Want to start a dog rescue? Read these important tips

Image copyright DogSOS.co.uk

In the past I have occassionally been asked for advice on starting a dog rescue. Whilst I absolutely admit I have no first hand experience of running a rescue, I have been volunteering with rescues for a number of years and have learnt a lot about how they work.

To help other people considering starting a dog rescue, here’s a copy of my advice. This advice only scrapes the tip of the iceberg but it’s a good starting point.

Please feel free to add a comment below. I’ll be writing more articles about starting an animal rescue in the future as it’s a subject very close to my heart.

Query: Hi,
My dream is to open and run my own rescue centre for all bull terrier breeds. I was hoping, if it wasn’t too much to ask, if you could give me any advice or information on how I can get started and the things I’ll need to do to get my centre up and running.

Any information or help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon

Here’s my reply:


It’s great to hear you are interested in starting a rescue.

I don’t run a rescue but I’ve been volunteering with UK animal rescues for about 5 years now so I will give you my thoughts just based on my previous experiences. Apologies if they sound harsh at all, this is my honest advice to you:

Be SURE you want to do it. Running a rescue is a really big responsibility, not just to the animals that you have to give 100% care and attention to, it can also take over your life and your free time.

Scheduling holidays can be impossible, even having a sick day can be tough if you don’t have a good support team around you.

It’s a good idea to chat with some other dog rescues in your area to see if they could use your help or just to get advice on the situation in your area.

You should neuter/spay, vaccinate, microchip, worm & flea every dog – it might sound like overkill but this is the safest way to ensure the best health and safety of every dog. Take no chances!

Fundraising is a constant struggle. It can be hard to break even and you may end up funding some of the rescues costs out of your own pocket. If you get other people involved from the get go to help with fundraising and really work hard at it you can build a good financial ‘safety net’.

Would you house the dogs in kennels or in foster homes (or in your own home if only a small number of dogs)? All options have their advantages and disadvantages. Kennels are very expensive and will suck up your fundraising budget, but it’s a safe and comfortable place for the dogs (if using good kennels anyway), but you may get some dogs that hate it in kennels and start to display bad behaviour because of it.

Having your own premises is again very expensive and you will need the proper insurances and will probably need to be licensed by your local authority.

Foster homes can be a godsend, but there’s also always a level of risk placing a dog in to someone else’s home and all fosterers need to be checked out thoroughly. Then there’s the chance a fosterer will change the mind and need a dog out of their home quickly, which brings me to the next point…

Always, ALWAYS have a backup plan. If something goes wrong (and it will!) whether it’s when a dog is in a new home, on a transport run, in a fosterers home – always have a plan B to avoid as much as possible any distress for dogs in your care.

Prepare good paperwork – all new owners and fosterers should be made to sign a legally binding contract that states what they can and can’t do etc.

Be prepared to make hard decisions – there may come a time when dogs in your care are dangerously aggressive, unwell or elderly and you will have to make the decision to have the dog put to sleep.

I think that’s the majority of the main concerns, but there will be lots of other details I’ve not mentioned. I don’t aim to deter you from starting a rescue but I hope these points will make you think really carefully about it before deciding anything.

If you want to search for a rescue in your area here are some animal rescue directories: http://directory.rescuehelpersunite.co.uk/ or: http://www.rescuedirectory.co.uk/

Also, if not already registered, I highly recommend joining Rescue Helpers Unite, an online rescue community I help to run that works with rescues and volunteers in the UK.

What will you do next? Get involved and help save a life today!:

3 thoughts on “Want to start a dog rescue? Read these important tips

  1. hi
    to run a rescue without premises but relying on foster placements do you still need a license please

    • Hi Julie, sorry for the delayed reply. I do not believe you do not need any kind of license to run a foster home based rescue, many people do this (to varying degrees of success!). Hope that helps. If you are considering / have started a foster based rescue I would just recommend being very thorough when evaluating foster homes, have solid procedures and backup plans in place for when things go wrong (which they inevitably will at times unfortunately) and run the organisation as professionally as you would a full on kennel style rescue. Good luck!