Kristin Hugo, Global Animal

Any animal lover can see the benefits of supporting a rescue, pound or shelter. If you’ve heard the Humane Society statistic that 4-5 million animals are killed each year in shelters, you know that shelters need all the help they can get to get these animals adopted out.

Photo Credit: Global Animal

I recently was to deal with an abandoned hoard of rabbits that were going to be killed, and I had to research how to get them to homes. One option was a local no-kill rabbit-specific shelter. They were full, which is understandable. I asked them how long it takes them to adopt out rabbits. The representative estimated that they adopt out one pair of rabbits every few months.

Contrast this with the pet stand in a nearby swapmeet that gets an estimated 25 rabbits to homes every couple of weeks.

The shelter is definitely a better place to get a pet, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which involves the importance of rescuing an animal from euthanasia. In fact, we support banning pet stores that sell commercially-bred pets in malls. Pet stores, including this pet stand at the swap meet, get their animals from breeders and pet mills.

For animal enthusiasts, it can be frustrating to know that anyone would think of buying a pet from a breeder or store when there are so many that need to be saved. However, it turns out that sometimes consumers are incentivized to buy new animals.

Let’s compare the Rabbit Resource Center with the pet stand:


  Rabbit Resource Center Pet Island Pet Stand
Rabbits from: Abandoned rabbits Breeder










Strip mall on side-street


Heavily trafficked Indoor Swap Meet


Requirements for adoption:


-Must not be for a child or class room
-Must take at least two, or already have one at home
-Indoor housing
-Home visit
-No non-spayed or non-neutered rabbits at home
-You must commit to having the animal its entire life
-Must fill out 3-page application
-Follow-up home visit






Rabbits are:


-Litter-box trained




How many rabbits gotten to homes each year (estimated):








Animal volunteers are caring people who want to make sure that the animals go to the best home available. Policies are in place to make sure that animals that are adopted out go to suitable guardians who will take good care of them throughout their lifetime.  It is important to see where the animal is going, and make sure that the adopter knows what it means to adopt a pet. This makes sense, except when shelters and rescues go overboard.

The pet overpopulation problem is a desperate scenario, so we should treat it with some desperation. When I adopted out the rabbits I had in my care, I put as much effort as I could into finding homes for them fast, and the only stipulation was that I would trust the new guardians. They were given to friends and friends-of-friends and, as I’ve followed up with them, I know they are all healthy and happy in their homes. What would have happened if I had given them to a rescue?

An Examiner article details an account of someone in the market for a pit bull being denied by a rescue group. The potential pet-guardian found a perfect rescue pet, but the policy mandated that he keep the dog in a crate while he is not home. The rescue suspects that any dog left to wander the house while the guardian isn’t around will chew on property and then be returned to the facilities. The adopter insisted that he would not return the dog if that happened, and he refused to crate the dog while he was not home. When he was rejected, the dog went to the shelter, and the adopter instead purchased a dog from a breeder.

Think of all the ways that the rescue could have handled the situation differently. They could have made an exception. They could not enforce that particular rule. They could let the adopter take the dog for a trial period to see how the animal acted at home. They could at least give the dog over for some time; even if he does return it, where’s the harm?

Here are actual rules that some shelters and rescues enforce regarding adopters:

  • No adopters with children (minimum age varies)
  • No adopters who work (so you must spend most of your time home with your pet)
  • Adopters must have a gated yard
  • Interview with your vet (no first-time pet guardians)
  • No one wheelchair-bound (must be able to walk the dog yourself, you cannot delegate or hire someone)
  • No other pets at home

Regardless of whether the animal you’re trying to adopt is at a kill-shelter or no-kill, you’re saving a life. Even the happiest, friendliest, cutest animals are killed every day at kill-shelters when they run out of room. Before the shelter kills an animal, though, they often call no-kill shelters. If there is any room there, the animal will be transferred. Every time an animal is taken from a no-kill shelter, it means that one from a kill shelter will be saved.

The Rabbit Resource Center consistently gets calls from animal shelters asking if they have room to take in more red-listed (few days to live) animals, and they rarely do. If they could adopt out their animals in a more efficient manner then they wouldn’t have to pass up so many opportunities to rescue shelter rabbits.

Here are some suggestions on how shelters and rescues could benefit by acting more like pet stores:

  • Invest in well-trafficked areas, such as shopping malls, so people can see the animals.
  • Instead of tons of rules, talk to each adopter and assess whether the situation is right for the animal.
  • Bring in rescued purebreds and charge money for them. Oftentimes, people think that the more expensive something is, the better it is. (That’s certainly not true with animals, but people still think that.)
  • Put lower fees on animals that have been there a long time. Make sure that no animal costs more than he or she would at a breeder.
  • Put low fees on animals, but charge for mandatory spay/neuter vouchers for those that are not fixed.
  • Showcase a variety in front. There may be someone who has been looking for a tortoiseshell tabby for a long time and sees you have one.
  • Hire business people: Advertisers to promote them, behavioral economists to improve sales, etc.
There are also many things that pet stores do that shelters should never emulate. I understand that one reason that shelter fees can be high is that they actually take care of their animals and don’t try to mass-produce them. That should remain standard. Pet stores are also often dishonest about where they got their animals, and the health and background of them. While a pet-store-like model could increase efficiency, shelters must always maintain their primary goal above (though not instead of) profit: to help animals.

I want every dog, cat, rabbit and pet to find the best forever home in the world. But a system that makes it harder to rescue a pet than to support puppy and kitten mills is completely backwards. When so many are killed for want of a home, animal volunteers must remember that a good but imperfect home is better than the back room.




  1. I was rejected by one rescue group — I had been blacklisted — I figure why — because I had surrendered animals to shelters in the past. But, honestly no one would ever tell me why I was blacklisted — like I was some criminal.

    These shelters need to TELL PEOPLE surrendering an animal will blacklist you. I had no idea — I thought I was doing the right thing instead of abandoning an animal. At one shelter there was even a charge to turn in animals — and this one puppy I had found just lying in a box in the heat of summer. So, I was doing a good deed.

    But, yet I wasn't allowed to adopt another animal… Please, PLEASE — tell people — "hey, try to find a home yourself — we don't have the resources". I thought a shelter would be the best place for an animal to find a better home — I didn't know how tight the space is and everything else.

    I was not a bad person — and thankfully now I have a wonderful part-pit black adora-dog. He is my heart and I also had no idea black dogs had such a hard time being adopted — they are so sleek and lovely. Anyway — sorry for the long post — I just totally agree with this article. Jak gives it two paws up. <3

  2. Rabbitats can sympathize with both ends of the rescue spectrum when it comes to controversially strict rules of adoption, but we strive to be solutions-oriented.
    EG: To alleviate fears about adopting to homes with children, we’ve designed child-resistant, gently interactive enclosures.
    We adopt to outdoor homes when enclosures meet space, enrichment and security criteria.
    For the time-challenged, we adopt rabbits out in social groups not requiring much human interaction and develop options for easy maintenance.
    For the financially-challenged, we share tips on low-cost nutrition and health care.
    There are far more rabbits than homes and we have to ‘think outside the box’ to save them.