In past columns, I’ve recommended that people who are looking for a purebred dog call rescue groups. These rescue agencies are organizations or individuals who provide temporary care and placement for animals abandoned or relinquished by their owners. People from these groups often take dogs from shelters and put them into foster care until a new home can be found. So by adopting a dog through rescue, you can save a life and do your part to help reduce the number of unwanted animals. Many rescue agencies work with just one particular breed because of their love of the breed and can be a great source of information about the breed.
However, although rescues may sound like a great option if you’re looking for a breed of dog, you should know that not all "rescues" are legitimate. The darker side of rescue is that not all groups who claim to be "rescuing" animals out of shelters really are. Many so-called rescue groups are just fronts for puppy mills, backyard breeders, or worse. Instead of paying big money for purebred dogs, these "rescues" just pluck them out of shelters for $30 or $40. So instead of saving animals, they are contributing to pet overpopulation by breeding even more animals to make a quick buck. Many shelters won’t deal with rescues at all for this reason.
If you are thinking of getting a dog through rescue, ask a LOT of questions of the rescue group. If any animals on their premises aren’t spayed or neutered, ask why. Look around the facility. If it looks (or smells) like a puppy mill, it probably is. Dogs that have been kept in inhumane conditions can be emotionally scarred for life. Be very suspicious and if you get a bad feeling from the person or their facility, find a different rescue.
Doing the research is worth it. Legitimate rescues often have expert-level knowledge of a breed and can provide the veterinary care, training, socialization, screening, and information necessary to make successful placements.