Question for Those of You With Experience on the Rescue Side

If anyone here works or volunteers with a small animal rescue/adoption agency …

What are common reasons for turning down potential adopters? Not necessarily cases where the applications have major red flags, but turning people down after they’ve gotten to the point of a meet-and-greet with a specific pet?

And how is that usually handled? Does your rescue give folks specific reasons that their situation isn’t considered a good fit for adoption and/or that particular animal, or do you keep it vague?

I know all cases are different, but after two experiences with different rescues that have left a weird taste in my mouth I’d appreciate any general information from people with insight into the rationale. Thanks!

Sometimes the meet and greet shows that there is just a bad match. The foster home knows what kind of home the dog needs and what kind of personality the dog responds best to. And sometimes that only becomes clear when there is an actual physical interaction to observe. Remember, they want the best placement for the dog.

That is usually what happens. There are also “rescues” that are basically hoarders and don’t let animals go because they can’t due to the mental health issues.

If you don’t mind me asking, what issues have you been dealing with in these two experiences? Sometimes you need to figure out what type of rescue works best for your needs. Some people want a lot of hand holding through the process and others want minimal involvement from the organization (i.e. we want to adopt this dog, here is the adoption fee, good bye).


I think no fenced yard is a big one. And ability (or not) to provide adequate exercise is another.

I briefly worked for my breed rescue and one family in my area wanted to take a pair of dogs that had been running loose together for months (and finally caught by animal control). They didn’t have a fence, and they were super angry to be turned down.

Had they asked about any other dog on the list, they probably wouldn’t have been turned down for not having a fence - but they wanted the two notorious runners for some reason.

But I’ve heard some crazy ones too.


I am assuming that both of these would be reasons to turn down before a meet and greet.

I have only done a little foster work -5 dogs… Most of that with dogs I have found but couldn’t find the owners or where a prior owner could no longer keep the dog. I have only done 1 dog foster through a formal rescue.

I could see if during a meet and greet the potential adopters are either letting the dog be wild or encouraging it such as jumping or mouthing hands. I have always done fosters for dogs that range from 50 pounds to 90 pounds so that type of behavior isn’t as cute as it is with a little dog. I would be concerned that they are not willing to properly train the dog. This could lead to the dog coming back either for the bad behavior which is no harder to retrain. Or if the dog needs to come back due to life changes of the adopter now you have a dog that is X months or Y years older and is hard to retrain and rehome. I don’t want them to haul off and hit the dog but there are easy ways to discourage it. Or ask the foster parent how do you correct this behavior rather than ignore it or rev it up.

Some dogs just don’t like certain people. Doesn’t make that person a bad person just a bad fit. If Sparky is normally outgoing and happy to meet people but potential adopter shows up and he is wary and a little shut down compared to normal I would potentially decline as not a good fit.


Sure. I don’t want to gripe because I believe (hope?) most rescues are genuinely doing their utmost to find good homes for animals but here goes:

Experience A was a year ago when we tried to adopt a cat from a local rescue. At the time my fiancee and I lived in an apartment and we both work full-time. I realize this situation would not be appropriate for most dogs and even necessarily every cat. We applied for a specific cat and were told that someone would be in touch.

This is a very organized rescue with a physical shelter and regular hours versus a network of volunteer fosters, so I didn’t feel pushy calling three working days later to check on the status of our application. At that time I was told that they had several interested applicants for the kitty in question and that they’d let us know their decision. We never heard anything, so clearly weren’t “selected.”

I understand that rescues want to screen adopters to find the best homes for animals, but I also think that making people queue up for individual cats isn’t the most realistic approach to cat adoption given the VAST overpopulation problem in our area. Never did they suggest a more “appropriate” cat so my only conclusion was that they categorically disqualify people who work full-time and live in apartments. We ended up adopting a cat from our county shelter, easy peasy.

Experience B was this weekend. Note: we bought and moved a house with a fenced backyard earlier this year. We applied to adopt a senior dog from a rescue about an hour away. Doggie was pulled from a shelter about six weeks ago and has some arthritis that she’s getting medications for. Also has accidents in the house unless manually stimulated with an ice cube while outside. We have a single-story house, very minimal steps anywhere. I made a point of asking how doggie would be with cats before applying and was assured that they didn’t think there would be an issue. Foster was very timely about getting in touch to go over what they know about the dog, answer questions and arrange a meeting. I did have to postpone a weeknight meeting thanks to a veterinary issue related to my horse.

When we met the foster dad seemed pleasant, and doggie was sweet but not super interested in us or anything else - which I assumed is because she’s like 10 years old and just not very excitable. Foster dad mentioned that there’s another potential adopter interested but they hadn’t scheduled a meeting at that point. I emailed him that night to confirm that we’d like to proceed with adopting. Then 24 hours later I get an email that he met with the other adopter and decided to move forward with them. He made a point of saying that we would have been a great home too and it just came down to “what is best in regard to (Doggie’s) needs.”

My fiancée and I are both introverts (and not into the whole ‘puppy-wuppy-snookums’ routine with animals we haven’t gotten to know, unless said animal is jumping all over us, which wasn’t the case) so I think you and SonnysMom might be right that the rescue/foster may have just felt we didn’t “click” with the dog well enough. The only other possibility I can think of is that he mentioned that she slips on hardwood floors, which we have, but we would have been happy to use paw pads.

That or maybe having horses and a relatively full life he felt we wouldn’t be around the house enough to even have a dog … but I made it clear that my office is quiet and dog-friendly and I would have brought her with me more often than not. Also, with my horse situation it’s obvious I know all about Big Vet Bill$, so I would have thought they’d see that as a plus for an older dog. Her ad said that she wouldn’t do well in a home with young children or puppies, so the only more ideal home I can think of would be possibly a retired person who literally just putters around the house all day. And if that’s the “other family” that came along (for a high-needs dog, within a few days of us - seems improbable to me but okay) why not just say so?

Yes I am overthinking this and should just move on. At the end of the day, these animals are loved and provided for and that’s what matters. But I know that I’m a better-than-average animal owner and caretaker, so it’s frustrating. Thanks for letting me vent!

1 Like

Don’t give up!!! Keep looking. Find a rescue you feel comfortable working with, submit an application and go through their process before hand and then you’ll be ready when the right dog comes along. Look on Petfinder.

I have fostered almost a hundred dogs over the years, and even more kittens and cats. I would adopt to you in a heartbeat. Don’t give up.


I agree not to give up - it’s possible that the other adopted had experience with senior dogs with medical needs. I agree that there are a lot of things that could be very good reasons (hardwood floors, not working from home, etc.) that might make the other adopter a better fit. It would be nice to know that, but I can understand why they don’t give out the details (e.g. “you scored a 6.5 on the good fit scale and they were an 8”).

I would keep trying.

To be honest, that situation sounds pretty high intensity - you may have gotten a blessing in disguise.


OP, you sound like a rescue pet’s dream. Maybe go to a county shelter (aka: high kill shelter) where you would literally save a life by adopting a dog. It can be a bit riskier because the dogs there aren’t in a home situation, BUT many facilities have knowledgeable volunteers/workers who learn to assess dogs’ behavior pretty quickly. And since there are a lot of dogs with relatively low adoption rates, you can likely return a couple days in a row to visit with the ones that appeal to you. The costs to adopt are low, dogs are spayed/neutered, vaccinated. In a worst case scenario of a poor match, you can return the dog, although I know that would be a least desired, last resort. That’s where we got our last 2 cats and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again in the future!

PS: You might also consider volunteering to walk/interact with dogs at the shelter. That could be an avenue to your next furry friend and paying it forward!


Wait, the potential dog had to be manually stimulated with an i e cube to go pee?!? What on earth? Is that even a real thing? That would be a hard pass for me.

If I were you, I’d just go to a shelter and find a dog that you vibe with. It may take a couple trips but you can have your pick and save a life.

Edited to add, I googled and couldn’t find a thing, I also asked a friend that is a vet. They’ve never heard of anything like that before.


I’ll second- go to a county shelter and find your next pet. I haven’t had very good luck with breed rescues in my state either.
I thought I was the perfect home having been a volunteer trainer/walker at a local humane society and a volunteer adoption co-ordinator at another shelter where I previously lived. That and I have a nice, quiet farm all fenced and cross fenced. No other dogs but most importantly have had many dogs and different breeds over my many years. Was previously active in dog obedience and general training. Plus I’m retired and home almost all the time.

NOPE, I couldn’t get my foot in the door with the GSD rescue person who pulled every single shelter GSD within 60 miles of me.
She was anally possessive of every dog she pulled from shelters. Later on when she became overwhelmed with the number of dogs she had, she was begging people to come get them. I do think she was a personal dog hoarder.

The shelters make it so easy to adopt and they rely on individuals to keep their numbers down. good Luck in your search.


Don’t give up.
When I got my current dog we were turned down by several rescues for a variety of reasons.
-we worked full time
-we rented
-we were from Ontario, but living in Alberta and they were concerned that we would decide to move back and dump the dog

I was a volunteer at the Edmonton SPCA at the time and that in itself seemed to be a turnoff to one person. They had beef with how that shelter runs and since I was associated with them they started ghosting me.
We never even got approved for adoption, let along a meet and greet

Anyway, I ended up finding a 1.5yo dog that needed to be rehomed without going through a rescue/shelter. It was a best case scenario. She passed along all of her veterinary records, microchip info, food and toys, we continued using the same vet while we lived there, etc. We did move back to Ontario and bought a house and of course she came with us.
I found the original owners phone number in some paperwork 4 years after bringing her home and sent a text. She was so happy to get an update and sent me a bunch of puppy pictures.

However, I have decided that given our current lifestyle and hobbies that for our next dog I would prefer to purchase a registered puppy from a reputable breeder.


I, too, have experienced frustration with rescue groups and have twice gone instead to the local shelter for our turned-out-to-be great dogs. Issues included:

  1. We don’t have a fenced yard. I’m not opposed to that requirement for certain dogs, but as a general rule for all dogs with no further discussion I think is a shame.

  2. there is an active breed specific rescue that snatches up all dogs of a certain breed when found in a shelter, so no chance of me picking one up. And the breed specific rescue is one with a fenced yard rule, so it’s a dead end.

  3. We had an appointment with a rescue director and a dog we thought would be an ideal match. The dog was living with a foster trainer. The director had the dog for the day and wanted to bring it to our house so she could check out our house and property. I left work early to be home in time. After calling twice to say she was running late and a third time to say she would be at our house over 2 hours later, and in the dark, we had to cancel because my partner had an appointment. We never heard from her again, despite calling and emailing (very respectfully). I have no idea what happened, but the dog was still listed as available 2 months later. I suspect the director had ok’d us on paper but the trainer didn’t like us for some reason. Or fell in love with the dog herself, but in that case, take it off the damn website.

  4. Not telling us a dog we were about to drive an hour to see was on prednisone for allergies as a 1.5 year old. Luckily we made a further call to the current owner who mentioned it and was surprised we didn’t know that.


I work in a municipal shelter. The trend in many shelters now is to break down barriers and reduce “judginess”. Rescues are a different story. Sometimes it makes all kinds of sense to be very selective on adopters for a truly special needs animal but too many times it’s a bit of a power trip. Sorry you have gone through that.


All this tells me that rescue groups of any kind are just as susceptible to a line of hooey as anyone. I have seen it time and again, the genuine animal lover out-talked by someone with a smooth line of patter. And there are those rescue folk that have an agenda or an axe to grind and no-one gets their animals. All you can do is make a note to yourself to avoid those in the future and try other places.

P.S. OP, you sound like a doggie’s dream home. Sorry you got turned down.


I can only speak for myself and the dynamics of the group I foster with but we turn down the vast majority of applications. I’ve turned down couples and individuals after home visits. For some fosters I may receive 20 inquiries, 5 actually submit applications, and 3 are viable options. From there, I’m trying to envision how this animal would fit into a life for the next 15+ years.

the way we operate, the individual foster home agrees to take back any of their former fosters at any point in the animals life. I’ve done 30 fosters in the past 3 years. I cannot afford to have a 20% failure in match. That would be pretty standard for some groups but they likely have an external facility or more resources.

I personally will not adopt out a cat to be a single cat unless it is to someone who is retired or has a from home career. It just isn’t an environment where mine thrive after being in a home with half a dozen playmates and constant companionship. If someone does not match with one of my fosters but seems like a great home I will make an effort to connect them with another potential animal in our group or with another local group. An environment that is too quiet for one animal can be a dream home for another.

OP it doesn’t sound like you did anything actively wrong in either situation. Rescue work is really hard and sometimes we miss out on good homes

1 Like

Thanks for the insight and moral support everyone!

I wanted to post a quick update. I’ve had my heart set on a GSD since, well … childhood. But even so I’m not inclined to spend $2-3K on a puppy and honestly neither of us has time to train one! That’s why we decided to try adopting a senior dog, figuring that younger adults don’t really end up in shelters unless they have major issues.

Later on the day I posted this I checked our county shelter’s page and who do I see but a lovely female GSD, estimated age 4-6. So I dropped everything at work and drove over to adopt her on the spot. Jade was picked up as a stray in a rural area so her backstory is anyone’s guess She tested positive for heartworm and she’s also quite underweight - the spay/neuter clinic nearly rejected her and noted that she needs another 12-15 lbs.

But after three days of stressing (OMG, this dog knows nothing, she’s going to wreck our house and pee everywhere and maul the cats) I picked her up on Friday after her spay and you guys. She has been perfect. She had me a little worried on Friday when we got her home because she wouldn’t eat a thing. But she shadows us around the house, ignores the cats, is happy to hang out in her crate whether or not we put her there and is conked out on the floor as I type. I’m sure being skinny and wormy contribute to the lack of energy, but she really is a sweetheart. She goes to the vet Friday so we can start getting the heartworms treated.

It is all I can do to get 2 cups of kibble into her in a day, though, because she just isn’t interested in it plain. Even mixed with a can of Wellness wet food if there’s “too much” kibble she just knocks the bowl over. So even with an extra midday meal that’s as well as we’ve done so far. If you have any weight gain advice for picky eaters, send it this way please!


Oh, that is my breed! Good on you for adopting her. Expect some changes as she relaxes. This breed does NOT do well in shelters. They shut down and what you are seeing is a remnant of that. Google the two week shut down and follow that protocol. I have seen a lot of Shepherds do well with it.

PM me if you have any questions. I have spent my whole life with this breed.

1 Like

That’s awesome! If she just got spayed and just moved into your house, it’s not at all surprising that she’s not eating well. That’s a lot of change, and probably a little pain as well. Give her some time to get used to you and your house before stressing too much about the calories. This dog sounds like a much better fit than the one you were turned down for: no medical issues and a nice age where she’s past the puppy crazies and still young enough to enjoy several years with.

Yay for you OP!! And Welcome lucky dog to come live with you. I love Shepherds, especially the classic black and tan. Give her a kiss and a treat (if she will eat it) from me!

Yay! That’s great! I wouldn’t worry too much about calories until she’s settled in. My dog barely ate the first couple days that we had her, and now she needs a slow feed dish and LOVES all food.
You may notice a few quirks or bad habits as she gets more comfortable as well, but it sounds like she’ll be a great fit for you guys!