The World of Animal Rescue
The World of Animal Rescue
Rescuing an animal seems like such a glorious, unselfish and satisfying thing, but the truth may be much different. Rescuing is not for the weak hearted, squirmy or glory-hunters. To be able to truly rescue, you have to truly care!
One of the definitions for 'Rescue' is "1. to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil. (dictionary.reference.com)." This definition states the real purpose of 'Rescue'. But often enough the 'Rescuer' adds its own agenda; sometimes leading to drama, politics and Egos. But one needs to consider that rescuing animals is all about team work. It takes a group of like-minded people to advertise an animal in a shelter, crosspost its information, pull and transport for a rescue or rescuer, provide necessary medical care and training, chose the right adopter, and finally find it a home. And even then it shouldn't end. A lot of shelter survivors eventually end up 'back in the system'. And while only part of it can be blamed on economy, moves, family changes, even death of an adopter, a lot of it is due to the lack of support a new adopter receives.
Rescue is about survival; for both the well-meaning rescuer and the animal facing death. A lot of rescuers eventually burn out and quit; leaving empty spaces in the line of soldiers that are trying to make a difference in the reports of 5-9 million euthanized animals per year in the United States alone. The most common statistics state that every 1.5 seconds a shelter animal dies in a animal control shelter. How long does it take the average person to read the first few paragraphs of this article? Do you know the euthanasia rate of your local Animal Control shelter? Do you know the method the shelter uses to euthanize and how long the stray-hold is? Does your local shelter hold owner surrenders or are they instantly euthanized? Does the shelter provide any vet care? How did your local shelter do during its last inspection? How did your local rescue do?
Time is a luxury most animals in 'kill shelters' don't have. With that said, no matter where in the chain of rescue the caring individual chooses to be, accuracy is an important factor!
At the shelter:
The accurate description of the animal is valuable! While keeping quiet about certain 'imperfections' may get an animal rescued/adopted, in the long run it may jeopardize the animal's chance of a home; or even worse: survival! It can also cause problems of more serious nature: undetected illnesses, injuries of those attempting to help or the animal itself, legal claims.
The animal may face a long transport or be required to stay in a foster home until adopted. The lack of information given can allow illnesses to spread across Statelines and turn into dangerous situations during transport or foster.
How would you feel if you offered to foster and the foster dog kills your cat?
But while volunteering at a ‘kill shelter’ brings a lot of heartbreak with it, for those rescuers that have a strong heart and will and an indescribable amount of dedication, their work can make the difference of life or death; or just simply provide comfort in an animal’s last few days on earth.
It is a common misconception that an Animal Control Officer must be a horrible person to want to work that kind of job. Fact is that a vast majority cares and attempts to make a difference.
The problem doesn’t lie with the shelter or its personnel, it’s soley within the actions of the ‘pet’ owners. Well worn excuses are moves, pregnancy, economy (job loss, loss of home), lack of time. And while some owners may have legitimate reasons, most actively avoid the responsibility for the living creature in their care. The fact remains that somebody has to find a solution for the problem of overpopulation; and the often overworked and underpaid Animal Control Officer and the animals in the shelter can benefit from a helping hand with simple tasks such as comfort, cleaning, advertising. And the seemingly easy but very much rewarding task of driving to the shelter and ‘pulling’ an animal for a rescue, foster or transporter can scratch a name or number off a euthanasia list!
Transport saves lives!
Geographically the South has a larger overpopulation problem than some States up North. And while an animal may not find interest in one County, it could very well catch the eyes of somebody in another. There are many reasons why shelters should advertise across State lines. And with the necessary precautions that will weed out the ‘fake’ rescues, long-distance adoption can make a great difference. But it sounds easier as it is!
Transportation can be as simple as driving a short distance of usually 1 hour/maybe 60 miles from point A to point B, organized by a so-called Transportation Coordinator. But for the more organized individuals or professional drivers, a lot is at stake or to be considered.
The legal requirements differ at times, but the basic rule is that a 10-14 day quarantine is necessary before an animal can go on a long-distance trip across State lines. A health certificate certifying shots and such may also be necessary. The transporter has to consider driving time to determine necessary ‘potty’ breaks and provide a clean environment with adequate food/water. Certain situations also require considerations. Some dogs and cats will not do well in the same vehicle. Some may not do well with other animals at all. Some may respond to stress different than others. Some may not take well to the motion of the vehicle. Potty breaks can be the perfect moment for a stressed or bored dog to bold for freedom or fight against the person that seems to cause the stress.
But the bottom line is that if it wouldn’t be for the countless paid or not paid transporters, thousands more lives would be lost every year! The dog/cat can’t be saved if you can’t get it to the rescue saving it! Or to the vet that is providing life-saving medical care!
This breed of rescuer may have found itself helplessly watching the flood of animals facing death. For reasons of lack of finances, lack of space or ability or else, this person may or may not be able to ‘hands-on’ rescue.
“’The pen is mightier than the sword’" is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.”
The flow of information can do wonders in the Rescue World! How does one find out about the animals available in a shelter? Communication! The shelter attendant or volunteer collects the information about the animals and forwards it to a group of people. These people ‘crosspost’ that information to other people. And these other people continue to crosspost to others. The flow of information turns into the well-known ‘Domino Effect’!
But beware Crossposter! Be aware of who receives this information. There is a multitude of people that call themselves rescuers or rescues, but can range anywhere from known or unknown animal abusers/neglecters, dog fighters searching for bait, backyard breeders looking for breeding stock or ‘puppy brokers’! Trust and integrity go as long of a way as accuracy does! And having a clean slate of contacts may ensure that the animal didn’t go from the frying pan into the fire. The long-term goal should be to save a life and help a homeless animal to find a home!
Social networks have proven a great way to support and strengthen the traditional way of crossposting by email. The limitations of both email and posting on sites such as Facebook and MySpace are similar: Posts can be received by automated filters as spam and most Crossposters have multiple email addresses and a bag full of trick. But the magic lies within the words “World Wide (Web)”! Between the Domino Effect and the borderless ability of the Internet, information can travel almost as fast as the speed of light.
In one case a crossposter spotted a Facebook ‘friend’ posting proudly the Huskies she had helped rescue. This poster had just received an email about a Husky with only hours left to live! A quick post on that ‘friend’s’ wall and within minutes the ‘friend’, located practically on the other side of the world, ‘tagged’ multiple Husky rescues in the United States. Less than two hours after the original post the dog, aided by more crossposting that arranged pull, transport, vetting and foster, left the shelter!
The flood of posts and emails can be disturbing and heart breaking. And one must apply care in choosing those to send on. Some may be less willing to receive the flood of posts than others.
Some things to remember:
- Posts have to be checked for basic information (Most common format is “City, State: Subject”; good contact information. PICTURES ‘SELL’!).
- Emails should be sent via the BBC option (which does not show those in the “To:” box).
- Requests for chip-ins and other donations should be carefully screened and only forwarded if the receiving end can be verified!
- Verify that the post is still good and the euthanasia date hasn’t past.
- Have contact lists for different breed-specific rescues. They may not like your flood of emails, but will consider and/or crosspost posts within their ‘area of expertise’.
- Pictures sell, but they also kill! If the email contains multiple pictures at 2MB each, it will fill up the mail boxes and may block other emails. It may also set off the multiple filters of the internet provider. If time allows, pictures can be reduced in size. Should that not be possible, chose the best pictures and remove the rest from the email!
Allow sufficient time for family, house-work, hobbies, work! Crossposting will be a clear picture of the horrors that are involved in Rescue. It is important to keep one’s own life up and find a way to deal with the horror and sheer mass of need. Rescue has destroyed marriages and families. But while the saying “If not you, who? If not now, when?” has its truth, only a ‘fit’ crossposter can continue for as long as he/she is needed!
Foster homes are a lifesaver and secret weapon. And they have multiple functions!
An individual that can’t afford to keep an animal companion may be able to fill that void with temporary foster for a rescue. Usually, if needed, the rescue will cover all expenses. This is a great relief for the Foster Parent with things such as vet care. But the Foster also provides services to the rescue. Animals in Foster Care do not take up desperately needed and rare kennel space in rescue shelters. They also learn a variety of social skills and often badly needed ‘manners’. The stress of being in a shelter or lack of involvement of a former owner can leave animals in need of training, socialization, vet care and importantly ‘Love’! Some animals may also require extensive vet care prior to adoption or transport. Heartworm treatment is very invasive and harm as much as help, if the care provided doesn’t follow the requirements. Fosters cover the mandatory quarantine before long-distance transport or give a rescue time to arrange such transport.
Another benefit of Foster Care is commonly known as “Foster Failure”! While the intend may have been to only foster short-term, it isn’t unlikely for a Foster Parent to fall in love with an animal. And while the individual may be lost as a Foster Parent, a forever home may have been gained.
Rescues come in all shapes and colors. There are those that limit themselves to certain breeds and may or may not consider mixed breeds; or at least crosspost them. There are sanctuaries that will take those ‘overlooked’ or rejected; often taking in rough cases with medical issues, disabilities, old age, behavioral issues deeming an animal unadoptable. There are rescues that will take anything in need, no matter the blood line or age. There are well organized rescues, small groups surviving on their own effort/pockets, independent rescuers fighting an often seemingly lonesome war.
No matter their origin or Mission Statement, rescues require a multitude of help. A Non-Profit status is expensive to achieve, but may help financially and with efforts to pull from shelter. But it also means that money is tight and donations will influence the success or failure of the rescue. Fundraisers can be lifesavers, but they require advertisement, organization and volunteers to make it happen. Animals and events have to be advertised. Shelters have to be maintained; both inside and out. Adopters have to be found and screened. A good follow-up process will ensure that the animal is well taken care of; even after leaving the sanctuary of the shelter.
The list of work to be completed seems endless, but volunteers make a difference. A dog that is being walked or let in the yard to play is less likely to be euthanized for kennel deterioration. A cat will fare better in a small and strange cage if human contact and comfort is provided. A shelter looks more appealing if the grass is cut and the building well maintained. And there are always things that can be done to improve the shelter. And as always: No ‘business’ can exist without documentation. Everything from writing Thank You letters to printing flyers helps. And a well-manned rescue can double its efforts, thus become more successful. A good reputation will save lives!
Education is important in any aspect of life! In Rescue it can range from giving ‘briefings’ to ‘future’ pet owners in schools and kindergartens to handing somebody a business card from the local spay/neuter clinic. Owning a pet is like riding a horse: You never stop learning!
- Providing information on common feline or canine diseases can teach an un-expecting pet owner the importance of the $5 shot from the Feed Store or simply giving one heartworm pill a month.
- Providing a low-income pet owner with low-cost options to get a pet spayed/neutered, may prevent a litter of puppies or kittens that may directly or indirectly cost a life of a homeless animal.
- Educating a ‘accidental’ breeder on the impact of that “Ooops” litter may prevent more “Ooops” litters to be born and reduce the number of animals euthanized annually.
- Providing follow-up for ‘new parents’ or training for those facing problems may keep an animal from being returned and make a home a ‘happy home’!
- Providing information on how to detect signs of animal cruelty, neglect or dog fighting may provide the authorities with valuable clues to fight such activities; similar to the ‘Neighborhood Watch’ programs.
- Providing pet owners with options such as “Unchain America” may improve their pet’s life!
Education is crucial! Teaching our children to become responsible pet owners is as important as providing current pet owners with the tools to live a happy and fulfilled life with what should have the status of a family member.
There are no limits on what a caring person can do to improve the life of a homeless animal; and help fight the deadly threat of overpopulation that claims so many innocent lives.
It is personal choice or situation that influences what the ‘Rescuer’ will do/will be able to do.
The main concern should be to ‘rescue’; leaving behind the human flaws that cause so much destruction in the Rescue World.
It’s all about teamwork! No one can rescue on their own! Imagine how successful we Rescuers could be as a team, if we would not let ourselves get distracted by drama, politics and Egos! The Berlin Wall wasn’t taken down by one individual alone. Neither will be the threat of death for homeless animals.
Ideas to fight overpopulation and the meaningless death of very adoptable animals may not be more than thoughts, unless somebody does more about them than reading.
In the end it is all about differentiating oneself from being a bystander or an active part of the solution.
Some ideas to be considered:
- Government funded/implemented/supported spay/neuter programs that take the financial strain out of spaying/neutering and makes it an incentive to do so.
- License requirements, taxes and quarterly inspections of ‘breeders’ that may take the financial gain out of it for those breeding irresponsible.
- Stricter laws and tougher punishment for puppy mills, animal abusers, dog/cock fighters, animal neglecters, any illegal activities involving animals.
- New considerations when dealing with the commercial use of animals.
- Stricter regulation of Animal Control Shelters; including providing the basic support needed to adequately house and care for the animals, requiring good advertisements strategies, providing shelters with incentives such as spay/neuter/vaccination deals for potential adopters, better training of shelter personal.
- Education! Education! Education! Free or low-cost training classes can provide pet owners with the tools to make a relationship/peaceful life with their pet possible! Free/low-cost dog ‘clubs’ will provide support, social skills and companionship for both owners and their pets. Education will help our children to become better pet owners and give them the tools to avoid the things that make the work of a rescuer necessary!
- Finding and implementing ideas can help solve the problem and ultimately save lives!
- The sadness of knowing - National Dogs | Examiner.com
Editorial As most of my regular readers know, I like to use photos from Petfinder.com when I do not have a photo for a story. My hope in using these photo