ARPA Principles and Code of Professional Conduct

The animal rescue profession preserves a special trust relationship within society. Members of the profession make a commitment to society that its members will adhere to high ethical standards of conduct when working with animals. These high standards are embodied in our ARPA Principles and Code of Professional Conduct (ARPA Code).

Members of the ARPA voluntarily agree to abide by the ARPA Code as a condition of their membership in the Association. They recognize that continued public trust in the animal rescue profession is based on the commitment of individual rescuers to high standards of conduct. The ARPA Code is an expression of specific types of conduct that are either required or prohibited and is binding on members of the ARPA. Violations may result in disciplinary action.

The ARPA Code is an evolving document and by its very nature cannot be a complete articulation of all ethical obligations. The ARPA Code is the result of an on-going dialogue between the animal rescue profession and society, and as such, is subject to continuous review. In resolving any ethical problem not explicitly covered by the ARPA Code, association members should consider the ethical principles, the animal’s needs and interests, and any applicable laws.

There are five fundamental principles that form the foundation of the ARPA Code: care, process, compliance, and ethics.

Members should be advocates for the animals in their care at all times:

  • Ensuring that all animals are up to date on shots, are heartworm tested and currently on heartworm prevention as appropriate for the animal and as recommended by the veterinarian.
  • Ensuring animals receive appropriate vet care before placement.
  • Spaying/neutering all animals before placement (when medically possible) or adopting out on a spay/neuter contract, if it is not possible to do so prior to adoption.
  • Temperament testing animals as appropriate, in order to improve the chances of optimal placement in a forever home.

Members should support and emphasize the importance of a structured adoption process:

  • Requiring appropriate verification and safeguards to ensure that the adoption process goes smoothly. This includes:
    • Requiring an application form and adoption contract.
    • Screening potential adopters through reference checks and a thorough home visit before an animal is placed.
    • Working carefully to match up the right forever home with the right animal, based on the animal’s needs/personality/etc.
    • Not being afraid to say no to an adopter IF the situation is not optimal for the animal in consideration.
    • Providing up to date vet paperwork to the adopter upon final adoption.
    • Requiring that if the adopter cannot keep the animal for any reason, the animal is returned to the same rescue…every time.

Members must understand the importance of and agree to comply with applicable federal, state and local laws focused on animal welfare:

  • Requiring Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and adherence to all federal, state and local laws when transporting animals.
  • Agreeing to follow the National Federation of Humane Societies companion animal transport best practices whenever reasonable and possible. (
  • Requiring a legal release form from owner-surrenders.
  • Securing appropriate licensure for your efforts or organization, in accordance with federal, state, and local laws.

Members must conduct their business in an ethical manner while still remaining focused on the animal’s welfare:

  • Agreeing to NEVER breed animals in order to “support” a rescue.
  • Understanding the limits of a rescue’s resources by not accepting more animals than it has the legal authority, space, time or financial means to care for and not supporting organizations attempting to do so.
  • Supporting the establishment of rescue organizations as 501(c)(3) public charities OR as not-for-profit entities whenever possible.