Animal Rescue and Animal Shelter: What is the Difference? 2023

by Suzie Cyrenne June 16, 2023 4 min read


Animal Rescue and Animal Shelter: What is the Difference? 2023

Chances are you can find dogs, cats and other pets in adoption events organized by the local animal shelter or rescue in your area wherever you are in the country.

While these two may be very similar in terms of helping adoptable animals search and find loving homes, they're actually distinct from each other. But you'll save a life either way!

If you're still wondering what separates the two, then you've come to the right place. Make sure you follow because I'm also going to get you in on why pet adoption is a much better choice when you search for a new furry friend.


What are Animal or Local Shelters?

Sad cute puppy

It's typically your government-owned local pound. However, not all are funded by taxpayer money. It is a community where strays like dogs and cats are surrendered or brought in when their previous owners either cannot take care of them anymore.

These places generally "adopt" or save all sorts of animals (not just the usual "furry friend" depending on local restrictions) and are almost always full. Sadly, they have to euthanize pets rather than set them loose to fend on their own and live miserable lives.

5 Pros for Shelters for Adoptable Pets

Girl reading with her dog
  1. You need to only have an on-site visit when you adopt a pet.

  2. While this is not a universal statement, the processing time for pet adoption is usually shorter and has fewer requirements.

  3. Most have a community area or playroom for you to meet and greet puppies, kittens, rabbits and other pets to check if they can be an ideal new family member.

  4. Most treat minor health conditions, particularly among dogs and cats, prior to pet adoption.

  5. Deworming, spaying and neutering are usually done when you adopt a pet.


5 Animal Shelter Cons for Pets

Dog playing in the park

  1. Some animal shelters may be in a hurry—sometimes less than a week—to get you to adopt due to their limited space and resources.

  2. Some animals up for adoption have no known history.

  3. The staff and volunteers may not really know enough about a dog or cat to gauge whether it will be a good adoption fit for you as your new best friend.

  4. Some private shelters have extra fees and requirements before letting you adopt or take a pet home.

  5. Shelter dogs and cats are often not on their best "adoption behavior" because of the confined environment and lack of food.



      What is a Rescue?

      Woman cudding her cat

      Animal rescue is usually a private organization or initiative that saves dogs and cats, among others from abusive homes or homeless situations. Some examples include PetSmart Charities, Petco Love and ASPCA Happy Tails, which also have constant pet alerts on pet adoption.

      It provides temporary homes through a network of foster parents who agree to host a puppy, kitten as well as older dogs and cats until it is adopted. While a rescue can take in all sorts of animals, some of them can be age and breed-specific to meet the location and lifestyle of their foster parents.

      A rescue generally runs on pure donation and goodwill. It is very rare for it to receive any help or funding from the government.


      5 Rescue Pros When You Pet Adopt

      Cute dog smiling

      1. Animals are often housed in an on-site environment where they can retain their social ability with humans.

      2. There is much more on-site information about a cat, dog and other pets like breed, health status and overall disposition.

      3. The pet adoption process is generally more selective and engaging to help ensure you're going home with the right pet or animal companion.

      4. When you pet adopt, the animals are often very healthy, spayed and neutered, as well as completely vaccinated.

      5. Before you adopt a pet, you'll have a chance to interact with a potential match many times.


      5 Cons You Should Know

      Two cats sitting on a couch

      1. The amount of time spent matching pets with potential adopters can take months.

      2. There can be a lot of paperwork and fees to take care of.

      3. You may be asked to shoulder vet fees when you express interest to adopt a pet.

      4. Meeting a potential pet like a dog or greatly depends on a foster parent's schedule and family life.

      5. Some may require continuous home visits even months after the adopt a pet process has been finalized.


      The Inside Scoop on Rescues

      Man walking his dog outside

      A rescue is typically manned by volunteers and can be stricter when matching an animal with a pet parent because they know the animal really well.

      HomeFurEver shares: “Every rescue is different. We all have different systems of operation, adoption processes, and requirements. Approval through one rescue does not guarantee that you will be approved through another rescue."


      Adoption for Pets: Which One is Better?

      Two cats eating in a bowl

      There is no real answer regarding which is better to adopt. It all boils down to who are the people running the same and how much they care for the animals. But going for adoption is much better than buying from an unscrupulous breeder or puppy mill!

      Some animal shelters have partnerships with local rescue groups to ensure that animals who may not have a chance of surviving or have special needs will still have a chance to be adopted.


      A Final Word on the Adopt a Pet Process

      Dog playing in the park

      Every organization and facility is different. Usually, shelters are not as strict as rescues in processing adoptions but there can always be exceptions. Are you getting excited about adding a pet or companion animal to your family? Check out our entire pet adoption series – The Ultimate Guide to Pet Adoption.

      Like you, we're passionate about animals and would like you to have the same joy we have as pet parents. Join us on Facebook to get updates on our future articles and be notified whenever we post more pet and animal-friendly tips!

      Suzie Cyrenne
      Suzie Cyrenne


      Suzie Cyrenne is a certified Homeopath with over ten years of experience creating natural products for cats and dogs. She co-founded eCommerce brand, Zumalka in 2013 with her husband Matt and is on a mission to help thousands of animals naturally improve their quality of life and shares her experience on their popular YouTube show. Hence, she created a line of high-performance natural pet supplements to target the root cause of common health issues. Suzie was influenced by her mother-in-law, who practiced homeopathy and made natural remedies from home. After being on prescriptions for many years for a skin issue without resolution, she wanted to try something new. Her problems were cleared up within a few months of dedication to a better diet supplemented by homeopathic remedies. That's when she knew that homeopathy worked! During this process, she wondered why there weren't better options for pets and soon created a popular line of natural remedies that have helped thousands of pets across the USA. When she’s not traveling or reading the next personal development book, you can find Suzie snowboarding, working out, or enjoying a daily hike.

      9 Responses


      August 09, 2021

      Dear Bambi,
      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story with us. I am so sorry to hear that you need to find other homes for what sound like amazing little kitties! I’m sure this is very difficult for you. I hope you are able to find kind and loving homes for them. We also have contacts of a few shelters and rescues that may be able to help out if you need:
      I hope this helps!!


      August 09, 2021

      My name is Bambi I’m 53 years old I have always been a cat lover and an overall animal lover I get very attached to them and vice versa I have three kittens and a beautiful calendar cat that I need to find homes for due to my need for a heart surgery and no one to care for them. The kittens are about 3 months old and soooo lovable. I’ve interacted with them every day and they actually sleep with me so I need someone who’s used to Interacting with them like Family members one of the kittens absolutely will not let you ignore him To the point where he positions himself between me and my phone it’s hilarious. They were born in my house and I’m on a very fixed income there were five I managed to get homes for two and I was trying to find homes for the other three somehow ended up keeping them they haven’t had any shots but other than that they’ve been very well taken care of their indoor outdoor so they like to run outside and they won’t run away could someone please help me give my babies a loving home and all the affection in the world that they deserve so much?

      Ms Elizabeth Campbell
      Ms Elizabeth Campbell

      January 11, 2021

      My amazing wee Shih Tzu was killed by a van this morning!! His name was Bear and he loved and was loved SO much. In time I’d love to help a wee rescue dog and adopt him. Will keep in touch. Thank you. 🐻👼XX

      judith Hollowell
      judith Hollowell

      January 04, 2021

      Adopted 2 dogs from a rescuer 4 years ago. Lost one in a hit and run. Max my fur baby left clings to me and gets very little exercise since I’m recovering from heart surgery. He is an inside dog 5 years old. Looking for a similar breed not only for me but for Max. Max is a Shitzue. Sorry about spelling. The fur baby would have a good home but I don’t know where to find a dog that needs a home and is similar to Max. Max has gained w

      Rebecca Cope
      Rebecca Cope

      December 07, 2020

      After losing my dog in the Spring I decided I’m ready to love another fur baby. I wanted to adopt a breed specific (same as last dog) senior dog because I had just loved one through the aging process & also know older dogs are difficult to place. I was so amazed that an active, newly retired person w/no other animals, no children, live alone with only time & attention to give was met with so much red tape & an attitude of “hang out indefinitely & we’ll let you know if you can adopt this healthy senior dog”. It certainly felt as if the organization had no motivation to find this dog a loving home. I respect wanting to be careful about placing animals in a safe, appropriate place but this attitude bordered on offensive. I am a retired professional, experienced with my last rescue from an abusive environment who became my constant companion. There would have been no better home for this precious dog. I walked away feeling as if my attempt to save a dog & provide his best life was something sinister and a plan for which I would be scrutinized more than adopting a newborn baby. Organizations should be thorough in vetting prospective adopters but geez, they could have a tone & attitude of working TOGETHER with prospective adopters rather than an attitude of “we’re going to make you jump through countless hoops-just because we can”. It is not in the best interest of the precious dogs who would benefit from a loving home & the opportunity to develop a strong bond with their human and feel safe & secure. It broke my heart to walk away but the rescue group made the process so difficult it felt like it would be open ended with no idea how long would be the wait for a dog advertised as healthy & ready for a forever home. Now I believe the only way is to find a puppy from a breeder. Such a shame, rescue organizations should pause to reflect on exactly why they are there in the first place. It should be priority 1 to find safe homes rather than the chaotic environment which stresses dogs unnecessarily.


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      October 23, 2019

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      Rain's Mom
      Rain's Mom

      September 24, 2019

      After trying for a very long time to adopt through various rescue groups, private shelters and through our own city and being stymied at every turn, we went to Craigslist. There, we found a plea from a lady who might have been a rescuer, or simply a local resident of the town. The small, overcrowded rural shelter was swamped with kittens and puppies and adult cats and dogs. This shelter takes in way more animals than are ever adopted, and so many end up euthanized simply because rescues and foster families and adopters are so few and far between… plus, so many folks either don’t spay or neuter their pets and also let them run loose. The staff, while well meaning, is overwhelmed and they just don’t have time to really LOVE on the pets and socialize them. Amenities are few, too. So, we paid a visit just to see what was up. We came home that day with a lovely and sweet (but understandably scared and shy) 10 week old kitten who has been coming out of her shell quite nicely since she came home with us a few days ago. She’s healthy, had first shots, and she will be spayed and microchipped within the month, once she gets just a little bigger. There were so many nice pets available there, it was heartbreaking. Many of them won’t have a chance to get a loving home due to space and a lack of foster families and rescue groups in that area. If we could take them all, we would. But, we were at least able to save one precious baby, and it’s a blessing. For now, I’m spreading the word, hoping to find loving homes and fosters for more of these beautiful animals.

      kalissa seaton
      kalissa seaton

      June 07, 2019

      this was very helpful since im opening my oun rescue

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