Last updated: 28 Oct, 2020
Published on: 18 Jul, 2012
What’s the difference between a pound, shelter and rescue?
Here's a quick summary of your options, to help you understand the different types of organisations involved in rescuing and rehoming pets.
Rescue, breed rescue or foster care groups
Rescue groups that call themselves ‘breed rescue’ or ‘foster care groups’ are generally a collaboration of animal-loving volunteers working in their community to provide a safety net for rescue pets. Some have kennels, but often (particularly in the case of foster care groups) these people care for the pets their own homes. They take in pets from pounds and shelters, and sometimes accept surrenders direct from the public. Breed rescue groups specialise in particular breeds and are often part of a pure-breed fanciers club. As these groups are essentially volunteers, you may find that they’re not always available to take your call or respond quickly to your email. You may need to make an appointment in advance to meet a pet, at a time that suits both you and the foster carer.
Not-for-profit animal shelters
Shelters sometimes take stray animals on behalf of local councils, but generally they are privately owned charities run by animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League. Shelters have kennelling facilities to hold pets and can be very large (200+ kennels) or quite small (<10 kennels). Some accept surrenders from the public, but they often have waiting lists due to space constraints. Shelters are a good place to search for a pet, as they generally assess the animal’s health and temperament before rehoming to ensure they are fit to join a family. They also allow you to meet a number of potential pet matches in one convenient location (check shelter opening hours before planning your visit).
Council-run pounds and shelters
A pound is a council facility that holds pets found wandering in the community, seized by rangers, or surrendered by the public. Council pounds may offer adoption direct from their facility, or they may work with private animal shelters or rescue group to rehome pets in their care. Check council pound opening hours before planning your visit, as they can be limited. Screening for health or temperament issues may vary from pound to pound. Adoption processes tend to be quite straightforward.
Our best advice to you
At the end of the day, it may not matter which type or organisation you adopt from - your other furry half could be waiting in any one of these different types of organisations! But hopefully this information helps you understand some of the differences between rescue groups, shelters and pounds.