Animal Rescues in Canada
Animal rescues in Canada – and most probably, everywhere – are very different from animal shelters in the ways they operate, along with their mandates. Not having consistent standards in terms of animal care and policies means that anyone supporting, working with or adopting from a rescue should do their homework.
You would think that all operators of rescue groups were not in it for the money, and would want to do everything in their power for a safe outcome for animals in their care when finding adopters… but this is not always the case.
Unfortunately, many groups or individuals who portray themselves as ‘Animal Rescues In Canada’ are in it for the wrong reasons. Before diving into that, let’s take a look at animal shelters in Canada.
How Animal Rescues in Canada Should Be
According to the Canadian Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, an adequate shelter should follow specific guidelines. Grosso modo, these are the main features they should provide:
Good expenses management.
Functional facility design.
Pet’s behavioral and physical health.
Spaying and neutering.
Transportation standards, and public health.
For example, the SPCA follows strict guidelines that are the same in all of their locations. On the contrary, rescues, however, are not held to the same standards. Note that licensed shelters, such as SPCA’s and Humane Societies, often have very different mandates than grassroot rescues, and their focus is on animal welfare enforcement and often times their shelter spaces are used for that. Rescues, on the other hand, are dealing with owner surrenders, overpopulations (often from rural & remote communities), animals with behavioral issues that would otherwise be euthanized, and overpopulation in communities that do not have spay/neuter programs or vet care.
Animal Rescues in Canada: The Real Portrayal
While many rescues and shelters share common interests and face common challenges, rescues are usually private ventures. In other words, they may not be a registered non-profit or charity. This doesn’t mean they aren’t doing good work, but it does mean the organization has less accountability than that of a registered one. Most rescue groups largely rely on volunteers and fostering methods because they don’t have dedicated facilities, do not receive funding, and the need for their services is so great, and it leaves open a large space for different methods of operation.
Animal Shelters are often government-run and/or funded facilities that operate at certain hours and have flat adoption fees following government guidelines. Rescues can work without any guidelines. Alarming? Yes, of course – but the alarming parts rest on both sides of the coin.
As there are no consistent standards for animal rescues, people looking to adopt from a rescue must do their research to ensure their support is to a reputable organization.
When it comes to animal shelters, there is a lot of oversight and bureaucracy involved. This creates it’s own set of challenges in what animals it can take in and care for. It presents challenges in their operational model and they cannot, and not funded or mandated to, provide the help and services that reputable rescues do. In contrast, reputable rescues can and do provide a much wider scope of services, faster response times and more flexibility. But their lack of funding on provincial and federal support limit their capacity and result in rescue burnout.
Sadly, in some cases, people or groups disguise themselves as rescues when they are nothing but animal hoarders or individuals who mass transport animals strictly for profit. There are some red flags you can look out for.
So, if you have decided you’re going to adopt from a rescue, the best thing you can do is conduct your private research.
Now, how should you conduct it?
Research the Rescue Like the Rescue Researches You!
There are visible signs when you bump into a good rescue. For example, a good rescue in Canada will at least:
Require applicants to fill out adoption applications and an adoption contract.
Walk applicants through interview processes.
Ask for and cross-check references.
Conduct home visits to meet everyone living in the home.
Give you details of the animals past, it’s health, and any conditions you need to be aware of.
Give you details of the animals temperament, breed and needs.
Provide you with a bit of pet food and supplies.
Spay/neuter the animal prior to adoption, or have this a requirement of their contract. In either case, a reputable rescue would pay for this to be done as part of their ad0ption fees.
Asses the fit of the animal (temperament, behaviour etc) to the fit of the family dynamics (for example, they would not put a high energy, highly anxious dog into a home where the owners are not active and not home a lot).
Not adopt to you the same day as you apply (for example, they will not adopt to you at an adoption event because they will want to do their due diligence to ensure you, and the animal. are a good fit for one another.)
Have a return policy meaning they will take the animal back should your circumstances change, or the adoption not work.
Create a plan to do a proper introduction of the adopted pet and any other animals in the home.
Also, good rescues care about the long-term outcomes of their animals. On the contrary, questionable rescues just want to make a sale. You can feel it.
If you find a rescue that doesn’t require you to fill out an application before taking your new fur baby home, you’ve got a problem. If a rescue doesn’t screen you, how do they know you can care for an animal?
In short, if you come across large adoption events that allow you to go home that same day with your pet, or you find a rescue online which requires you to commit adoption before meeting the pet, they do not care that much about it.
When researching rescues, reach out to friends who have adopted pets and ask them about their experiences. Ask for references from the rescue. Search their social media and google them.
Extensive Application Processes: What to Expect
Now, it’s time to watch the other face in the mirror: You.
Good rescues take into consideration if you are knowledgeable about the breed you are trying to adopt. Same, they will:
Ask you about your past experiences with pets.
If you don’t have the experience, they will clarify that they will help you after adoption.
The rescue will want to get to know you on a somewhat personal level. If you want to pass the application process, just answer frankly. Questions to answer will be similar to:
What is your lifestyle?
How often do you leave on vacation?
If you travel, who will be caring for your pet?
Do you want a dog for companionship or strict protection?
Do you want your dog to be an outdoor dog?
Tip: A good rescue will not approve your application if you want your dog or cat to live outdoors. These are the things that a good rescue will inquire about.
Picky and Reliable Animal Rescues in Canada
Another factor which we’ve mentioned is home visits with everyone in the household. A good rescue will ensure everyone in the house wants a new furry member at home. Such information will tell the rescue that the entire family is a good fit for the animal.
For example, if you fall in love with a timid cat that doesn’t do well with noise and isn’t good with other animals, the rescue likely won’t consider a household with three toddlers and two dogs. The animal’s well being is of utmost priority.
Building on this, the rescue should do a trial adoption with you.
A good rescue in Canada will allow you to take your pet home and see if the cohabitation works. The rescue will follow up with you and ensure it is the right fit, and if it’s not, they will take the animal back into their care.
Now, imagine another scenario: What if you adopt your pet, but five years down the road, you injure yourself and can no longer care for your pet? A good rescue will always take the pet back. You will want to ask the rescue if it has a rehoming policy. That’s why reliable rescues in Canada should be picky.
Origin of the Animal and Vet expenses
Vet visits are another critical point to filter your research. Natural questions such as where your pet comes from are important, and if your rescue can’t answer correctly, you should move on.
For example, in Kelowna, many dogs come from Texas, and in Texas, there are lots of canine heartworm cases. Is the pet you are adopting healthy? Has it been tested for this? A reputable rescue will prioritize their animals’ health, ensure they have their vaccinations, and keep them in their care until they are healthy and ready for adoption. They will also provide you with records of this as verification.
Rescue’s adoption fees rarely cover full vet expenses in Canada. In other words, the rescue will typically fundraise for their animals’ vet visits before putting them up for adoption.
A reputable rescue will ensure the pet is spayed or neutered before putting it up for adoption. To make sure you are working with a reputable rescue, ask for the veterinarian’s paperwork and where they got their vaccines.
Then, make sure to confirm the information they give you to ensure you didn’t receive fraudulent paperwork. And yes, these things happen when ‘rescues’ are just trying to make their next sale.
Wrapping up ideas
Reliable rescues put the wellbeing of the pet ahead of all else.
Do your research and take your time. A pet is a life-long commitment, and you want to set you and your pets up for success when finding a place to adopt from.
Updated: Jan 23, 2012
Originally Published: March 15, 2021