A rescue group or rescue organization takes unwanted or abused pets and attempts to find new, caring homes for them. Most rescue groups are created by and run by volunteers, who take the animals into their homes and care for them—including training, loving, playing, handling medical issues, and solving behavior problems—until a suitable permanent home can be found.

Rescue groups exist for most types of pet—for example, rabbit rescue. For animals with many breed types, many rescue groups specialize in specific breeds or groups of breeds. For example, for dogs, there might be local Golden Retriever rescue groups, hunting dog rescue groups, large-dog rescue groups, as well as all-breed dog rescue groups.

Animal shelters often work closely with rescue groups, because shelters who have difficulty placing otherwise healthy and pet-worth animals would usually rather have the animal placed in a home than euthanized; while the shelters might run out of room, rescue groups can often find more volunteers with space in their homes for temporary placement.

In the UK, both shelter and rescue organisations are described using the blanket term 'rescue', whether they have their own premises, buy in accommodation from commercial kennels, or operate a network of foster homes.

Kennels that have a council contract to take in stray dogs are usually referred to as dog pounds. Some dog pounds also carry out rescue and rehoming work and are effectively rescue groups that operate a pound service. Some rescue groups work with pounds to move dogs to rescues. By law, a dog handed in as a stray to a UK pound must be held for 7 days before it can be rehomed or euthanized.

In the US, there are three classifications for pet rescue: A Municipal Shelter is a facility that houses stray and abandoned animals, as well as animals that people can no longer care for; a No-Kill Shelter is usually an organization with a physical location, such as a storefront or free-standing building, their policies are that no healthy, pet-worthy animal be euthanized; and Rescue Organizations typically operate through foster homes, they are also committed to No-Kill (no healthy, pet-worthy animal be euthanized).

Adopting through a rescue groupEdit

Most rescue groups have strict adoption procedures that can include completing an application to adopt, checking a veterinary reference, conducting a phone interview, and conducting a home visit. Rescues are all volunteer organizations and survive on donations. They charge an adoption donation, which may seem high to some people, but just barely cover the costs involved as most rescue groups are staffed entirely by volunteers who must travel to pick up a dog in need, give it medical care it may need, having it spayed or neutered, give it any training necessary, helping to socialize and feed it. The adoption donation helps them to save another animal's life.

Depending on the animal, there may be a number of different things you can do to make the transition from life at a rescue group to a home much easier. Generally rescue groups have basic information that will allow greater success in transitioning an animal.