How to Find a Quality Dog or Cat Rescue in Wilmington, DE
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Before you decide to adopt a cat or a dog from a rescue or shelter in the Wilmington, DE area, be sure to thoroughly research the organization. This first step in the pet adoption process can make a crucial difference in the successful rehoming of a cat or dog.
So, you are ready to adopt a dog or cat. Where should you begin?
In our tech savvy world, you might think to start on Google or a pet rescue website or by randomly walking into a local animal shelter. We advise a different approach:
Before you walk into a shelter or fill out a rescue’s online application, gather information and recommendations from key people experienced with the rescue process. This includes veterinarians, neighbors, and friends/family.
How to Research Pet Rescues & Shelters
Sure, you will use a Google search to identify rescues and shelters that are in your local area. As you do so, you’ll be surprised to find out that most rescues don’t have a centralized holding area for rescue animals. Instead, they use a foster system of volunteers who home dogs in their personal residence so you can’t walk-in without an appointment. Also, all rescues have an application process that can take a while to get through (discussed below). Before you apply to adopt a dog or cat that you have only seen a photo of on a website, research the rescue using the steps below.
Talk to a Vet about Pet Rescues/Shelters
Veterinarians are usually familiar with local animal rescues and shelters. They will be able to give general recommendations about favorable rescue experiences their patients have had. Some vets serve as medical advisors to shelters and rescues, so they are very familiar with the care of the animals. Also, talk to veterinary staff. Many volunteer at rescues or have rescued pets and can speak from their experience.
Talk to People Who Have Rescued Before
If your neighborhood has a page on Facebook, you can post a request for people to comment about rescues they’ve used in Wilmington and surrounding areas. Give people the option to private message you as they may not want to publicly share their experience, especially if it was not a good one.
Also, social networks on various media channels are dedicated to rescuing certain breeds, supporting rescues and shelters in different geographic locations, and so on. A little social networking within these groups is a great way to learn about reputable rescues.
Online Research for Pet Adoption
From humane societies to the ASPCA to animal control shelters and privately owned rescues, a Google search for Wilmington, DE animal rescues generates a long list! You’ll also see results such as the “10 Best Rescues in XYZ City.” (Ask yourself, “ten best according to whom?” ) You can also use specific criterion in a Google search:
by breed (American Eskimo Dog Rescue)
by purpose (retired service, police or military dog rescues)
your local chapter of the Humane Society or SPCA
By Pet Search Service (Pet Finder, etc.)
Once you have a list of reputable rescues or shelters that you’d to like inquire with or visit -- or, if you happen to have already applied to adopt a cat or dog from an organization that you know little about--it's time to prepare questions to help you learn as much as possible about the animal and the organization. The tips below will help.
How to Get the Inside Scoop on an Animal Rescue or Shelter
1. Study the website. Go through the rescue or shelter's website thoroughly! You want to get a sense of the types of animals they handle. For example:
When it comes to dogs, some rescues specialize in “worst case” — dogs that have been saved from harsh or dangerous circumstances such as abandonment, abuse or neglect, injury, or illness. Most rescues also acquire dogs from puppy mills where they are no longer wanted as a “producer.” They will likely have dogs from all over the country.
For cats, rescues may specialize in felines that were removed from hoarding situations or over-breeding circumstances. Many cats were strays brought in by rescues, so their histories will be sketchy, at best.
2. Visit the Rescue/Shelter
Shelters will have visiting hours where you can walk-in or schedule an appointment. Some may require an application prior--this information will be noted on the website. When a rescue uses a foster system, they won’t have a physical facility for you to visit at random. You won’t be able to visit animals in foster care unless you have filled out an application for a specific dog or cat and have been selected as a good fit for that animal. (“Good Fit” is based upon the information you put down on the application, discussed in the last section of this post).
When visiting, notice the conditions in which the cat or dog is being kept. Is the home or space clean? Are the animals exercised daily? What is the feeding schedule? Bathing?
Key Questions to Ask a Potential Animal Rescue or Shelter
How Does the Rescue Prep an Animal for Adoption?
This is one of the most important questions to ask. Some rescues do a great job with preparing a rescued animal for adoption. They utilize a foster network to assess the animal’s personality, correct problem behavior, and housetrain before posting a dog for adoption. Others move dogs through the “rescue to adoption” process rather quickly, only addressing basic needs and care of existing illness or injury.
The questions listed below may be answered on the organization's website FAQ and About pages. So be sure to read check there and prepare questions to follow-up on anything that is not clear to you!
How long has the rescue been in operation?
What is your percentage of successful adoptions (dogs not returned to them)?
Do you specialize in certain types of situations that the animals have been through?
What kind of training do the fosters receive?
After acquiring a dog, what is the evaluation process before making a dog available for adoption?
What is the animal eating and what is the feeding schedule?
How often are animals bathed?
How often do the animals receive medical assessment?
Do you spend time housebreaking the dog or teaching other obedience skills?
How do you assess if a dog is good with young children or other animals?
How long is your waitlist or waiting period ?
Are there any requirements you have of all potential adopters (ex, fenced yard)?
If you are interested in a specific dog, ask what they know of its history.
Animal rescues are evaluating your fit for ownership for any dog in their care because they want the adoption to be a success for you and especially for the dog.
Carefully Complete the Pet Adoption Application
Every rescue requires potential adopters to complete a lengthy application. Some will even have you place an application only when you’ve identified a dog or cat that you’re interested in adopting.
Tips for filling out the adoption application:
Read the instructions carefully.
Answer questions honestly and completely. If you had a pet in the past that you had to give-up, explain the circumstances. You’d be surprised how easily you can be found in a database if you’ve had to release a pet to a shelter or other agency.
Be specific about your requirements. If you know you don’t want a large breed or have a weight limit, state this information in the application.
Don’t omit references. If they ask for three references, list three or provide a reason why you are not able to do so.
What to Do Once You’re Matched to Rescue Animal to Adopt
It’s an exciting moment when a rescue calls to say they think you may be a great match for a cat or dog you’ve expressed interest in, or another animal that just came into their care.
A few things to ask once you’ve been matched to an adoptable dog:
What do you (the rescue) know about the animal’s history?
How has the dog done in foster care decompression and observation?
What is the dog’s current routine and diet?
If special needs (medical or behavioral) are noted for the animal, gather as much information about these needs as possible--what are you responsible for after adoption? What will the rescue continue to cover post-adoption?
Inquire about the animal’s history of biting incidents, interaction with children, resource guarding, and agreeableness with other animals. Even if this information is described on the animal’s profile, inquire for more detail and for clarification.
Usually, these questions have to be answered by the foster. You will be asked to meet the dog at a foster’s home. If you aren’t comfortable with that, especially during the recent pandemic, request a neutral meeting place that is equal travel distance for each of you. Plan to spend at least an hour, longer if possible, with the dog.
Adopting a dog or a cat can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved. While the rescue agency’s job is to do their very best preparing the dog for a new home and family, by doing your own prep work before you adopt a rescue animal, you are helping ensure the happiness and safety of both your loved ones and your new pet.
Friends of Weather or Not and Kitten Sittin’ of Delaware
The staff at Weather or Not/ Kitten Sittin’ of Delaware has had the opportunity to work with many rescues and shelters in our region. The organizations listed below we have had the most experience with and many of our clients have rescued a dog or cat through these networks. We encourage you to do your own research to see if one of these is also a good fit for you.
Faithful Friends Animal Society Faithful Friends Animal Society was born out of a moral imperative to expose the mass killing of cats and dogs entering Delaware’s publicly funded shelters. For two decades, our advocacy has vastly improved outcomes for shelter animals, saving thousands of easily adoptable, trainable, and treatable pets from certain death.
Renee's Rescue of Delaware Renee's Rescues is a non-profit, dog rescue, specializing in the rescue and care of dogs and puppies saved from puppy mills. We are based out of Delaware, but we support rescue efforts across several states, with a particular focus in Lancaster, PA.
Philly Bully Team is a foster-based rescue that pulls “time-stamped” dogs (slated for euthanization) from kill shelters and provides any kind of medical and behavioral aftercare the dogs may need. They assess the dog’s temperament and personality within the foster home and work diligently to place these discarded dogs into loving and compatible forever homes. Their focus is on the pit bull/ bull- mix breed. They have been in operation for over 10 years.
Does your new pet need walking or home visit services while you are away from home? Whether for the day or for a week, no matter the weather, we're here for you! Contact us about dog walking and cat sitting services, today: (302) 304-8399