Rescue vs Shelter

Shelter adoption vs. rescue: What’s the difference?

Shelter adoption

Adopting an animal at an animal shelter means selecting a pet from the shelter’s inventory, filling out an application, and bringing your pet home. Before Covid-19, this often meant visiting the shelter in person, often traversing various buildings to look at different animals, making a selection, filling out the paperwork, and taking a new pet home. These days, more shelters are offering services like online adoptions and curbside pickup.

Rescue adoption

Using a rescue involves either finding a pet that belongs to the rescue, or using the rescue to help “curate” the best pet for your situation. Rescue organizations often save animals from overburdened shelters. Many rescues specialize in a certain type of pet, from specific breed rescues to those who save seniors, medical, and/or other animals with special needs. People who have specific criteria for their new family members might choose rescue organizations to get more personal assistance or to scout for animals at shelters on their behalf.


Whether direct adoption or rescue is better depends on your situation and preferences. This table can serve as a useful guide:

 Borrowed from