Many members of the public are under the impression that animal sanctuaries are licensed or regulated in some way. The reality though is that anyone can set up a rescue, irrespective of whether they have the skills, experience or resources. Unfortunately, the increased use of social media has made it even easier for individuals - usually well-meaning but often ill-prepared - to set up a rescue and start taking animals in.

We are continuing to receive an increasing number of worrying reports about bad practices and poor conditions. However, unless there is a breach of the Animal Welfare Act, without proper regulation it is sadly often a matter of "buyer beware". If you are considering adopting a rescue dog or supporting an animal rescue, then there are some basic pointers to look out for and ask further questions about:

- Does the rescue vaccinate, neuter, flea, worm and microchip their dogs before adoption as a general policy (unless on the advice of a vet)?

- Do they have robust assessment processes - ask about the experience/qualifications of those undertaking the assessments.

- How long has the dog been in foster/in kennels before they are adopted? As a rough guide Hope Rescue has a minimum 2-week assessment process, often longer for more difficult dogs.

- Be wary of lots of "urgent" and "code red" appeals for foster or adoptive homes. Foster placements and adoptions should never be rushed.

- Do you have to complete a detailed adoption questionnaire - this is a good thing and be wary if you are not asked to!

- Is there any vetting procedure for a new home such as a home check or reference?

- Ask what rehoming support is available if things don't work out. If they are a foster based rescue do they have access to kennels if the dog has to be returned in an emergency (which is more common if the assessment and adoption process is not robust).

- What is the meet and greet process - ensure you get to meet the dog properly first before taking it home and ask any questions.

- Be wary of fundraising appeals which state the animal can only receive vet treatment if the funds are raised - every rescue needs to raise money for vet fees, but urgent treatment should never be withheld due to a lack of funds. Ask for updates and be wary if they are not forthcoming.

- Ask other established local rescues if they have any experience of them.

- Is the rescue a registered charity? Are their accounts up to date with the Charity Commission? Whilst this is not always an indication of quality it does give some insight in to their governance.

- Is the rescue a member of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes? Whilst the Code of Practice members must comply with is voluntary, members are subject to an independent external assessment.

Hope Rescue fully supports calls for the regulation of our sector and would welcome a robust licensing and inspection scheme for animal sanctuaries.