Do animal rescues get first dibs on dogs/cats in animal control shelters?

First off, I want to say that animal rescue groups are wonderful organizations, doing a great deal of good in countering the inhumane and thoughtless discarding of animals by the general population at large. Without their noble deeds, millions more unwanted pets would surely be euthanized each year. We adopted a rescue dog a few years ago; donate to that same organization, even briefly fostered rescue dogs ourselves. I totally respect the mostly thankless and heartfelt charity these groups provide.

But, if you look at the pets listed on vs. the endless supply present at your local animal control shelter, you’ll notice the rescue groups generally have a much larger supply of in demand doggies and kitties –that is… the cute cuddly puppies, purebreds, and generally more desirable small breed types. I’ve visited the local county run animal shelter a handful of times in the past year and mostly see mutts, large breeds, and all types of unremarkable or older dogs that have little chance of being saved. Something I rarely see is an in-demand dog available at animal control. Yet, a lot of the rescues state that their animals originally came from animal control (allegedly, our rescue dog did). It seems like they may have some inside connection to get those before they are available to the general public. Of course, then a rescue may charge upwards of $200-300 for a pet that animal control may only require a $35-60 adoption fee for. I realize some rescues get direct owner turn-ins, and often may have to shell out serious money to rehab a desirable pet with illness/injuries/behavioral problems, but it makes me wonder if they use this type of collusion to fund their operations by churning popular pets.

I don’t doubt that if this relationship does exist that ultimately it benefits a larger portion of unwanted animals than if it didn’t. I’m just asking the question.

I think they do, yeah. Or rescue people keep an eye on the ads. It may well depend on the personalities involved. I am on a newf message board and there’s often a heads-up if a newf shows up in a shelter, can a rescue group look into him?

If the animal control or shelter is gonna get 500 dogs, and some 200 of them are purebreds that can be vetted, fed, and placed in desirable, screened homes by breed specific rescues, I imagine it can be some relief to get those 200 dogs out the door. It makes limited room and resources available for the neverending stream that continues to pour in. I don’t think anyone goes into that field because they like to euthanize unwanted pets, and sorting them out to breed specific rescues can help send the right dog to the home that wants that specific dog.

Breed rescues are able to educate adopters on breed-specific idiosyncracies that the shelter staff might overlook, and might be deal-breakers for some owners. I think a border collie is gorgeous, but I found out they’re way too smart for me to own one. The deal-breakers are sometimes why those guys end up homeless in the first place.

Also, a dog’s personality in the shelter is not always reflective of its nature in a home. The info a fosterer can give about the dog’s habits - how it asks to go out, how it behaves on leash, around other dogs, around children, whether it’s destructive, housebroken, barky, etc, is invaluable.

I see the breed rescue network as sort of like the library card catalog; it’s a lot easier to find what you want, if it’s sorted, versus all mixed up randomly. A home that’s perfect for a comical, lazy pug might well be a horrible match for the territorial, dog-aggressive shar pei that is the closest thing available (smallish, wrinkly and chinese!) at the local shelter.

Shelters also transport dogs regionally to other shelters. My brother in Minnesota has adopted two ‘hunting dog drop-out’ beagles from down south, and our local shelter imports ‘dixie dogs’ because we have the room up here and they are overpopulated down there. Breed rescues do the “canine underground railroad” via volunteer too, if the perfect home for a certain hard to place dog is even several states away. When there is a big greyhound track closing, there are too many dogs for local rescues to foster. The greyhounds are (ideally) taken by other regional groups further away. Lots of animal rescues do the same. I helped transport two mice from central Mass to Brooklyn once, and adopted two elderly hairless rats in return! And many birds, rodents, rabbits and reptiles turned into shelters are turned over to specific rescues as well. It just makes it easier to find what you want, and an adopter who’s done enough research so far to look up and contact Portuguese Water Dog Rescue is probably gonna be more motivated to train, work out problems, etc. and less impulsive than people who go to the shelter like it’s a petting zoo.

Lots of shelter dogs - the old guys, the untrained guys, are scratch ‘n’ dents or fixer-uppers, and you don’t really get to know them very well til you get them home. They can be awesome, or really challenging, or both. Some settle into a new home like they’ve been waiting for it all along. You just don’t really know! And not every adopter wants that unpredictability.

I wouldn’t see it as the breed rescues skimming the cream off the top, though; the dogs they get are just as ‘scratch ‘n’ dent’ as the shelter crew, it’s just easier to have some expectations about their likely traits. Purebred is no guarantee of desirability; look at how many labs, goldens, rotties, boxers there are on petfinder.

I can see the value of the dog going, via the rescue, to an adopter who was willing to wait several months for a homeless young Leonberger to come along, versus that Leonberger being adopted as a “shepherd mix” from the shelter, only to grow to be 180 lbs!

I missed the edit window cos my modem is a jerk. I meant to add at the end:

I think it might have become erroneous to still think of the shelter as the first place to look for a dog. I think the idea now is to figure out what kind of dog you want, and then go to whatever is the most suitable place to get it. Pug rescue if you find that a pug fits your life perfectly, the shelter if you’ve got the flexibility and confidence and willingness to commit to the guy no matter his unknown needs, and so on.

Some people also put their names on wait-lists at the animal shelter–so that if a pug comes in, for example, they call the next person on the wait-list for a pug, instead of putting the dog out for general adoption. That could also account for the lack of certain types of dogs at shelters.

By the way, some of the animals on Petfinder are not really from rescues. There are breeders all over the place who use it as a way to get rid of extra dogs.

No, breed rescues do NOT get their pick. The only time we ever called breed rescue was if a dog was probably not going to get adopted out of our shelter - too old, badly trained, iffy temperament - or if we were full to bursting and it was our only chance to open up some space.

Also, folks trying to get rid of the family pure-bred have the option of calling breed rescue, so many of those dogs may not even show up in a shelter. Your average mutt is going to the HS, though.

As toadbriar said, breed rescues will try and take their own breeds out of pounds, it frees up space for other dogs, and puts dogs into the hands of foster carers who understand the breed and can probably make a good job of finding the right home. Particularly with breeds which might have particular needs, this makes a lot of sense.

But there are other issues. In Australia, for example, legally, stray animals must be kept for eight days (the number of days varies a bit from state to state) in order to give the owner an opportunity to reclaim it. At the end of the that time the shelter may release the animal for sale, or euthanize it. Most of the regulations around the operation of pounds and shelters set a maximum length of time an animal may be held in kennels before it is released into foster care, killed or possibly moved to another facility.

Because of the pressure of the sheer numbers of dogs coming through pounds, most pounds can’t afford to keep dogs indefinitely, even if they were allowed to legally, there are always more dogs who need the space.

Most rescues rely on foster carers to look after dogs they take out of pounds. It is usually easier to find foster carers for small dogs than for large dogs, it’s often a question of space, the carers other dogs and confidence in handling bigger dogs. I’m one of the few people I know who has the space and the experience to take on big dogs.

Rescues also have to be realistic about the dogs they take and make hard choices about which dogs are going to be easy to rehome. Rescues rarely have a lot of money, so one dog which requires lots of rehabilitation or expensive medical care means that ten dogs might miss out on being taken into rescue.

Dogs which are easy to rehome mean that more dogs can be rescued because space opens up with foster carers. For rescuers it makes good sense to take on dogs which they know are in demand and will be easy to place. Large, mixed-breed dogs, particularly black ones, old dogs and some breeds can be very hard to find homes for and rescuers need to be realistic.

Amongst the rescue people I know, what usually happens is that they will put their names on dogs in the event that the dogs run out of time, but will hope that the dog gets adopted rather than needing to come into rescue. There are occasions when pounds will only release dogs to rescue, but that will be particular cases (very small puppies/pregnant bitches/dogs which might need extensive retraining/some breeds or temperaments).

There are good reasons for the adoption fee. In the first instance experience has shown that people value things they have to pay for more than they value things they get cheaply.

Rescue dogs have already been through the mill, nobody wants them to repeat the experience. Someone who is willing to pay $200 for a rescue dog might be expected to value that dog. It’s not always the case, but it’s a start.

A dog which has been adopted from ethical rescue will be vaccinated, desexed, wormed, deflead and had any necessary medical treatment. Sadly, some pounds still release dogs undesexed, so while you might get the dog cheaply, as a responsible owner you’ll still have to fork out for all those things.

Chances are that if you paid for all of that yourself it would cost more than the adoption fee of a rescue dog, since many vets will offer cheap desexing to rescue groups. If a dog is already desexed then what a rescue makes extra on that dog will go to defray medical expenses on another dog.

I don’t know any ethical rescues which make money, most of them spend more on each dog than is ever recovered in adoption fees.

The kinds of dogs which turn up in pounds might also reflect the population of dogs in a particular area (I’m in a rural area, we see a lot of working dogs, for example), and/or the kinds of dogs which people don’t value.

When we went looking for a dog this Spring we ran into a startling reality.

There is a shortage of puppies in the Twin Cities. I called several local Humane Societies - they don’t have a waiting list and said “keep checking the website, when a puppy shows up - get in here, a whole litter will be gone in a day - maybe a little longer if they get on the floor midweek.”

I called about four local vets - figuring if anyone had a litter they’d know - nope (maybe later in the Summer they might know someone looking to place puppies).

I tried Petfinder - lots of puppies. Lots of rescue agencies that wanted to do homestudies so they could give me a dog. I’m not kidding - I’ve adopted a child and adopting a dog from some of these places was going to be more invasive.

Finally went to Petsmart on “adopt a dog” day. A less picky rescue was there. And a puppy that fit our mutt breed needs.

Rescue dogs around here often do come from animal control - even the puppies - but they come from out state and out of state animal control. Ours I don’t think was ever an animal control pet - first record of him is a vet in a farm town when he was about three months old.

In some areas animal shelters have a agreement with the municipalities to do exactly what you state in the OP. The reason is to relieve the municipality (paid workers - our tax $'s) of the adoption process and to have volunteer workers do that at a net savings to the town.

Also animal shelters are not in general pet holding cells, but pet adoption centers, it is in their interest to have pets that move. The more desirable the pets they have the more they can adopt out.

I was working with one such place, and someone in a town board objected that the shelter could hold 120 cats (numbers are approximate), why was it only holding 50, then we showed the adoption records that with 50 cats we adopted about 2x as many cats per week then when we were near capacity. The reason we concluded is that the cats got stressed with overcrowding and were less adoptable. (Not really to the point, but shows that the mission of a animal shelter is to move the pets, not store them, which requires them to be desirable pets)

Just to add to the above, Muni animal control workers have a personal interest in notifying animal shelters as soon as desirable animals come in also as it is less work for them to do in care for the animals, if they can ‘offload’ some of them.