Shelter vs. Pound – What’s the Difference? - Vittles Vault

Shelter vs pound? what's the difference?

The question of shelter vs pound came up during a meeting.

November is "adopt a senior dog" month, and as a company, we were discussing ways to help our employees adopt a dog, cat, or any other pet needing a home. 

The question arose, "what is the difference between a shelter, a rescue, and a pound? Is it better to adopt a pet from one facility instead of the other?"


Curious, we decided to find out:


An animal rescue is usually a group of animal-loving volunteers. They accept overflow from pounds and shelters. They may also take on surrenders from pet owners, or at least post a courtesy listing on their websites. 

Depending on the size and sophistication of a rescue group, the animals may remain at volunteers' homes as foster animals. This is particularly beneficial because it allows a prospective new pet parent to get information from the foster about the animal's health, disposition, adaptability and energy levels prior to taking on the pet parent commitment.



Animals have been in a home environment,

so they tend to adjust better.

Since the rescue is run by volunteers, they can

get quite busy, and they may be less responsive.​


An animal shelter is a privately owned charity. They range in size dramatically and some have quite sophisticated operations with marketing teams that coordinate telethons, dog surf-a-thons, fashion shows, adoption events and more. 

The Humane Society is a well-known shelter organization with branches in most cities and towns. Each community also tends to have multiple shelters to visit. 



Animals have been thoroughly assessed for

health and temperament prior to adoption.

These organizations can be quite busy and may

not follow up with you after adoption to ensure a

good fit.​

Kill Shelters vs. No Kill Shelters

Sadly, not all shelters are able to house an animal indefinitely. "Kill shelters" will accommodate an animal for a certain number of days, and if their grace period runs out (and there's no space), they are humanely euthanized. Sickly and diseased animals are usually euthanized immediately.

There is some debate about whether a no-kill shelter is better than a kill shelter. No-kill shelters have been known to only take in animals that can readily be adopted, meaning no difficult animals, senior pets or animals with a treatable illness. ​

This topic is unimaginably sad. Let's hope for a world when 100% of pet owners act responsibly. Then perhaps there would be no more need for animal shelters and rescue groups.​  ❤️


It's hard to have a discussion about pounds without having a tissue handy. 

Animals end up in pounds if they're seized by rangers or found wandering in the community. By law, the animals must be held for several days in case their rightful owners show up to claim them.

If no one claims the animal, a rescue group may pick him or her up for rehoming. If that doesn't happen, sadly (get the tissue), the animal is euthanized. 

Pounds are indeed open to the public for adoption, but adopting from the pound can be risky since the animals have not been thoroughly screened.



Save an innocent animal from being euthanized.

You don't know what you're going to get in terms

of health or temperament.​

So, what's the right choice?

The best place for you to adopt a pet will be purely based on you, your lifestyle and your preferences. If you have young children at home, you may want to skip the pound and find a rescue group that can give you a guaranteed kid-friendly pet.

If you can't bear the thought of an innocent dog or cat being euthanized, then take a trip to the pound and see if there's a good  match for you. It may be tempting to rescue them all! 

And why is it called a "Pound" anyway?

Popular belief is that it is shorthand for "impounded." However, the true origin dates back centuries. Technically, it's from the Old English word, "pund," which meant enclosure. It was the name of the place where they kept cattle.

Hopefully this answers the question that was on your mind.

Do you have any other questions you'd like to discuss? Comment below and we'll talk.​

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About the Author

Jamaica Winship is Vice President of Business Development at GAMMA2, Inc. She loves all animals, but especially her Australian Shepherd, Chucko.

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