What’s the Difference Between an Animal Shelter and Animal Rescue?

What’s the Difference Between an Animal Shelter and Animal Rescue?

Are you on the search for a new furry friend? If you’re ready to adopt an animal in need, you have to consider an animal shelter vs. animal rescue.

Adopting a pet is a big decision. Where will you adopt? Keep reading to learn all about the differences (and similarities) between these two options.

What Is an Animal Shelter?

Animal shelters are physical locations that the government funds to take in homeless animals. Shelters house animals in kennels so they’re safe from the elements, and potential adopters can come in and view them.

Shelters rely on government funding, donations, and volunteers.

What Is an Animal Rescue?

Animal rescues are similar to animal shelters in that they protect unhoused animals. However, they’re volunteer-run and supported because they don’t get government funding.

Instead of public buildings with kennels, rescues run out of private homes. They may or may not use foster “parents” to take care of pets until they can find a suitable adopter.

The Process

When you adopt from an animal shelter, the process is fairly straightforward.

All shelters are different. Some operate like pet stores where you pick an animal and walk away with it the same day. Many, though, require a background check to make sure that you’re a suitable owner.

They may ask about any other pets that you have in the home and (if applicable) ask you to bring them into the shelter before taking your new pet with you.

You will also have to pay a small adoption fee, and the shelter will spay or neuter your pet before you leave (if it’s old enough).

Adopting from a rescue is often more difficult, but for good reasons.

Rescues sometimes require that you and your potential pet spend some time together before committing to adopting them. Unfortunately, this may mean that you become their new foster parent.

Rescues often bond with their animals, so they’re more selective when it comes to the people who are adopting them.


For animal shelters and rescues, the top benefit of adopting an animal is that you’re saving the animal. You’re giving it a second chance at life, and you’re not supporting harmful breeders.

The cost of adopting animals is often lower than the cost of buying an animal from a breeder or pet store.

One of the benefits of adopting from a rescue is that the animals are already socialized. They’ve bonded with their foster parents.

When it comes to shelter animals, you can forge a new bond, and you aren’t taking a pet away from a home they may have become too attached to. While fosters are meant to adopt, foster parents want them to go to loving homes.


The only true disadvantages to adopting an animal are minor. Homeless animals may have trust or behavior issues that bought animals don’t have. You also won’t likely be able to get a purebred animal if that’s important to you.

Organizations We Support

While this isn’t an adoption-centric rescue, we support the Purple Paw Program. This program fosters pets short-term when their owners are escaping domestic violence situations.

When domestic violence survivors need to leave their homes, they often also have to leave their pets. With the Purple Paw program, this isn’t an issue. Check out the other organizations that we support today.

Animal Shelter vs. Animal Rescue: Both Are Valuable

When deciding between an animal shelter vs. animal rescue, they’re both great organizations that rescue pets who need new homes or temporary housing.

If you’re a future adopter, we recommend adopting a pet in need rather than one from a breeder. You’ll be glad that you did.

If you want to help us fund our partners while also getting a hot cup of coffee, why not check out our delicious coffee beans? You’ll do a great thing for your breakfast brew and animals in need.

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