Why Is It So Hard to Adopt a Dog from a Rescue?

Why Is It So Hard to Adopt a Dog from a Rescue

Considering the fact that rescue dogs are arguably the most in need of a home, it might come as a surprise that so many applications to adopt a dog from a shelter are rejected. There are multiple examples on web forums where potential owners have complained about how hard it is to adopt a dog from a rescue home.

And that’s why it’s so difficult to get your head around it sometimes, because we are constantly told to go to shelters rather than breeders. When we then end up being rejected it can feel all the more frustrating: what’s the point in telling us to go to a shelter in the first place?

Why isn’t adopting a dog at a shelter as easy as adopting a dog at a breeder or a pet store?

My friends have recently experienced this exact same issue and explained to me first-hand how frustrating it is to be rejected from a dog shelter. I decided to do some research into the process, hopefully being able to shed some light on the complex world of rescue dogs any why it can be hard to adopt them sometimes.

Why is it so hard to adopt a dog from a rescue?

Given that rescue dogs come from more difficult backgrounds, they often require specific living requirements and specialist care that the average aspiring dog owner, through no fault of their own, is unable to provide, making the adoption process very hard.

If you end up being rejected in your application to adopt a rescue dog, it is important that you don’t take it personally.

Whilst you might end up being rejected by one dog shelter, another dog shelter might be more than happy to move your application forward. Although you might not be the right fit for one dog, another dog might end up being your perfect companion.

If you end up being rejected from adopting a shelter dog, my biggest piece of advice is to open up a dialogue with them.

You should ask for feedback about both your good points and your bad points so you can learn from the experience and apply it the next time you try to adopt a shelter dog!

What are the most common reasons for applications to be rejected?

There are many reasons why your application for adopting a shelter dog might be rejected.

Although the reason for rejection might seem minor and unfair, there is always a lot of reasoning behind it, and everyone involved in the decision-making process undergoes a thorough process before determining whether or not to accept or reject your application.

Handy Hint: If you have been given the go-ahead to adopt, read this guide which explains what to look for when adopting a shelter dog.

However, through my research I have noticed a pattern of the most common reasons why aspiring pet owners are rejected from adopting from dog shelters:

1. Your environment

Dog rescue shelters are very stringent about the environment where dogs grow up in. Their number one priority is security, so don’t be surprised if people from the shelter come over to check your fences and doors as part of your assessment.

If you live in an area where your dog has an easy escape route; say, for example, you have a yard which can’t be fenced off, it might cause them to reject your application, especially if you are unable to dog-proof your environment due to restrictions from your landlord.

Speaking of yards and gardnes, it is important that your dog has adequate outdoor space to go to the bathroom, exercise and play, so if you don’t have much of an outdoor space for your dog that might also be a factor.

Furthermore, if you only have your home on a short-term lease (i.e. 12 months  or less), that may well lead to your application being rejected, as the shelter may well deem that as not being a secure enough environment to bring a life-long companion to. What if your next place didn’t allow pets?

2. Your occupation and lifestyle

Your lifestyle habits are equally as important to adoption assessors and can have a huge impact on how hard it is to adopt a dog from a rescue home.

Dogs need a lot of 1:1 care and attention, so although it might not necessarily be a deal breaker if you work full-time (you need to work to live, after all!), it might become an issue if you have to work a lot of long hours or night shifts – you’ll never see your dog, and they might get lonely.

Speaking of loneliness, if you are someone who travels frequently and are going to be away from home a lot, you might run into a lot of the same barriers to a healthy dog-owner relationship as described above.

Furthermore, with most dogs needing at least one half-hour walk a day, your lifestyle should allow you to fit that in. If you don’t have the time, then you might want to consider whether owning a dog is right for you.

3. Other members of the home

This can refer to both animals and people. It goes without saying that if you live with someone who is allergic to dogs or simply doesn’t like them, that isn’t going to make for a harmonious environment with your new pet.

The same might go if you live with young children: they may be too young to understand how to behave appropriately with a dog, which could lead to one or the other being scared or otherwise coming to harm as a result.

Handy Hint: Dog shelters will also be very strict because they don’t want to chance the rescue dog being returned.

The adoption process for shelter dogs

If you still want to adopt a shelter dog, it is worth bearing in mind that whilst each shelter may differ in their specific requirements, the broad process always remains the same.

It is worth bearing in mind that some areas of the application might seem too personal or intrusive, but these are all necessary steps that aim to ensure that the dog is always a good match for the owner and that they don’t end up in the shelter again.

I recommend you read the below, as this could make the difference between you being able to adopt a dog from a rescue, or being turned down.

With that in mind, the broad process of adoption for shelter dogs is as follows:

1. Submit an application form

For most dog rescue shelters, it is likely that you’ll be able to find the application forms on their website. Or, if you visit them in person, they will probably give you a printed copy.

Whether or not you need to email or post the application form is dependent on the shelter. Prepare for the application form to contain somewhat intrusive questions about your living situation and finances.

Equally, however, the form will aim to match you up with the right dog for you, so it will ask you to identify what kind of personal qualities you’d want in a dog (i.e. One who is good with children/cats; one who is affectionate/independent). It is all part of the matching process, and once you have sent off the application form, you will go onto the next stage.

2. Go through an interview process

This stage involves an interview with someone who works at the dog rescue shelter. This might be at your own home so they can assess your living situation, or down at the shelter so they can see how you interact with the dog in question or rescue dogs in general.

Again, the questions may seem intrusive and personal, but they are fundamental in assessing whether the dog is a right fit for yourself and your family.

If you answer the question honestly and truthfully, you should stand more chance of being successful.

3. Pay the adoption fee and get ready to bring them home!

Although it might be strange to pay a fee, it is worth bearing in mind that most shelters are not-for-profit and rely on government funding and charitable donations in order to continue their operations. Furthermore, it is a lot cheaper than breeders!

Then, all that is left to do is to make the appropriate preparations (i.e. Set up pet insurance, buy food and supplies) and then take your new best friend home.


The process of adopting a dog from a shelter can sometimes feel like a really tough job application with little to no reward. It can be very hard to adopt a dog from a rescue but please don’t let that ut you off, you really shouldn’t give up!

With perseverance, the right mindset and the right advice, there is no reason why you can’t adopt a shelter dog soon and make your family and home complete.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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