary veterinary care before adoption. For example, in some parts of the country, heartworm is epidemic, and a dog will need to be treated for heartworm and placed on preventive medication before adoption. Cats should be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. In nearly every case, the pet will be spayed or neutered before adoption.

Foster homes are responsible for caring for a rescue pet before it is placed for adoption. Some breeds have little need for foster homes, as they have a long waiting list of prospective adoptive homes, and few being placed for adoption. Other more popular breeds have more calls for pets than they can possibly rescue, and extensive network of foster homes, and an adopting family may even have their choice of animals. (The first situation usually applies to breeds that are not quite so popular, and that have not been “discovered” by backyard breeders and puppy mills.)

Why would you consider a rescue adult instead of a puppy or kitten?
Well, first off, for dogs you’d usually get an adult whose chewing phase, housebreaking phase and general puppy wildness are gone. Your dog may come pre-trained, and might even know a few tricks. Adult cats are more laid-back and are often more affectionate. Many are already declawed, and most males are neutered as people are more likely to neuter their male cats than their male dogs. You would know exactly how big the dog or cat would get, and would have a good idea of the individual personality. Last, but not least, you would be giving a deserving dog or cat a good home.

Very rarely, Breed Rescue gets a kitten or puppy, sometimes from a family that made a wrong purchase, sometimes when a pregnant female with a litter is surrendered. If you would accept a kitten/puppy, let the rescue person know that. Usually, breed rescue will get pets that are just past the “cute puppy/kitten” stage. So, you’d still have lots of growth time left in your rescue.

Note: Greyhound Breed Rescue is a special situation, which is different than the breed rescue for other dog breeds. In most cases, the dogs are greyhounds with a racing past that have stopped winning. These greyhounds have been turned over to a greyhound rescue organization by their trainers, instead of having the dogs killed. Obviously, these dogs do not have a “Pet past.” If you are interested in a greyhound, a greyhound specific breed rescue can give you loads of information on greyhounds as pets.

How do you find Breed Rescue for your preferred breed? Start by calling local shelters and see if they are “breeder friendly.” They may be able to recommend someone to you. Next call local vets and see if they know of any rescue groups. Often they will have at least one client who has a rescue dog, and that one client can lead to rescue groups of other breeds as well. If you have access to the internet, that may be the easiest way to get information on your breed of choice, as well as breed rescue.

A great place to start for dog rescue is the excellent FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions document) written by Janice Ritter, which lists breed rescue contacts for nearly every breed of dog. (This FAQ can be found in the Usenet newsgroups rec.pets.dogs.info and news.answers) Even if the breed rescue listed for your breed of dog is not close to your home, contact them anyway. Most rescue contacts have a list of all other contacts (for that breed) in the US and Canada. There is also a World Wide Web page called Save-A-Pet On-Line that lists breed rescue organizations and shelters around the country.

The Usenet newsgroup rec.pets.dogs.rescue or rec.pets.cats can also provide leads, and a posting will likely get you a prompt reply with a local contact. Breed Clubs for a particular breed often have rescue contacts as well. There is also a directory called Project BREED, which lists rescue contacts all over the US and Canada. The directory can be found in larger libraries, or borrowed through inter-library loan. Lastly, most reputable breeders have contacts for breed rescue (at least for their particular breed).

What should you expect when adopting a rescue pet? When you initially contact the rescue person, be prepared to answer a whole lot of questions. You’ll be questioned about your lifestyle, your family, and your schedule. Every adult member of your family may be questioned about what they expect from a pet, and if they really want a dog or cat. This is not done to offend you. The rescue person is asking for two reasons; first, to match you to the most suitable pet, and second, to make sure that your home is an appropriate one for the breed you want. Often people want a breed solely because of its looks, not aware that its personality is completely opposite from what they want! A rescue pet has already been torn away from at least one home, and breed rescue is doing all they can to make sure that it never needs to go through that again. A responsible breeder will ask you many of the same questions. (In fact, many breed rescue volunteers are also responsible breeders).

The breed rescue contact may come and conduct a home visit. S/he will contact your landlord (if you have one), and make sure that s/he is amenable to the idea of your having a pet. Breed rescue will sometimes not allow placement to undergraduate students, or anyone else without a permanent address. All of this is to make sure that each pet is given every chance at a stable, loving, permanent home. (If you are a student, I’m sorry. This is not to reflect upon you personally, but is a result of the experience of breed rescue workers, shelter workers, and others who have had to take in many animals each spring when school ends for the summer, roommates split up, and no one wants the pet, or housing becomes too difficult to find.)

In all likelihood, you will NOT get papers with a rescue. This does not mean that the animals is not a purebred. It is meant to stop unscrupulous people from registering a pet under a rescued pet’s registration. (Your rescue dog cannot have a litter, because it is spayed or neutered) However, if you rescue a dog you can apply for an ILP (Indefinite Listing Privilege), which will allow you to compete with your dog in AKC Sanctioned Agility and Obedience events. Rescue and mixed-breed cats can be shown at most cat shows in the “House Hold Pet” (HHP) division.

You will have to pay an adoption fee for your pet. This will usually be more expensive than the adoption fee charged by a pound, but less expensive than buying from a breeder. This fee is charged to cover the spaying/neutering costs, medical expenses and other rescue related expenses (Like the cost of obtaining the pet from a pound, food while in foster care, advertising, phone calls, cost of travel, etc.)

One thing to keep in mind is that the adoption fee is not necessarily reflective of the expenses related to your particular pet. Breed Rescues get some pets that have expensive medical problems. They have to foster pets for a long period to time, which costs money. Sadly, some do not live through the entire process (often the case with heartworm infection in dogs), but their veterinary bills still need to be paid. I have never heard of a breed rescue organization that did not lose money. So, your adoption fee probably will not cover all the adoption related costs. (All rescue organizations will gladly accept extra money.)

So you’ve spoken to the rescue person, filled out the application, and been interviewed? Usually, at this point, you wait. Keep in touch with the rescue person from time to time, to keep you in her mind when a suitable pet comes in. Read books about your particular breed, and if you are getting a dog check out the obedience classes in the area. Try to be patient – the process is very much like adopting a child.

When you get the phone call, you can come and meet your new family member. Take it slowly, it might take several visits before you take your pet home for good. Keep in mind that the animal has been through a whole lot of stress, and may not be showing at his or her best. However, I can guarantee that the breed rescue person has thoroughly checked everything and has made a careful decision to place you with that particular pet. The next step is to fall in love! (Sorry, can’t help you there)

In closing, I’d like to encourage you to think about a rescue pet when you decide to add a pet to your family. If you’re just looking for a pet, (like most of us) consider giving a home to one that is pre-owned. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s a very smart thing to do.

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