An animal shelter is a great place to adopt a dog, and a great place to start a search for your canine companion. But adopting an animal from a shelter or a rescue group isn’t for everyone. You definitely need to think over the pros and cons as you consider commitment to a new pet. After deciding to add a dog to your home, the next decision is where to find your new pet. There are a variety of breeders, stores, shelters and rescues to choose from. Deciding to adopt a rescue (a dog from a shelter or private rescue agency) can be a huge decision on many different angles. Reviewing some of these pros and cons may help you when making that critical decision.

Pros to adopting a dog from rescue or shelter

Here are a few of the wonderful reasons for adopting a dog from a shelter or a rescue group, instead of buying one from a pet store or a breeder:



  • Save one of the millions of animals euthanized in shelters every year. When you adopt a shelter animal, you give one of these adoptable dogs a second chance at a new, healthy life and a happy home.

  • You are helping save a life!
    Unfortunately, almost half of the dogs and cats submitted to local Humane Societies in the US are euthanized (about 3-4 million annually). Despite ongoing efforts, animal shelters do not have the space to accommodate the 6-8 million dogs and cats that arrive at their shelters every year. By choosing to adopt from a shelter, you are not only helping to save that dog’s life, but you are also helping other dogs by creating space that your new dog once occupied.

    If you adopt from a no-kill shelter or rescue agency, you are helping that agency take in more animals (often from shelters that do euthanize) which in turn helps create space and prevents euthanization of another animal.

  • Discover that the dog you thought you wanted isn’t the one you need. For example, you may think you want a puppy but discover that an older dog is calmer and better trained, so a shelter may be a much better place to find your fit.

  • Pay less for your new best friend. Adoption fees typically are far below what pet stores charge.

  • All-inclusive package 
    Most shelters and rescues only allow their animals to be adopted once they have received at least their first set of shots, have been spayed or neutered and microchiped. Some animals also come with a free training session, discounts on further training, and a free trial of pet insurance. While the upfront cost of adopting from a shelter or rescue may seem a little pricey in some cases, all things considered, it is a great deal
  • One of the benefits of adopting a dog older than 6 months or so is that they may already be housebroken. This doesn’t apply to all dogs, but many that have been surrendered because their owners have passed, can no longer afford to care for them, are moving, or other reasons are often already potty trained. This is usually a huge headache for new dog owners and it is a great benefit to adopting. Speak with those caring for the dog in which you are interested to get more details. Some dogs are also surrendered because the owner could not successfully potty train (often this is a problem with the owner, not the dog), so it is important to inquire.
  • Find out more about your new dog than you can from a pet store. Responsible shelters provide you with plenty of care information, support, temperament evaluation, and more.

  • Get more specific information about a shelter animal from shelter workers. Talk to the people who have been spending time with the dog to find out about what the animal is like and what he needs.

  • Know the dog’s medical problems 
    Most dogs from these organizations come with medical checks. Many of the known illnesses or injuries are treated before the animal is put up for adoption. Please note that you should still bring your new pet to your veterinarian for a full medical examination, especially before bringing the animal home if you have other pets in the house.
  • Feel good about contributing to and supporting a process that supports the welfare and management of stray animals in your community. You can get involved with the process in many ways, from adopting pets to donating money to volunteering your time.

  • Appreciation
    Many owners of rescue dogs will tell you that their dog shows love like no other. Many dogs remember what they went through before you found them, and in turn consider you their savior. Again, not the case with all dogs, but it is a common trend.

    You feel great
    Knowing that you helped and animal in need has a feeling all its own.

    Most shelters include many volunteers on their staffs, solicit donations, and conduct fundraisers. They often need your help. In fact, humane societies and privately run shelters usually depend almost entirely on donations and volunteers.

  • Find a lost dog. Shelters often are responsible for reuniting lost pets with their owners.

Some shelter dogs have special needs, and if you’re willing to manage those needs, you can save a dog that otherwise may not find a home — and that feels great.

Cons to rescue group or shelter dog adoptions

Truthfully, there aren’t many cons to adopting a dog from a responsible shelter or a rescue group, but you may face a few downsides. Think carefully before adopting a dog from these sources because

  • You may be unable to find the exact breed of dog you want if you’re only going to shelters.

  • Little Selection
    Many shelters suffer from what is called “Black Dog Syndrome”. Specifically, black Labrador Retrievers are the most common dog found in shelters and rescues. There is no true explanation for this phenomenon, but there are many theories. Since this “syndrome” exists, you can imagine the selection that you may have when going to pick out your new pet. This is why when you are making this decision it is important to go in being educated on dog breeds and find your dog based on interaction, not on appearance.

    Making the decision to adopt a rescue dog comes with many considerations different than when purchasing a dog from a breeder or store. In the end, when armed with the right tools and education you may find that rescuing a dog is one of the most rewarding decisions you may ever make.

  • You may be unable to adopt the dog you like immediately. Shelters and rescue groups often adhere to a waiting period so you don’t rush into a decision and so owners have time to reclaim any incoming animals that may be lost.

  • You’re faced with answering a lot of personal questions and submitting a lot of paperwork.

  • The organization probably isn’t rolling in dough. Just because the government funds an animal-control agency doesn’t mean it’s getting everything it needs. Some shelters are underfunded and may not be able to maintain spacious facilities or spend much time screening or training the animals. And rescue groups usually don’t even have space —animals are housed in members’ homes.

  • Your new dog may turn out much different than you expected. When you bring any animal home, you may find it’s much different than it appeared to be at the shelter.

  • Behavioral Issues 
    The act of being surrendered to a shelter or rescue is a traumatic experience on its own for a dog, not to mention you don’t know what happened to them before they arrived there. Some dogs may have been abused or denied adequate care from their previous owners. Like people, many dogs can carry “baggage”. Try to learn as much as possible from the organization you are adopting your dog from. They may be able to provide you with the dog’s background as well as current behaviors they may be demonstrating that may need to be addressed with training.
  • Some shelter and rescue dogs have special needs that you may not be willing to deal with.

  • Infectious Diseases
    If your dog is coming from a shelter it has come in contact with many other dogs, some which may have been ill. The most common problem seen in these dogs is Parvovirus. This is a very serious illness that can cost a lot financially and emotionally to treat. This is a great reason to bring your dog to your vet for a complete medical screen before brining it home, especially if you have other dogs.

    Intrusive Applications
    Shelters and rescue agencies have some personal questions on their adoption applications. Some even take the extra step to do an interview and home inspection before allowing the adoption. This is not meant as an insult to you or your family, but it is done in their best interest, and the best interest of the animal. The organization is merely trying to determine if you will provide the animal with what it needs and try to reduce the chance of the animal ending up on the street or back in their shelter. If you are truly ready to adopt a dog, you shouldn’t have to worry about this common practice.

  • You may be rejected for the dog you want if you don’t meet the organization’s requirements.