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Dog Rescue Decisions – The No Kill Shelter

I need you to get onto rescues and the mistakes THEY make. So many are horrible judges of dog’s temperaments or maybe they just want to call themselves a no kill shelter and then “save” and adopt out at any cost.

I board dogs, do some behaviour consults and do some rescue myself. I am seeing a few too many dogs that have come from rescues that could have and should have been identified as too unstable to sell to an unsuspecting person/family. Recently after nearly a week’s stay a dog I’d been looking after from one of these “rescues” attacked me. It turns out he’d been adopted and returned 5 TIMES and they did not put him down.

I am tired of stupid people running rescues. They love dogs beyond reason but don’t’ understand them at all.


Dear S.S.

One of my pet peeves are the rescues that claim to be “no-kill”. Those in what I call the reality dog rescue world know there is not yet any such thing as “no-kill”. Just because a group claims they’re not killing dogs doesn’t mean the same amount of dogs aren’t dying. As long as we in North America have problems with overpopulation, bad breeding and “no consequence” dog training, any claim to be a “no-kill” rescue is nothing more then a “knights in shining armor” marketing ploy. The truth is though that wherever you find a “no-kill” you will within miles find a reality rescue forced to pick up the slack.

Reality rescues are not bloodthirsty. They also share the “no-kill” rescue’s distaste for euthanizing unstable dogs and agree that euthanizing perfectly good dogs due to over population is abhorrent. They’re often made out as the bad guys because they face the detestable reality but the people that work and/or volunteer in reality rescues are the honest real knights in shining armor and most deserving of the public’s donation support and as the place to go for finding the next family pet.

Specific rescue philosophies aside, far too many rescues in general have people that as you say, “love dogs beyond reason but don’t’ understand them at all.” Many rescues are entirely run by volunteers. If they are properly funded and the funds are used wisely that’s not a problem. However, when it comes to some animal rescue groups and “wise” I have to concur with you that sometimes we end up with an oxymoron.

Rescues that aren’t budgeting for education are short changing themselves, the public, people that donate to them and ultimately the dogs. I think you’ll find the rescues you speak of aren’t making that investment.

I offer a series of workshops for rescues that help them understand specific facets of behaviour intended to positively impact the number and quality of the placements they make, but I also attend workshops all over North America. Why? Because even after 20 years, I continue to learn things that make me better at what I do, so I can help others be better at what they do.

I’m not saying loving dogs is unimportant but it’s an emotion that most can lay claim to without lifting a finger. Anyone truly committed to rescuing dogs is going to actually have to spend some time and money if they want to take it to the next level. I guarantee they will find that it will be for them as it has been for me; an investment paying incredible dividends through the knowledge I’ve been able to share with others and dogs’ lives changed.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
[email protected]

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2 thoughts on “Dog Rescue Decisions – The No Kill Shelter”

  1. Chris Ontario

    Hi John,

    I’d like to thank you and others working to properly assess, rehabilitate, rescue and adopt out dogs and other animals.

    You are right when you say the term “no-kill” gets thrown around and used as a marketing ploy. I would like to take back that term and apply it to the real no kill movement which is about saving as many animals as possible without putting the public in danger. There is so much misunderstanding about it, even among rescue groups. Animals who are irredeemably suffering or who pose a danger to the public are not considered adoptable and are euthanized.

    The programs and services established by the No Kill Advocacy Center, called the No Kill Equation, are ones being used by the Nova Scotia SPCA as well as cities in the U.S. and elsewhere, and we’d like more communities to put them in place. Many believe the NKE is compatible with Responsible Pet Ownership legislation that Calgary uses. Arbitrary laws need to be repealed and only ones proven to be effective should be in place.

    Medical and Behavior Prevention & Rehabilitation as well as Pet Retention programs are part of the Equation,

    The real no-kill movement is trying to educate the public so they can have enough info to understand if organizations are worthy of their support. Transparency, accountability and leadership are integral parts of reforming our current model of animal control and sheltering into something that not only saves more lives, but is more cost-effective for taxpayers and produces measurable benefits for communities.

    Christie Keith’s article is a good introduction to many of the problems blamed on “pet overpopulation”,


    Chris Harris,
    Ontario No-Kill Advocates for Companion Animals

    1. Chris Ontario

      Issue: So how CAN the public be assured they’re adopting the right dog and the rescue is committed to people’s safety as well?

      Should people be encouraged to adopt from rescues that are members of Helping Homeless (HHP)? These groups are required to follow the HHP Code of Ethics for Canadian rescue groups? Membership is voluntary.

      Helping Homeless has a HHP Canine Rescue Code of Ethics (and one for felines too).

      “This Code of Ethics was originally created in 2007 for the rescue community in Canada by the Founding Committee (see below). Since that time, it has been reviewed and commented on by over 40 rescue groups in Canada and subsequently modified based upon the groups that commented on it. Helping Homeless Pets has adopted this code of ethics as our official code and all of our member rescues have agreed to adhere to this code. Should you have any comments or feedback concerning this code, please contact us…”

      Is this something you and your readers are aware of?

      Should rescue groups be required to be members of HHP in order to rescue animals or pull from pound in Canada?

      What are your thoughts?

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