Owning An Animal Rescue (Caution- Some Graphic Images)
First, About Mine
When I first got into the business of owning an 'animal rescue', I was fourteen. Actually, it was my fourteenth birthday when I saw an iguana in a pet store with a curved tail (MBD) and I had to take her home to make her feel better. Of course MBD is a permanent condition at that point of time, but I didn't know that. I gave her the best life that I possibly could. After that, it came naturally. Animals seemed to flock to me and it was of no surprise that when I became of legal age, I got a licensed animal rescue in my name. Now I rescue all exotic species. Birds and tortoises, mostly. Though I do have a pot-bellied pig, a rabbit, skunk, iguanas, snakes and fish, I have a growing love of animals and a deepening misunderstanding of humanity.
Okay, you know you want an animal rescue. What are the first steps?
Know what type of animal you want to rescue. This is very important. You don't want to rescue every kind there is if you don't have to. Factors to weigh in could be things such as the time you have to devote yourself to the rescue, your knowledge (or how much you are ready to learn about that animal), finances available for vet visits or other inevitable expenses, or even the room you have to house the animal in.
Find out if you will be doing this alone, or with a partner. Sometimes it is very good to have helping hands. Sometimes it is not. Are you better off working by yourself? Are you capable of handling animals of your rescue choice alone? Can you handle the finances, the cleaning, the feeding and the exercise of the pet by yourself? If so, awesome. If not, make sure that the person you will be working with is someone you can trust.
Licensing or Not For Profit? If you are a regular corporation, you legally cannot take donations. And trust me when I say that donations will be a life-saver from time to time. Just last hurricane season, a cage fell on the baby tortoise enclosure. Luckily, none of them were hurt, but without donations, I couldn't have afforded building a new and safer enclosure like I did. So, if you want donations, you have to get what is called a 501(C)(3) in the state of Florida, which is not for profit. If you live in a different state, it may be called something else, but if you look up "not for profit license in the state of ____", you should be able to go from there. Most states require that you are a corporation before they will grant you a 501(C)(3). Getting a corporation can take a bit of money, and is basically just a lot of paperwork and picking out a name that hasn't been chosen by someone else. Once you have your 501(c)(3), you may want to get what is called an Exhibitionism's License, which lets you take your animals to fairs and whatnot, to set up a booth and collect donations. Many people can make quite a bit of money this way. Of course, you may choose to not have a 501(c)(3), but understand that you will be paying for quite a lot of things out of pocket. And it is always beter to have that behind you in case of emergency.
Any other special licencing do I have to worry about? Oh, yes. If your animal of choice is a natural state resident, a protected/endangered species, a risk animal, or anything your State Wildlife has deemed needing of a special licence to have/sell/breed, you will have to obtain said license. Some places require you take special classes to learn how to handle these animals. Some places require that the state comes in and checks on you unannounced to determine the care of the animals is adequate. Some states do not even allow you to have the animal, even if you have the license. When in doubt, speak with your State Wildlife officials. They will love to help you because they need the help as well.
How do I get the animal once I have taken care of everything else? Honestly, they come to you. If you have your rescue in a phone book, online, in shelters, or even in the newspapers, expect quite the flock. I even have state zoos contact me for pick-up, as people tend to drop their unwanted tortoise off at their doorstep. Put your name where people will see it, and brace yourself.
What if I see someone mistreating their pet? As a regular human being and not a police officer, do not remove someone else's pet, even if they are being mistreated. Contact your police or wildlife officers and they will take care of the problem for you.
What if an animal comes to me really, really hurt? I get this a lot. Having an animal rescue does not mean that the animals you get will be in the best shape. I get tortoises in that have been attacked by dogs, birds run over by cars, turtles shot with BB guns, an iguana fed marijuana, and a cat that had been run over with a lawnmower. Generally a rescue gets few cases of "I just don't want him/her anymore". Generally, it's more of a "Can you fix this?". It's a sad fact, but there are probably going to be animals brought to you that are half-dead. You have to have a vet who knows you and is working with you in this business. Having a 24-hour vet is the best asset I have.
Having an Animal Rescue VS. Humanity
To be as honest as I can, you will run into people you would like to strangle. You will find people who leave a horrid taste in your mouth. People you'd like to see behind bars forever. People that will make you cry as you cuddle this poor, little broken animal in your arms. There are some people that you will never forget. But you have to move on and keep your eyes on the goal.
People are capable of horrible things. Turn on the news and you can see that. To your rescued animal, you may be a bad person, too. Be patient with things and they might come around. Don't worry too much if they don't. Most animal rescuers I know do not like people at all, but can only understand animals and their intentions.
There is the possibility that you will never run into a critically injured animal, and that is a good thing. The same amount of love needs to go to the animals that have been ignored as the animals that were abused. Remember that a lot of animals have very deep feelings and their emotional scars are not visible. Animal rescues treat more than just cuts and scrapes.
Having a partner in the rescue, or a friend that you can talk to about the things going on can help you. You may need that emotional support, too.
If you ever need help or advice, feel free to contact me. Thank you for reading and thank you for the help you can give these guys.