Second Chance: Difference Between a Shelter and a Rescue!

Second Chance: Difference Between a Shelter and a Rescue!

Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been serving San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose Counties for 27 years. Call 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the emergency response, community medical, spay/neuter, volunteer, or other services.

View shelter pets and services online:

Second Chance veterinary clinic is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Call (970) 626-9713 or email

Donate here.

Go here for more options from Second Chance.

Go here for more on Dr. Shari DePauw of Second Chance. Veterinary services are available.

Last week’s Pet Column told the story of a group of dogs who needed to be removed from the property where they were living. There were over 30 and many of them were unsocialized and had health issues. The positive outcome for these dogs was made possible by cooperation between shelters and rescues across the state. In writing that, we wondered about the terms “shelter” and “rescue.” Aren’t they the same thing?

The words rescue, shelter, humane society, sanctuary, and animal care center are all commonly used in the names of both shelters and rescues. Maybe an easy way to explain: all shelters are rescues, but not all rescues are shelters. Kind of like, all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.

Shelters are typically funded by a government entity, usually a county or a city. Often they also need donations and fundraising for their work. Employees are city/county workers, and there are also volunteers who help out. Shelters are responsible for stray animal recovery, and abuse/neglect investigations, plus they re-home unwanted or homeless pets. Most of these city or county shelters do not have on-site veterinary care, but partner with local private vet clinics for spay/neuter, vaccines, and other medical needs. Shelters are licensed and inspected by the state.

A rescue is not as easy to define. Most rescues are nonprofits that rely on donations and fundraising to carry out their mission. Some rescues are staffed only by volunteers, while others have paid workers. Some are breed specific. Some only take one species of animal. Some have onsite vet clinics. Some have both shelter facilities and foster homes. Some only have foster homes. Some do not take in pets, but act as a matchmaking service for homeless animals and potential adopters. Some have resources to train and rehabilitate. Some rescues are called upon to investigate and respond to abuse, hoarding, or neglect cases. Not all rescues are licensed and inspected. That is an important differentiation to consider when donating to or adopting from an organization.

Should you adopt from an animal shelter or a rescue? The top benefit of adopting an animal is that you’re saving a life. You’re giving a pet a second chance and not supporting breeders. Adoption fees vary, but know the fees are not meant to profit the organization. They are designed to recover costs invested in that pet, from spaying/neutering to vaccinations to behavior evaluation and training.

In our area, we have an entire range of rescues and shelters. We at Second Chance are a shelter and rescue nonprofit with a license and inspections. We also have on-site vet care for our animals and the community. We work with both paid staff and volunteers and are often asked to respond to stray, abused, and neglected animals in our Tri-County service area.

The one common thread with all of the above is that we work for the animals. Whether it’s a municipal shelter, a breed rescue, or a full-service animal resource center, the goal is to care for and find homes for homeless pets.


My name is Traveler. That is because I used to be a stray. Then a nice young lady became my friend and realized that I am really a loving guy who just needed a chance. She brought me to the nice people at Second Chance where I’m waiting for my new family to come to meet me. I’m young, very handsome, friendly, and I get along with most other cats.

AND… To continue the Second Chance Highlights section, we want to share the following:

Sometimes They Come Back

We have several familiar faces back at the shelter. While we work to send pets to their forever homes when they are adopted, we also understand that sometimes it’s just not the right fit. The idea of a pet being able to stay with one family for a lifetime is wonderful, but life can be full of surprises.

Here at Second Chance, our policy is to take back our animals anytime for any reason. If things come up in life that mean someone is no longer able to care for the pet, we ask that they are returned to us rather than relinquished elsewhere. We can help to re-home the pet first and, if that is not possible, they are always welcomed back to the shelter.

This summer, we’ve had a few former residents return to us for a variety of reasons. We’re now working to find new (hopefully forever) homes for Mowgli, Sturgill, Traveler, and Coraline (formerly known as Chewy).

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.