The Difference Between Shelters and Rescues

contributed by April Peiffer

In our July issue, we looked at the distinctions between shelters and pounds. This month we look at the services and benefits of fosters and rescues. 

Shelters rely on the support of the community in myriad ways; volunteers, fosters, donations, and more. They also rely on rescues to assist them in managing the number of dogs and cats in their care. When the shelter fills up, they may ask rescues to step in to help make space. There are breed-specific rescues who focus on one type of dog (or cat) and general rescues that will take in any kind, so long as they have a place for the animal to go and the capacity to provide care.


 Rescues are typically run by volunteers who foster the dogs (and cats) they take in. They rely on those fosters to do the day-to-day care of the dogs, and the organization takes care of the financial side of things for veterinary care and routine vaccinations, spay/neuter, and microchipping. Fosters often advocate for the pets in their homes, getting great photos or videos, gathering information about the dog’s character. They get accustomed to the doggos’ likes and dislikes, quirks and cute behaviors, and what each knows training-wise, or doesn’t yet know. This is extremely valuable information for a rescue or a shelter to have so they can help place the dog in a loving new home that most suits its needs.

Once a rescue takes a dog in, that dog will always have a place with the rescue should it ever need a safe place again. This is the crowning effort of rescues’ assistance to shelters. If a dog becomes lost, is brought to the shelter, and they discover it has been a part of a rescue group, the rescue group will be contacted to come and get the dog again. This benefits the dog because it will not have to spend a lot of time in the shelter, and it benefits the shelter because they have a space open for the next pet in need. 

Shelters around the country rely on rescues in these ways, and they are very grateful for the support they receive from them. When you adopt a pet, either from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter or from a rescue, you are helping two pets—the one you have adopted and the one who gets to move into that newly-opened space.