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The intent of the Michigan Rescue Certification Program is to share best practices, improve shelter capacity and assure that the rescue organization is reputable.

When this program was established in 2012, more than 100,000 homeless cats and dogs were killed in Michigan shelters annually. Down to approximately 15,000 in 2017, there are still too many healthy or treatable companion animals that could be saved / rehomed if organizations worked together, especially Michigan animal shelters and rescue organizations. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) is responsible for the oversight of licensed animal shelters in the state. Although MDARD’s purview is limited in scope, there are minimum standards that shelters are expected to meet.

Unfortunately, there is no organized structure in Michigan, or nationally, that has established best practices, model documents or a code of ethics as a resource for the rescue community. Rescue organizations, most of which use a home-based fostering system and consist mainly of animal-loving volunteers with a passion for finding new, loving, caring homes for the animals in their care, are often left to recreate the wheel or learn the ropes through trial-and-error experience.

It is the intent of the Michigan Rescue Certification Program to:    

  • Leverage best practices and collaborations to eliminate the 15,000+ deaths of homeless healthy and treatable cats and dogs in Michigan shelters

  • Provide a code of ethics and best practice resources for rescue organizations

  • Assure the public, including adoption event hosts, businesses, donors, adopters and potential volunteers, that certified rescue organizations operate according to the standards set by the Michigan Rescue Certification Best Practices and Code of Ethics

  • Assure donors and animal welfare funders of professional capacity

  • Improve collaborations and partnerships by assuring shelters and other rescues that certified rescue organizations operate to standards that are reputable and have been vetted for partnerships


The program is wholly voluntary. It is open to all-breed rescues, dog-only rescues, cat-only rescues, purebred rescues and those that rescue small companion mammals, such as rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and rats. However, it should be noted that the program as described in the Best Practices section of this website is focused on cat and dog rescue organizations. Other species’ rescue organizations should contact us to express interest in certification. The certification committee will work one-on-one with the rescue group to address the specifics for that species.


Rescue organizations may apply for certification at any time and the application is available online.  When certification is granted, organizations are provided documentation that can be displayed on websites, social media, in printed materials and at adoption events.


Certified rescues will receive added benefits such as grants, educational opportunities, specialized behavior training for volunteers, fundraising opportunities and cost reductions through joint purchases and ventures. For example, in 2015 Michigan Pet Fund Alliance was designated as an umbrella organization within the Michigan State Employees Charitable Campaign (MI-SECC), which allows State of Michigan employees the opportunity for charitable giving to nonprofits via payroll deduction. MPFA has invited Certified Rescue organizations to participate, allowing these organizations to receive donations from state employees.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Michigan Rescue Certification Program is to improve capacity and partnership between the rescue community and the shelter community, so that all healthy and treatable homeless cats and dogs are re-homed.

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