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A rescue dog is a dog that is rescued from a possible euthanasia after being found as a stray, a dog that has been saved from an abusive or neglectful home by an animal rescue organisation such as the RSPCA in the UK or the ASPCA in the USA, or a dog that is simply no longer wanted or can no longer be cared for by its owner.
The majority of dogs that arrive in rescue centres are between 6 months and 3 years of age and weigh more than fifty pounds. Any breed of dog can arrive in a rescue centre though some breeds are more prevalent than others. In the UK, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or Bull Terrier crossbreeds make up a large proportion of all dogs in rescue simply because of their popularity amongst the population in general. Labelling a breed as aggressive makes those dogs more difficult to rehome. Many rescue dogs are rehomed quickly, but some wait longer for a home. This may be particularly true when the rescue dog is older. Some agencies provide ongoing health care and support for older dogs after they have been placed. There are several charities dedicated to rescuing and rehoming older dogs.
A study conducted by the United States National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), 1998, found that the main reasons for pets being relinquished are: family moving, landlord will not allow pets, too many animals in household, cost of keeping the pet, owner is having personal problems, inadequate facilities, and no homes available for puppies. The study found that 47.7% of dogs turned in to shelters were not altered (spayed or neutered), 33% had not been to a veterinarian, and 96% of dogs had no obedience training. The conclusion of the researchers was that the owners who were relinquishing their pets did not have the knowledge to be responsible dog owners, and that educational programs aimed at present and prospective owners would reduce the number of dogs relinquished to animal shelters.