Rescue / re-homing centres

There are some 16 million pet dogs and cats throughout the UK, the vast majority kept by responsible, loving owners. Regrettably however some 250,000 pets come into rescue centres each year and many would make ideal, loving family pets.

Are there any potential problems with rescue dogs?

Giving a home to a rescue dog can be an immensely rewarding experience, but may often need a bit of extra work. They are usually more than six months old, generally housetrained, and mainly past the ‘chewing-everything’stage. Most are normally happy to be placed in a loving home.

However, many have been precipitously uprooted from a loving family by some misfortune, and some have been abused or neglected and need lots of patience and care to help re-adjust them to “normal” life. Most rescue dogs have had at least one home and sometimes many.

They may come with behavioural ‘baggage’ and some problems due to the fact that they may have been rejected at least once. Some will have been in kennels or the rescue centre for some considerable time. This will have an effect on dogs, especially those that are normally used to family life and constant attention. The dog may have been put in a rescue centre because of behavioural problems, which could include toileting indoors, excessive barking, destructive tendencies etc.

The initial adjustment can be difficult as the dog may need to learn to trust again or even for the first time. Separation anxiety, fear of noises, and attempts to run away are common. But once past the first few months, when the dog learns to depend on the kindness of his new owners, then the bond is forged.

To reduce the risk of problems, you should acquire a rescue dog from an organisation or charity with high standards and who have made an assessment of the physical and mental health of the dog before offering it for adoption.

Where can I get a rescue dog from?

There are a large number of charities involved in re-homing dogs. These may have variable standards, so if you are considering taking on a rescue dog from this source we would strongly recommend you check out the Association of Cat and Dog Homes (ACDH) first. This group is described in more detail below, and more information can be found on

In addition, most registered breed societies have an associated rescue arm. A full list can be obtained from the Kennel Club on:

The Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) is partly sponsored by the regulated racing industry (as opposed to the non-regulated 'flapping' tracks) and partly by charitable fund raising. Most regulated race tracks have an RGT branch that works to re-home as many dogs as possible after their retirement from racing. The majority of these groups will only accept for homing dogs from the track. Find out more from their website:

What is the ADCH?

The ADCH promotes best practice in animal welfare for dogs and cats. The membership incorporates registered charities and not for profit organisations of all sizes and their priority is to ensure that rescue dogs and cats get the best possible chance of new loving and caring homes.
A full list of members is available on their website:

ACDH have produced a Code of Practice which aims to raise standards amongst animal rescue organisations that care for dogs and cats and thereby enhancing their public respect. It sets minimum standards of animal welfare and re-homing practices that have been agreed by its members. This code of practice is available on their website

What re-homing centre should I go to?

To have the best chance of finding a dog that will best suit your own family’s needs, you should visit a centre that complies with the ADCH re-homing code of practice. These are spread throughout the country and you can find the nearest ones to you by checking the list of members on their website



What does the re-homing process involve?

Each centre will have its own protocol and specific details may vary. However, the general theme will be similar as they should comply with the ADCH Code of Practice. As an example, the following is a summary of the Dogs Trust process.

  • Step 1: Questionnaire. You will be asked to complete a questionnaire about yourself. These forms are available at Dogs Trust centres and are kept on file for 6 months.
  • Step 2: Talk to staff at the centre. You can find out information about dogs on-line, but should visit the centres directly and talk to the staff.
  • Step 3: View the dogs. Visit the re-homing kennels and meet the dogs who are looking for new homes.
  • Step 4: Shortlist. The staff at the centre will help you make a shortlist of dogs that match your lifestyle.
  • Step 5: Meet the selected dog. Get to know the dog you would like to give a home. If you have a dog already, talk to staff about arranging a meeting between the dogs, too.
  • Step 6: Home visit. The staff of the centre will visit you to make sure that your home and garden are ready. Secure gardens are really important as some dogs can be real escape artists!
  • Step 7: Vet check. All dogs are vaccinated, neutered, micro-chipped, and checked by a Dogs Trust vet before being allowed home. Puppies that are too young to be neutered will be sent home with a voucher so it can be done later.
  • Step 8: Pre-adoption talk. Centre staff will discuss how best to make your new dog welcome in your home.
  • Step 9: Going Home. You can now take your new friend home, complete with a new lead and collar. You will also get four weeks' free pet insurance.
  • Step 10: Advice & support. The centre staff members are available to provide any support or advice about your new dog.

For more details about this check out the Dogs Trust website or the websites of the individual members of the ACDH which can be found on their website

There may be age restrictions about who is able to re-home dogs from particular centres. At the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, for example, you would need to be 18 years old or over to re-home a dog and 21 or over if this is a “bull” or “guarding” breed. They also stress that although each animal has a full behaviour and temperament assessment while at the Home, they cannot accept responsibility for its temperament once it has been re-homed. Find out more on

What about getting an old dog for an elderly person?

It's a sad fact that re-homing some elderly dogs can be a difficult process. Many potential dog owners can be reluctant to take on an older animal due to fears of increased demands on time and money.
Some branches of the RSPCA offer an Elderly Animal Re-homing Scheme (EARS), which aims to help alleviate these worries and pair older animals with appropriate new owners. In return for a small contribution of £5 per month, EARS offers owners a range of assurances, including:

  • Discounts on food and visits to the veterinarian
  • Help with transport
  • A 24-hour phone number to call in case of emergency

New owners under the scheme are given an ID card, which qualifies their pet for a range of benefits, including annual booster vaccinations, health checks, routine worming tablets and flea treatments.

EARS provides invaluable companionship for animals and owners, particularly for elderly people who may live alone or who have recently lost a loved one, and the scheme has received the backing of Help the Aged and Age Concern. Find out more on

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