Since I’ve been working at Race for Life Rescue, one thing I continue to hear after telling someone what I do is that they would love to rescue an animal, but it’s “just too hard.” While I’d like to simply reply, “And it should be”, I try to unpack it a little bit and explain why it’s a process, and not an ‘easy purchase.’ I have this conversation often enough that I thought it might make for a good blog piece, so here we go!

Adopting a shelter pet requires patience and understanding. Dogs and cats in rescue centers have had a rough life. They were either abandoned or abused by their previous keepers, so finding people who will commit to their lifelong is an important task. And its why organizations implement certain requirements. By doing this, they’re able to ‘filter’ people out, ensuring the applicants they select can provide excellent care and ample love for these animals the rest of their lives.

Having a pet is a lifetime commitment. Like any long-term relationship, it’s not always easy, but the love of an animal is one of the most rewarding you’ll know. If that’s convinced you take another look adoption, let’s talk about what you can expect a rescue to require.

Here’s a quick list of items that are typically included in all adoption applications:

  • Lifestyle
  • Occupation
  • History with pets
  • Current home environment

Centers will need references, as well the number of your veterinarian. This is to confirm they attends to your previous, or current, pet’s medical needs and to receive a professional opinion of your pet parenting skills. If they see you and your pet at least once a year and your pet’s healthy and you’re both happy, you’ll receive a glowing review.

If you live in a rented space, be prepared with your landlord’s number. A good adoption team will want to make sure your home situation is stable, and pets are welcome in the community with lots of room to play and comfortably handle their bodily waste needs.

Depending on the breed or personality of the dog you’re interested, some centers may also require a fenced yard. This isn’t a reflection of your home or inability to handle the dog, it’s to ensure the safety of the dog and helps prevent a terrible situation in which the pet could escape the yard and become lost or hurt. That would be painful for all involved.

Many people who grow frustrated with adoption say, Don’t they want the dogs and cats to find a new home right away?

Well, of course. But rescue groups only want the best for their furry friends. They know what it took to get them to safety, better health and a happier state of mind, so they want to make certain that when they find a new family it’s the best match possible. If they move too quickly with the evaluation, it could result in a returned pet. Or worse, one abused and abandoned again.

The rules and requirements aren’t only for the pet, but for you as well. While a dog or cat may be wonderful, they could also be overly playful, and could make them vulnerable or their size could unintentionally cause harm to smaller children due to their energy. And children may also injure a small pet due to mishandling. None of this makes the pet, or you or your family, “bad”…it’s simply a matter of suitability. And a well-suited pet for a loving family is always the goal.

It goes without saying that when you adopt a rescue pet, you’re saving a life—but you’re actually saving more than one. By adopting, you’re helping make space for another animal in need and helping to give them the opportunity to become beloved pets. 


In 2022, around 378,000 dogs and cats were killed across our nation’s shelters, while an estimated 17 million people will add a new pet to their families this year. If more of them would choose to adopt a pet, instead of buying one, we could reduce the number of animals killed in shelters significantly. Please consider adoption if you’re thinking of adding to your family or making a new friend. If you’re still struggling with questions, reach out to your local shelter and talk with their team. They like making new friends too.