All Rescues are not Created Equal

by A Rescuer


I was recently asked what constitutes a good rescue. That's a difficult question when you really stop and think about it.

There are probably thousands of people that do rescue work with animals of various sorts, some are excellent, some are good and some...well, let's put it this way, I've seen more humane prisoner of war camps.

Rescue work with canines, or any animal for that matter, takes special individuals. Those who aren't concerned about what the masses say, but who know in his/her heart what is honest, what is true, and what is right. So many people get into rescue thinking they are going to save all the huskies in their area and quickly find themselves with a house full of huskies and no homes for any of them to go to. It is easy to become overwhelmed as the numbers of dogs needing homes are in the millions. You can't possibly save them all through rescue.

Rescue people are often those with big hearts, small resources, smaller homes, and even smaller common sense. I have seen collectors or hoarders set about doing rescue work and Animal Control or another rescue has had to retrieve those animals from horrible conditions - living in their own feces, some dead or actively dying. In one California rescuer's home 23 dogs were found living in conditions reminiscent of third world slums. Several of those animals had to be euthanized. I've also seen people take in animals but not have the resources to provide basic, appropriate care. As a result animals contracted preventable diseases, puppies were born, and dogs were shot when they got out of containment that couldn't hold them. Several animals ended up being put to sleep in such situations. All in the name of rescue.

But what does make a rescue good? What makes them worthy of our continued support? What makes them legitimate?

Rescues come in all sizes and shapes. From individuals, to incorporated groups. There are good rescuers in all areas! It would be easy to say that a legitimate rescue would be a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation, one that was recognized by the government. But I've seen some of this level rescues that have given the word rescue a bad name. Non-profit status is no guarantee that the rescue is legitimate or worthy, it only guarantees that they have played the paperwork game with the government and won.

A rescue, whether an individual or corporation, operates by rules, never deviating, never making them up as they go along. A good rescuer has a plan and implements and sticks with it, through tough times and good times. That plan must include education, both in helping to prevent the need for rescue and the proper care of the animal. All rescuers should one-day want to be out of business because there are no more animals that need homes.

A good rescuer will screen all animals coming into their care just as carefully as they screen all potential adopters. Animals should never be aggressive or snappy to humans or other animals. Animals in rescue must fit into the mold that John Q. Public wants as a pet. To differ, even slightly from what the general public is willing to adopt will result in animals not being adopted and living out their lives in a rescue environemt . All animals coming into rescue need to be rehabilitated to some degree. After all, they are in rescue for a reason. Dogs must be taught manners, basic commands, be housetrained, leash trained and should have everything going for them to become a great family pet. This is what they are bred for, isn't it?

A rescuer should never take more animals into their system then they themselves could care for. Corporations and large rescue groups fold every day, usually leaving one or two people to pick up the pieces and care for the animals in their facility. Individuals involved in rescue should never depend on the next adoption day at the local mall, or that any certain dog will surely be adopted quickly. To do this, sets you up for disaster. Animals don't always get adopted at the adoption fair, what people told you they were looking for often changes when you present them with that 'perfect' companion. Things don't always work out with placements and you may have to take an animal back - make sure you can. Failure to keep to this basic rule only adds to the problem that is overwhelming all rescuers and animal workers alike.

Failure to provide basic care for the animals helps ensure that the animal will never find a forever home. All animals brought into rescue must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. They must be freed of parasites, spayed and neutered and kept current on all their vaccinations and preventatives. There is little room in an already over-populated pet world for those animals that have chronic illnesses. Few people are willing to adopt special needs animals. Most people don't have adequate time to care for a healthy pet, how could anyone believe that a dog that needs twice daily insulin injections will be easily adopted into a loving caring family? Although there are rescues that specialize in needy animals, few are placed and most of that type of rescue become refuges for the castoffs of society. Think twice about bailing out that dog from the animal shelter that must have medications, think 3 times before taking a owner surrendered animal in the same or similar plight.

There are more companion animals in our society then there are homes for them. Every person in this nation would have to take in at least 20 animals to empty the shelters and rid the streets of strays and unwanted animals. Twelve million animals nationwide are euthanized every year because there are no homes. It is important that every animal that is placed by a rescuer be spayed and neutered, thereby preventing offspring that would further burden rescues. Educational programs need to be instituted advocating spay and neuter. Or better yet breeders should be paying a fee for every puppy that is produced to help fund the shelters and rescues that some of their animals will most likely end up in. Rescuers and breeders need to band together to ensure that every puppy born has an appropriate home. Failure to do this over burdens an already bulging system and does nothing but doom more animals to certain deaths.

Adopting families must be screened carefully. There are many cults and sects that utilize animals as sacrifices. Often people wanting a pet don't have the slightest idea how to care for the animal. I have personally recommended to several potential adopters who where not open to education, that they start with an animal that is simpler to care for...a pretty poster of a goldfish works well for this type of person.

Containment: appropriate containment must be provided for all dogs. IMO chaining dogs should be outlawed, and should never be allowed by a rescuer under any circumstance. References need to be checked, vet information should be verified. Animal adoption should have nearly as stringent rules as the adoption of a human child. If people truly want a good family animal they will go through the process, and will make necessary changes to their lifestyles, as well as their fences - to keep their new family member happy and healthy. Failure to properly screen adoptive families ensures that animals will again be dumped into the streets or taken to local animal shelters. Failure to provide appropriate education and continued follow up to the adoptive family will most likely result in the same things. Often a dog will display unwanted behavior during the adjustment period. If adoptive families aren't made aware of it and how to handle these behaviors, they may soon give up and return the pet or take it to the shelter... another animal waiting to be euthanized. Post adoptive follow up should continue for the lifetime of the pet in some form. People need to have resources readily available. Committed rescuers have a vested interest in the animals they place.

No animal, no matter how young, should ever leave a rescue still sexually intact. A rescuer should never place an animal unaltered. EVER. Placing animals on spay/neuter contracts doesn't work; it is quite probable that the animal's offspring will end up in a shelter or rescue.

There has recently been a renewed interest in tubal ligations and vasectomies for dogs. DO NOT allow it to happen. People who are involved in bestiality are against spaying and neutering and will opt to have the animal undergo tubal ligation or vasectomy to make it easier for them to continue with their perversion. Bestiality is a crime in 25 states, and IMO is always animal abuse. So always spay and neuter before placement. Don't give these people any more animals to abuse.

Rescues should never be dependent on public donations. There are philanthropic groups that will give legitimate rescues of their choice grants for educational programs and operating costs. This type of grant should be pursued instead of relying on public fundraising. Public fundraising, even the innocent car wash opens the rescue to become dependent upon the public. It is not up to the general public to support the animals in your care. Does the term "public support" include adoption fees? Absolutely NOT. Adoption fees help rescuers recoup at least a portion of their investment in the animal and to some degree it insures that adopters are legitimate in looking for a companion. Most rescuers spend an average of $250 per dog on veterinary costs, food, training and other expenses. The average adoption fee in my area is typically $100. Rescue is not a money making endeavor and should never seek to become one. Don't think you can go into rescue and make a profit - it won't happen.

Rescue is not an easy business. It is fraught with heartbreak and disappointment. It is easy to get burned out and to learn to distrust others of our species. If you believe you are interested in becoming a rescuer, I recommend that you think again and again and again. I would not wish this job on my worst enemy. Choosing daily who will live and who will die is not pleasant, nor is it rewarding. But someone must do it and it's obvious that the breeders of the animals that so overwhelm our shelters and rescues aren't ever going to put the life of the animal before their greed.



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