March 28, 2023

Today we spoke with Jen McFadden over at Home Free Animal Rescue out of Red Bank, New Jersey, to talk with her about how rescues go about their adoption process when it comes to their fur babies (dogs and cats).

She was kind enough to answer all of our questions and more!  Read on to find out more about this interesting topic that is crucial to the happiness of pets everywhere.

Home Free Animal Rescue

“At Home Free Animal Rescue, dogs and cats come to our rescue from a variety of sources. We are a “last call” rescue, meaning shelters will call us to beg us to take animals that are in imminent danger of being killed, usually for space, but sometimes for other reasons like medical or behavioural issues.

The bottom line is that these dogs have been passed over by adopters and rescuers and have nowhere else to go. The facilities have limited space, and, until every community acknowledges the problem of overpopulation and irresponsible pet owners, unwanted pets will continue to flood into these poorly equipped rural animal control offices.

animal rescue pup

When they (the animal shelters) run out of kennels, there’s nothing they can do but kill the ones that nobody has shown interest in. Granted, some of them make more of an effort to reunite lost dogs and to find placement for those that are surrendered or unclaimed. That’s a whole other issue.

We get some dogs from other rescues in places where the demand for dogs is much lower than it is here in NJ. We also take in local owner surrendered dogs, as well as cats from our own community.

Once a dog is accepted into our rescue, we put out a call for a foster or adopter. Sometimes the dogs go right to their forever homes. Mostly they go to a temporary home, where one of our volunteers will foster and promote it for adoption.

We provide the necessary supplies and vet care as needed, and we provide opportunities for the foster to present the dog or cat for adoption.

pixie the cat

We have a good social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Petfinder, and Adopt-A-Pet. We also have our own website. We participate in local adoption events for people to meet the dogs in person.”

Visit the Home Free Animal Rescue Facebook Page

The Animal Adoption Process (When it comes to dogs)

“The goal of this rescue from day one was to make adoption easier.

Our application is very short and simple. We’re all unpaid volunteers, but we try to process the applications (emailed to us) as quickly as possible – calling references, landlords, vets – and then arrange a meet & greet at the applicant’s home.

good dog

If everyone feels comfortable, and it seems like a good fit for both human and animal, then we email a digital contract with the details of ownership and some tips for welcoming a new dog into your home.

Our adoption fee is $300 which includes neuter, age-appropriate vaccines, deworming and microchip – paid upon receipt of the dog.

We try not to be too bureaucratic, without endangering the dog by being too lax – it’s a balance between being cautious and being easy to work with.

As a secondary goal, we try to save the dogs who need us most – black dogs, plain brown wrappers, bully mixes, seniors, sick and pregnant dogs, etc. – the ones nobody else wants.

squish the dog

They’re usually lovely pets. There’s always someone who wants the bichons and golden retrievers, but not so much the older black pitbull.

Sad, but that is the nature of personal preference these days. Thankfully there are people who want the “nice” dog rather than the pretty one.”

After our chat, we got even more info from Jen about how rescues like hers work, after we conducted a mini-interview. Read it below!

Animal Rescue Q&A with Jen McFadden

Q: How wide is the net you have in terms of geographically, how far away might a shelter be or anyone else who might call you to take in an animal.

We just started working with another rescue in New Mexico! Texas was the farthest til last week. Primarily, it has to do with the resources we have in any location, and our ability to reasonably transport the dogs from that area. Most common states SC, GA, AL and TX because we have good volunteers in those states.

Q: I assume you have a list of regular shelters or sources who may contact you and know about you.  How long did that take to put together, and where do you keep that list?

I started with Greenville County Animal Control in 2010, working under another rescue. The shelter got to a point they allowed me to pull on my own. Then other shelters also allowed me to pull elsewhere. As things got bigger, it became necessary to get 501c3 status. That was 2014. We included Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

dog in cage

Q: How big is your space overall, and how’s it divided up?

We have no facility. We are 100% foster based.

Q: For a single animal, what size space does it need?  Is there a general size or does it depend on the dog size (i’d assume the latter)?  Also, does this mean you’re much bigger than all of the other shelters who have no room, or do you just have to “find” room?

I’m sorry – I lived in a 600-sq-ft apartment with my husband and daughter, 2 large dogs and a cat. People who do not have enough space are simply expressing personal preference. (sorry – that’s kind of snarky.) I think that the amount of space really depends on the specific animal.

My efforts to foster a great Dane puppy 90 lbs at 9 months old in said 600′ apartment were unsuccessful. It was simply not enough room for a large, very active young dog. But we had as many as 4 dogs in that apartment at one time, including during Hurricane Sandy.

For a shelter, where there are a limited number of kennels, there are usually legal restrictions as to how many animals are permitted. In the absence of such regulations, there should be some common sense as to how many dogs a facility can reasonably care for. That is a question of staffing and general layout.

rescued cat

We had a donated retail store one year during the holidays. We brought in 30 dogs, many went home immediately. But even with about 15 dogs in properly-sized crates, and three rooms, and a decent number of volunteers, it was challenging to provide safe care. Running a kennel situation is by no means easy. I would not consider doing that again on an amateur basis.

Q: What are your most successful platforms for connecting the animal with their future home?  What have the trends been lately, or even over time?

Initially our adoptions came from personal referrals. That is still one of our primary sources for placements. We get many inquiries from and from other social media like Facebook. Networking does save lives – that is not a cliche. Adoption events are also good for placing dogs.

Q: Is the atmosphere of your rescue fairly chill, or full of gnashing teeth from neglected dogs?  Just wondering what the general vibe is like…

I like to think so, yes. It’s intended to be. I was discouraged when I tried to adopt a dog in NJ back in 2010, and I started the rescue because I felt it could be a better process than what I had experienced. I was turned away by other rescues for various reasons – I did not have a fenced yard, I had a child under the age of 10, one rescue even said “Ew, you rent?” And yet another denied me because I am self employed and could not verify my income.

All this while I was seeing posts about dogs dying for lack of interest. So I set out to change that. Now, with several hundred volunteers and a board of directors, I can’t fly by the seat of my pants – there has to be some kind of systems in place. But we don’t strictly adhere to policy – I hate that expression. We try to assess each dog, each applicant, each situation on its own merits.

I try to be patient, and I try not to be judgmental, all the while I do have to consider the welfare of the animals we save. There are always problems. Daily. It upsets my family because the phone calls don’t respect my personal time. Sometimes it’s an issue with the person. Try as hard as we may, people’s applications show what they want you to see, and if they’re not truthful, it usually ends up with the animal being returned in a distress situation.


And sometimes, despite our best efforts, there can be problems with the animals. Behavioural issues are complicated, and there’s no way to prevent them entirely, so we address each one as best we can, and hope that everyone can be patient.

We have a pretty favourable reviews online, so I’m hoping that is indicative of how we manage ourselves. I have a degree in public relations, so it’s my job to keep everyone happy. I am always willing to admit when we’re wrong, and I do my best to rectify.

I can’t make everyone happy sometimes, but we are always willing to try, and we make an honest effort to do things properly, and we are transparent. There are lots of ways to run a rescue.

There’s always someone who thinks they can do it better, and to them I offer the opportunity to do as I did and start their own rescue and do it the way they think is best. Lots of dogs out there need saving – the more, the merrier.

home free animal rescue dog

For our part, our rescuers/volunteers keep our opinions to ourselves. We have work to do. Home Free is a drama-free zone.

On another note, I have considered reaching out to local governments because I get far too many calls from people needing to surrender their animals – we have municipal shelters that are not bad in our area but people are disinclined to utilize them.

I also get calls to rescue wildlife, which I’m not licensed to do. But there are no clear paths for people to follow in either situation, so they call me.


And thanks for reading this article! 

Home Free Animal Rescue is always in need of fosters/volunteers and of course donations (financial, high-quality food and treats, non-rawhide chew toys, flea/tick preventatives.) They usually do a toy-drive at Fins & Feathers every year during the holidays, too.  Stop by if you are in the area!

If you want to add any comments of your own, please leave them below as we’d love to hear from you!

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