Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rescuers - not all of the same mold.

There are many people in this world who have big hearts and want to do the right thing by abandoned and neglected animals. Many of them volunteer for rescues, a few start rescues, and several just go it alone in the pursuit of finding a good home for a wayward animal. Each has their heart in the right place. Each is attempting to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that millions of animals end up in shelters and rescues every year. Some are given up because their families no longer care. Some are Rescued from their horrible living situations. And some families feel as though they have no recourse for whatever reason. It is not my place to judge on those reasons. I do not wish to write a handbook on how to give up your companion animal, but in my years of working with rescue, I have seen a few cases where giving up an animal was absolutely the Best course of action and I do feel for those involved. It is because of this that I am going to give a little insight on what to look for if you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer care for your companion. Because unfortunately, not all rescuers are made the same and just as I have witnessed successful surrenders and happy endings, I have also witnessed surrenders to people who should never be involved with rescue and I feel a responsibility to people who truely have legitimate reasons to part with their companions to throw some insight on the sea of options.

The most important thing in finding someone to take your animal is to do some research. Not every rescue or shelter is a no-kill shelter. The rule of thumb is that many rescues are no-kill, but not many shelters are. So know where you are sending your animal before you take them there.

The second thing is to look at the facility. If you are truely forced to give an animal up and you are concerned about its wellbeing afterwards, make sure the facility of the shelter/rescue is to your liking. A dirty facility can be a sign of laziness, which can lead to illness in the animals housed there. Neither of those is a good trait for a rescue/shelter. Also, watch how the employees and volunteers are interacting with the animals in the facility. Not all of them are there because they want to help animals. Some are there because it's a paycheck. And some are even there because they have community service to do. Shelters and rescues are not always the most glamourous of job opportunities, so we often have to rely on low wage employees as well as whatever volunteer help we can get. Supervision of volunteers is essential, but keep in mind that low revenue equals low staffing and makes constant supervision nearly impossible. In the rescue I've participated in, I've seen both good and bad community service volunteers. I've also seen both good and bad paid employees. So look around and pay attention. If your gut says no, listen and go somewhere else.

If you happen to be advertising your animal on a classified page for adoption yourself, please, Please be aware of who is taking possession of your animal. This goes for both adopters and rescuers. If you find someone to adopt your animal, Always interview them extensively about how they will care for the animal. And if it is possible, grab a friend to go with you for a home visit to make sure it is going to be a safe, well-prepared home. Just speaking with someone on the phone isn't always a good indicator of a good pet owner. I would also advise the same thing for any rescuer who contacts you. In fact, I would go further to say that you should ask for references from any rescuer that contacts you. The reason being is that there are big hearted people out there who say they are "rescuers", but are in fact Animal Hoarders. Your animal is Not Safe with an Animal Hoarder. If you find any signs of a rescuer being an animal hoarder, not only should you decline thier help, but you should remember who they are and mention their name to whatever other rescue you finally settle with. In some cases, rescues keep tabs on hoarders if they are well known and are not supposed to be collecting anymore due to legal issues.

There are also kind hearted rescuers who aren't necessarily Hoarders, but they lack the financial capacity to care for the animals they rescue. Many rescuers live from penny to penny, but the good ones always know how the next vet bill can get paid. Or they have an agreement with a vet to pay as they can if they are short. Your animal is equally as unsafe in this situation as they would be with a hoarder. Not because the rescuer is mentally ill, but because the animal will surely not receive the medical care it needs should it become sick or injured. You may even receive a phone call from the rescuer to take the animal back should this happen. At that point, you could end up with an animal in horrible shape and in serious need of rather expensive medical attention. Since the point of sending an animal to a rescue is to find a better home than you, yourself, can provide, this kind of behavior from a rescuer is completely unacceptable.

You can easily find out if a rescuer is a Hoarder or financially able by asking for references, especially if one of those references is a Vet. Other rescuers can sometimes be good references and other times may not be. Not all rescuers network very well and sometimes the rescuers who network together are as bad as the one you are asking references for. It is difficult to tell just from a fellow rescue reference. Adopters are excellent references as they are often willing to be honest if they received an animal from the rescuer who wasn't cared for properly. They are also often more than willing to tell you all about the fantastic experience they had if the rescuer is a good one.

When you find yourself needing to re-home your companion, it is a hard decision. I can only hope that anyone would think and re-think and then maybe even re-think again 10 times over before they come to this conclusion. Animals are our companions. They bond to us and are most secure when things seem well and stable. Putting an animal out of your home and into a rescue or a shelter is traumatizing. Please do not take their feelings and well being lightly. Please make sure you do everything that is in your power to provide a safe haven for them while they are waiting for their new Forever Home.