Labrador Rescue Organizations
What if you want a Lab, but you like the idea of giving a home to a dog in need? A Labrador rescue group can give you the best of both worlds. The Labrador Retriever Club supports rescue efforts by maintaining a list of people nationwide who help place lost or abandoned Labradors.
What You'll Find from Rescue Groups
As with the Labs found in shelters, these are usually dogs six months or older. In most cases, before they're placed, they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, checked for heartworm disease, and tattooed or microchipped. Sometimes the Labs in rescue have behavior problems — such as fence jumping, digging, or barking — but the rescue group can help you find training to resolve the problem. Labs adopted from breed rescue groups usually go on to become wonderful family companions.
Breed Rescue Advantages and Drawbacks
Adoption from a Labrador rescue group has several advantages. Generally, people involved in breed rescue are committed to the welfare of the Labs they work with and try hard to match people with the right dog. They follow up with new owners after the adoption, offering advice and counseling as needed.
Before you decide that breed rescue sounds like an inexpensive way to get a Lab, be aware of the disadvantages. Puppies are rarely available through breed rescue groups. This is true even with popular breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers. People whose Labs have puppies usually know that an ad in the newspaper will sell the puppies.
The Labrador Retriever Club maintains a national emergency fund to help care for Labs that are abandoned in multiple numbers after the shutdown of a puppy mill or that need help in the event of a natural disaster, such as a flood or tornado. It helps pay for immediate care needs, such as vaccinations, health checks, or short-term boarding.
Be aware, too, that the heritage of a puppy or dog adopted through a breed rescue group is rarely known — and if it is, it's usually not of very high quality. Generally speaking, the people who surrender a Lab to a rescue program are not the people who have carefully selected a breeder. Furthermore, you don't have the advantage of being able to see the health clearances on the parents. Severe hip dysplasia or other congenital or hereditary problems may not appear for some time.
Finding a Breed Rescue Group
To find a Labrador rescue group in your area, contact the Labrador Retriever Club (as listed in Appendix A). You can also go to your favorite search engine and type in “Labrador breed rescue and [your state].” When you find a Lab rescue group, ask for literature on the program, such as a brochure or newsletter. Take a look at the adoption contract; it should state that the program will accept the return of the dog for any reason if you are unable to keep it. Another requirement should be that all dogs placed are spayed or neutered first, with exceptions only for age or medical conditions.
The Breed Rescue Process
Adopting from a breed-rescue group isn't as simple as going in, picking the dog you want, and writing a check for it. Like reputable breeders, breed rescue volunteers are interested in what you bring to a dog's life and care. They want to place each dog in the best possible home, and this requires a period of evaluation that takes time. The wait is influenced by the number of dogs available and the number of other equally or sometimes more suitable applicants.
Rescue programs vary in what they require for adoption. Some insist on a fenced yard (often with prohibitions on electronic fences), as well as an appreciation of the amount of exercise a Lab needs. All look for a realistic lifestyle for good dog care. Expect to be asked whether you have time for a dog, which is understandable when you consider that a major reason Labs are surrendered to rescue programs is a lack of time to care for and exercise the dog properly.
You'll be asked to fill out an application first. Most groups require and check references, ideally from a veterinarian and a trainer. Many groups also schedule home visits, so they can evaluate the environment where the Lab will be living, as well as your experience with and readiness for a Lab. Adoption fees usually range from $150 to $300. That's a pretty good deal, considering what you get: a spayed or neutered dog with current vaccinations and a health check.
Truthfully provide all the information requested by the rescue group about yourself and your home. Be willing to permit the home visit, and don't be offended by what may seem to be personal questions. Just as you want a good Lab, the rescue group wants good homes for its dogs.