Sorry, You’re Not Good Enough to Adopt a Rescue Dog

For the past several decades when someone asked the breed of your dog and you responded it was of ‘mixed’ origin and followed up with the fact that it was a rescue dog, the reaction was usually silence accompanied by an undeniable look of distaste.  Two decades ago when FIREPAW began conducting research and sponsoring public education programs like assisting landlords to accept renters with pets and public outreach to adopt-don’t-shop and spay/neuter to help curb the flow of dogs and cats abandoned to animal shelters it was like asking Americans to ride-share.  The idea seemed logical enough in theory but it was frequently thought of as best “for someone else” to do. 

But now things have changed.  Beginning several years ago with the emotion-triggering adopt-a-shelter-animal television ad series, spiking during the 2020 virus lock-down, and continuing on today, adopting shelter animals has now become the socially responsible thing to do.  Today adopting a rescue dog carries an enormous amount of social cachet–and in some urban communities there can even be far more people trying to adopt than there are shelter animals needing homes.  This has resulted in transporting animals (including from countries outside the U.S.) to regions with high demand and a rigorous adoption process that includes intrusive, seemingly random and frequently impossible to achieve set of hurdles in which few people are deemed worthy enough to adopt.  At first glance this level of scrutiny may seem a wonderful thing for protecting shelter animals–and sometimes it is definitely warranted.  But with reports of discrimination like red-lining against potential adopters living in certain zip codes and rejection based on things like potential adopters’ physical appearance and other random qualities lacking robust data to justify the decision, given the high number of pets needing adoption in many parts of the U.S.* and the public’s paradigm shift towards adopting, it may be time to reevaluate just what qualities truly make a ‘good home’ for a homeless pet…




*According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.  The number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters annually is estimated to have declined from approximately 7.2 million in 2011 to approximately 6.5 million in 2018.  The biggest decline was in dogs (from 3.9 million to 3.3 million).

Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).  The number of dogs and cats euthanized in U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million in 2011.  This decline can be partially explained by an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and an increase in the number of stray animals successfully returned to their owners.

Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.

These estimates are based in part on Shelter Animals Count data and other known and estimated sources, 2015-2018. (Source)