How Animal Rescue Works


This page explains how the many different elements of the animal rescue community work together to save innocent lives

There are numerous hurdles an abandoned animal has to get over in order for its life to be saved. If it falls at any one of these hurdles, it will sadly lose its life.

However, if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of many different people involved in animal rescue, many, many more innocent animals would die. If you do things to help, you are part of that massive effort.

animal rescue paw


The Pound: The Dog Pound And Cat Pound/Municipal Shelter

An abandoned animal’s journey can often begin when they are brought into the Pound, either by an owner, or by an animal control officer who has found it as a stray.

The animal pound can be a dog pound or a cat pound, or both. It can also be called a municipal shelter and is controlled by the local authority.

It can be a purpose built structure owned and run by the local authority, or it can be a privately owned commercial kennels or cattery that the local authority have awarded their contract to.

Stray cats or dogs must be collected by the council dog warden, also called an animal control officer. They must take the animal to the pound. If the owner is looking for their pet, they would contact the pound to see if it had been taken there.

In the UK, the local authority will pay for the animals to have one week to either be claimed by their owner, or to find a rescue space, before they are put to sleep. In some US states, they have as little as 72 hours. They are put down to make room for the constant influx of animals arriving.

Although a small number of animals are claimed from the pound by their owners (who have to pay a fee), most are not.

Animals in these pounds have no chance of finding rescue spaces without the help of “pound pullers” (see section below for more information).

Animals in pounds and local authority/municipal shelters have only a very small window of opportunity for volunteer “Pound Pullers”, or pound pulling organisations or charities, to try to find available rescue spaces for them, before they are put to death.

Not only does the pound get stray animals brought in to them by the animal warden or members of the public, but people give their own pets up at pounds too.

A small number of animal pounds allow the public to adopt a pet straight from them, but more often, they insist that animals must find a rescue space with an animal rescue, so they can be properly assessed by then before being re-homed.

Emergency boarding EB

Return To Table Of Contents

Pound Pullers

The pound pullers are compassionate volunteers who, either on their own, or as part of a pound pulling organisations, do the heart breaking task of going into animal pounds and getting photos and details of the pets soon to be put to death.

They then publicise the animals everywhere they can, asking people to do the same on social media sites like Facebook. They also contact numerous animal rescues, all in a desperate last minute attempt to find an available rescue space at an animal rescue anywhere in the country.

Pound puller

Pound pullers do not usually have their own premises, but with donations from the public, they can pay for the animal to be put in Emergency Boarding. This is essential for when the animal is offered a rescue space that is not available until after their time is up at the pound. It can also give the animal longer to find a rescue space. However, many pounds do not allow animals without a rescue space offer to be put into EB, which sadly means they are put to sleep when their time at the pound is up. 

Unfortunately, many pound animals do not have the life line of a pound puller working with their pound, and so have virtually no chance of having their life saved.

The work of a pound puller can be heart breaking, but is also hugely rewarding.

sad pound dog

Return To Table Of Contents


I mentioned above that pound pullers ask on Facebook and other social media sites for people to share the details of the pound animals they post. This is called “Cross Posting”.

Cross posters are people on social media websites, such as Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram, who have online friends interested in animals and animal rescue. These people share the details of the animals the pound puller is trying to save, and the more people who cross post, the higher the chance a rescue space will be found to save the animal’s life. If an animal is not cross posted by many people, the chance that they will find a rescue space is much diminished.

Even if a person does not have friends on social media that are interested in animals or animal rescue, they can still cross post by posting the animals details in  groups and on pages that are related to animal rescue and finding pound pets rescue spaces.

It is important that people sharing the post share the ORIGINAL post, by clicking on the image in the post they see. The post that then appears is the one that needs to be shared.

Image: A post on social media to be shared, or “cross-posted” to help the dog find a life saving rescue space before her time is up in the pound.

Pound puller social media post

Return To Table Of Contents

Emergency Boarding

Sometimes animals get the offer of a rescue space, but it is not available until after their time has run out at the pound. With the help of donations from the public, they can be put in emergency boarding by pound pullers. Emergency boarding is also sometimes used to give the animal longer to find a rescue space, but many pounds will not allow pets to go into emergency boarding without a rescue space offer. This sadly means the pets are put to sleep at the pound.

Pound pullers and pound pulling organisations, who try to help pound animals find rescue spaces, often set up rescue funds for each animal that the public can donate to.

People can often choose to donate to help a particular animal, or they can opt for their donation to be used to help the animal who most urgently needs it at the time.

Pound pullers do not usually have their own premises and emergency boarding is usually in commercial boarding kennels.

If a rescue space has been found, anything left in the rescue fund after emergency boarding costs can go towards the other rescue costs, including vaccinations, neutering, worming, and other necessary veterinary checks and treatment.

If the animal is lucky enough to be found a rescue space, a way has to be found to get the animal to it, and it may be hundreds of miles away.

Image: Without pound pullers, emergency boarding, public donations, rescue space offers, and many more elements of animal rescue, many more abandoned  animals would be put to death in local authority pounds.

local authority dog pound

Return To Table Of Contents

Volunteer Animal Transporter

On social media sites, such as Facebook, there are volunteer animal transporter groups.

They try to organise for the animal to be transported, often hundreds of miles, to the rescue which has a space.

These Volunteer Animal Transporting groups on social media sites are always in desperate need of volunteers, even just to drive an hour or so of the journey near where they live. They need people who live anywhere and everywhere in order to get the animal to the rescue space. If the animal cannot be transported to the rescue space quickly, the space will be offered to one of the many other animals also needing it to save their lives.

These volunteers use their own vehicles, and quite often receive no petrol money towards their journey. They tend to do it through the love of animals and wanting to save their lives.

Image: A dog being transported by car by a volunteer. Many transporters are advised to use secure dog crates.

animal transporters

It normally takes a number of volunteers to form a complete chain for each journey, and if just one person cannot do their part of it for some reason, the whole journey falls apart. This happens regularly. Occasionally, there are volunteers so dedicated that they will drive a complete journey of hundreds of miles, just to make sure the animal gets to its rescue space.

If an animal successfully makes it into a rescue space at an animal rescue, it still is not safe unless the rescue has a clear policy never to put an animal down unless it has an untreatable terminal mental or physical condition which causes it suffering.

Rescue spaces in rescues with such a policy are the most highly prized and sought after.

Animal transporters may also be needed if somebody wishes to adopt an animal from a rescue that is not local to them. Animal transporters are keen to transport these animals too, as it means another rescue space is freed up.

Another task a volunteer animal transporter may undertake is to transport abandoned animals to the vet for health checks and treatment.

I myself have been involved in transporting animals from West Cumbria to Penrith, and the other way around. When I transported one dog from Penrith to my home for me to foster, I was part of a chain that transported the dog, Monty, all the way from a pound in Kent. The entire journey needed around 6 people to complete it.

Image: Monty, saved from death row at a dog pound


Monty was on the list to be put to death the following morning, but thanks to a pound puller, cross-posters, volunteer transporters, and Animal Concern for re-homing him, he has now been found a loving forever home locally.

It is not just animal transporters in road vehicles that are needed. Animal flight volunteers are needed to escort animals on planes. The animal rescue pays any fees.

If you are flying anywhere, contact the animal rescue or animal flight volunteer organisation with your itinerary details in plenty time, so they can arrange things.


Return To Table Of Contents

Animal Rescue Shelters

Some animal rescues that the animal may be transported to, can be called shelters, refuges, rescue & re-homing centres, sanctuaries, or a combination of those names.

Just to confuse things, local authority run pounds, which usually put animals to sleep after a set number of days, can often be called shelters too.

Animal Sanctuaries are usually where animals live out their lives, although they can also rescue and re-home animals.

Similarly, although they are not called a sanctuary, animal rescues can have permanent residents living out their lives there, when they cannot be re-homed.

The reasons they may not be able to be re-homed could be due to them being permanently affected by abuse or neglect that they have previously suffered, or because they have such complex medical needs.

Image: It can be somewhat confusing that there are many different names for animal rescues, that sometimes mean different things.

Different names for animal rescues

Some rescues in the UK bring over and re-home dogs and cats from other countries, where the public are not such animal lovers, and often attack and torture stray animals. This is where animal flight volunteers are needed. This is also true of USA animal rescues.

Some animal rescues take in specific animals, such as cats or dogs, whereas others will take in a number of different animal species. The most common rescues are for dogs and cats, but there are rescues for other kinds of pets.

There are also rescue and rehabilitation centres for wildlife, like Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue.

In addition to this, there are specialist rescues that only rescue specific breeds of dog. These cover most breeds in existence.

Some rescues have their own premises, but others depend entirely on animal fosterers, who are people who provide a rescue space by taking the animal into their own home. With fosterers, it is the rescue they are fostering for who pays all necessary costs.

Most animal rescues always need more fosterers, whether they have their own premises or not.

When a pound puller is urgently appealing for a rescue space for a pound dog or cat on social networking websites, a rescue space can include foster homes, as long as they have rescue back up. This can often be referred to as RBU for short, and means that the foster home has to have the backing of an animal rescue to pay any veterinary expenses, and in case anything goes wrong with the foster placement.

Volunteers are essential for the running of animal rescues. There are many different roles involved in volunteering for a local animal rescue, as well as like-minded friends to be made among the other volunteers. Without enough volunteers, rescues could not run at all.

Rescues are nearly always operating at a loss, so also essential to their survival are legacies kind supporters leave in their wills. Fundraisers are also essential.

Many people think animal rescues always have a “no kill” policy, where they will not destroy an animal unless it has a terminal untreatable physical or mental condition meaning it will suffer and have no quality of life. This is not true. Whether it is called an animal rescue, shelter, refuge or sanctuary, each has its own policy regarding destruction of animals in its care. Even the “no kill” policy or the “we never put a healthy dog down” policy is open to interpretation. For instance, how healthy does a dog have to be to be safe? If the animal has a condition that is treatable, is that animal still put down, because it is, at that moment, not considered healthy?

Some rescues may consider destroying what they see as “kennel blockers” which are animals that get constantly overlooked by adopters, and are taking up a rescue space with little hope of getting a home.

This may be because the pets are less desirable breeds that rescues are inundated by, or because they are old, have behavioural problems, or need medication or special care.

For instance, in this country, pounds and rescues are inundated with Staffordshire Bull Terrier types of dog.

These gentle and loving dogs have become the type of dog most frequently put to death.

It is estimated that about one of these dogs every hour is destroyed in the UK.

The pounds and rescues are so full of these dogs because so many irresponsible people are breeding them, thinking it’s an easy way to make money. Unfortunately a lot of irresponsible people also tend to buy this breed of puppy, and come to decide they are too much work for them.

The breed are also hard to re-home, because a minority of irresponsible owners have caused the breed to gain an undeserved bad reputation by of training them to be weapons. These cases get exposure in the media, and sadly the entire breed gets tarred with the same brush.

In truth, Staffordshire Bull Terrier type of dogs are some of the most gentle, loving, and tolerant dogs, who the Kennel Club say are one of the best breeds with children.

Rescue spaces at animal rescue centres that become available due to someone adopting or fostering a pet, get filled again more or less immediately.

Although there are always pound dogs or cats desperately needing these spaces, members of the public who no longer want their dog or cat are constantly taking up the spaces by taking them to rescues. 

People are usually under the illusion that by taking their pet to a “no kill” rescue, they are doing no harm. They seldom realise they are taking away a life-saving place from a pound animal, which is destroyed as a result. This is why foster homes, providing more life saving spaces, are so essential to rescues. 

Image: Distressed and traumatised dog in a rescue shelter. Giving a dog up can traumatise them, as they just want to be back with their owner.


Having said that, taking your pet to a responsible animal rescue is much better than trying to re-home it yourself, by advertising it Free to a Good Home, or for a low price.  This can have horrifying consequences for the animals, much more often than people realise.

Pets re-homed this way can often end up falling into the wrong hands, and can be tortured when used as bait dogs for dogs that have been trained to fight to the death to practice on. In other cases they can be sold and then passed on, ending up in abusive homes. They can be used solely as a breeding machine in terrible conditions to make money, or be subject to other terrible fates.

Instead, taking your pet to a responsible animal rescue to be re-homed means that this can be avoided, as proper checks are done on the adopters and they sign a legal agreement not to pass the pet on and to only ever return it to the rescue.

Return To Table Of Contents

Animal Foster Homes

When people foster animals through a rescue, it is the rescue who pays all necessary costs, such as necessary veterinary costs, food costs, bedding costs, or they will provide the necessary items needed such as food and bedding.

If you offer to foster for a rescue, they will send a home checker to check your home will be a safe and secure for the animal.

Some rescues prefer foster homes to be in the same area as the rescue, but some rescues look for fosterers all over the UK.

Fostered animals often show a more attractive side to themselves than when they are in enclosures at the animal rescue. This is because they feel happier and more secure.  This in turn helps them be re-homed more quickly, in comparison to if they are distressed in rescue kennels because of being given up by their owner.

Image: Fostering animals saves innocent lives. Source


Return To Table Of Contents

Home Checkers

Many animal rescues have volunteer home checkers in their local area. However, when somebody from outside the local area of a rescue wishes to adopt from them, the rescue can call on a volunteer home checkers group on social networking websites, such as Facebook.

The volunteers in these groups are based all over the country and are willing to do home checks in their local area, on behalf of non-local rescues. This includes doing home checks on people who wish to adopt from rescues in foreign countries.

A home check involves a home checker meeting the prospective adopters in their own homes, and going through a questionnaire sent to them by the rescue. The potential adopters may be asked to show I.D and show proof that they live at that address. Home checks are done simply to ensure the animal is going to a safe, loving and responsible home.

It is the rescue, and not the person who does the home check that decides whether the people are suitable for the pet they are interested in, although the rescue does ask for the checker’s impressions and opinion.

Home check volunteer groups are in need of volunteers anywhere and everywhere, as if there is nobody to do a home check on the potential adopters, the pet cannot be given a home there. This, of course, has a knock on effect meaning a rescue space that could have been made available, is not.

The pressure that the over-loaded animal rescue community is under is enormous. Sadly there are nowhere near enough rescue spaces to save all abandoned animals.

Not enough people are freeing up the rescue spaces by adopting pets, compared to the number of irresponsible people buying pets and then abandoning them when they become an inconvenience.

More information on being a home checker. 

Image: An example of a transport and home checker volunteer group people can join on Facebook.

Volunteer animal transporter

Return To Table Of Contents

Animal Adopters

Every time somebody adopts a pet, they open up a life saving rescue space that many animals are absolutely desperate for. They need them before their time at the pound is up and they get put to sleep.

In fact, they save two lives: the animal they adopt, AND the animal who gets the life saving rescue space they made available by adopting.

More adopters are needed, because there are far more animals needing the rescue spaces, than there are rescue spaces. Sadly, the animals who are not lucky enough to find a rescue space are put to sleep.

Image: Oscar was one of many dogs seized from NFL player, Michael Vick, in 2008, after he subjected them to horrific abuse related to dog fighting.  Rachel Johnson, who adopted Oscar, shares the story of his recovery, hereSource


Each person who buys a puppy from a pet shop or breeder instead of adopting means that life saving rescue space that could have saved a dogs life, doesn’t. Buying puppies and kittens also encourages more breeding for money (when there are already so many homeless animals needing their lives saved). That results in more abandoned animals, and more innocent pets being put to death feeling frightened, unloved and alone.

Return To Table Of Contents

So Many More!

There are so many more people involved in making sure all these elements are able to keep functioning, some of which are shown on the animal volunteer page.

If you would like to help be part of the big animal rescue family, have a look to see if you would be interested in any of the volunteer roles.

Return To Table Of Contents

What Can I Do To Help?

There is a huge problem of animals being put to death because they are abandoned by owners who did not realise the work and sacrifices involved in owning a pet, and because too many people buy and breed new pets instead of adopting abandoned animals.

You can help by raising awareness of animal adoption, and of the issue of pet abandonment and bad breeders, by sharing the information from this site on social media. Making sure people become aware of these issues will be instrumental in helping to stop animal suffering.

Join groups on social media where people sell animals. Report posts that are selling pets, if it is against the policy of the social media site to do so.

Respectfully let people selling pets – especially for a low price or giving them away free – know about the dangers of doing so. Encourage them to re-home their pet through a reputable rescue, as they do thorough checks and have legally binding contracts that the pet may not be passed on.

With people who post saying they are looking for a puppy or kitten, respectfully encourage them to adopt from a rescue. Let them know they can find rescues in their area on this page, and that there are general rescues, rescues for small breeds only, large breeds only, and rescues for specific breeds only. Many people do not realise that nearly every breed has rescues dedicated to only them.

Let them know that they will be saving a life, and that the rescue space they make available by adopting a pet will save the life of a pound pet who would otherwise be put to death when their short period of time is up at the local authority animal pound.

There are not enough life saving spaces for all the dogs and cats who need them, so every adoption means another pet has avoided being put to death feeling lonely, unwanted and unloved.

If you cannot help stop the deaths of innocent pets by adopting, fostering or sponsoring, you can help by cross-posting pets looking for rescue spaces (see the cross-posting page for details of what to do). Animal rescues are also usually in need of volunteers to help in a variety of roles.

Another way of helping save their lives, if you can afford to spare any money, is to donate at this website:
Pounds For Poundies

Even a small donation could mean the difference between an abandoned pet being saved or put to death. Even just the price of a cup of coffee at a cafe, or a bottle of fizzy pop. The animals on the site also need cross posted.

Image: Report Animal Cruelty to the Police! Source



Return To Table Of Contents

There Are Many Ways You Can Help Stop Animal Cruelty

This website lets you know of many more ways to help stop animal cruelty, and there are ways  that will suit everyone, no matter what their personality. Share these ways with other people, on social media for example, to get more people helping.

Educating people about the cruelty that goes on is another way to help, so share the information on this website on social media. You can find this information in the Types Of Animal Cruelty section of this site. Viewing it will allow you to broaden your knowledge of many different types of animal abuse that happens in the world.

Another way of raising awareness of animal cruelty issues is by educating people with what you wear.

502864306ues18 copy

Return To Table Of Contents