Furever Network has dedicated our online community to positive change, support and informed education. Even though we’d prefer to focus on the positive, we would be remiss not to also provide some information about organizations that do NOT have the best interests of the animals as their top priority. The information in this article will be useful for those considering offering their time and skill as foster caregivers to an animal rescue group, as well as potential adopters.
Don’t confuse inexperience with malicious intent
There are now a total of 205 independent dog rescue organizations listed on Petfinder – just in Ontario. The province has five times as many rescue groups as the next most populous province. That does not include dog rescues too new to have listings up, private citizens that rescue, and freelance rescuers that work Many of those organizations have launched within the last few years. Many of them are learning how to be a reputable rescue group by virtue of dliligence, mentorship, active learning on the part of their volunteers, especially those volunteers that take on additional core responsibilities in running the group itself. Financial, intake, adoption policies, volunteer recruiting, placement and follow-up – each of these take special skills and passion.
And yet every single new dog in rescue presents its own unique situation. The bottom line – there is no time, not ever, when one group cab possibly “know everything.” So if a rescue group you are working with has only been around for a short time, and the ride to dog adoption seems a little more frustrating that it ought to be – cut the group some slack. Put yourself in the boots of a new volunteer, communicate your perspective clearly. Know that you as a “client” of the rescue are an integral part of making them the best possible rescue group they can be. Take an extra stitch in time to provide respectful, constructive suggestions if you do see areas where an organization would benefit from added attention.
Animal Rescue Groups that are NOT Reputable
Sadly, there are dog rescues groups operating here in North America that are using “rescue” as a cover up for animal brokering or as an excuse for animal hoarding. Brokers are the middlemen between puppy mills and kitten farms (or any domestic pet sold through retail outlets) and backyard breeders. Hoarders become hoarders for myriad reasons, often having their start in a rescuing dogs with the best of intentions. Not all rescues know what industry standards are for a rescue operation (or choose to ignore them) and do not possess the necessary skills or financial resources to do a good job on behalf of animals under their care. Some supposed rescues are, in fact, out and out scams. How do you spot a “bad rescue?”
An animal rescue group, are in the best cases, a charitable organization. In the United States, that is most often defined as a 501(c)(3) corporation as defined by IRS. In Canada the organization would be a Registered Charity or a Not-for-Profit corporation as defined by CRA. One of the requirements to maintain their charitable status is that their annual financial reports need to be made public. If you ask for a copy of financials, they are obliged to give the most recent they have to you. If they refuse, you can get this information from the IRS or CRA, and those organizations too are legally obligated to comply. No matter how pitiful the animals look, if they refuse to give you the required public documents (some annual reports and their application for charitable or not-for-profit status), walk away. It probably means that they are not, in fact, using their revenues in the best interests of the dogs in care.
Number of Animals Tied to Number of Foster Caregivers
Rescue groups can be as small as one individual working sporadically or when situations arise. Maybe this type of rescue works with 6 or 10 dogs per year, especially if they are also a breed specific rescue. Or they can be a sophisticated organizations that handles up to 300 dogs per year. This size rescue group may have 50-100 animals in their care at any one time, with a volunteer corps that number in the hundreds too.
No matter the organizations size, the number of animals should reasonably connect to the number of volunteers. If you discover in your pre-screening that one or two people are trying to care for large number of animals, something is wrong. One person cannot successfully look after 75 cats properly. It is possible that you are dealing with a hoarder using “I rescue” as a justification for their mental challenge. While it is hard for a rescue to get foster volunteers, the reputable rescue group scales animal intake to match caregiver capacity. If the excuse for over-loading any one single caregiver with too many animals is because they can’t get volunteers, there might be a reason for that state of affairs, too.
If a rescue has been around for ten years but nobody who works there has been there for more than a year or so — other than the “founder” and/or one or two long-time volunteers — there might be a reason for the lack of support. If there has been a steep volunteer turn-over in a short period of time, there is almost certainly a reason for it. Adopters would not necessarily think of this issue, or think its not relevant. However, most rescues do follow-up over the course of the dogs life. Adopters would not want to be can potentially be tied into a long-term relationship with somebody who appears to have a manner of working that does not generate team support. Chances are personal opinions are taking precedence over logical rescue procedures.
Unreasonable Adoption Expectations
Unreasonable adoption expectations can manifest itself in two extremes. Some disreputable rescues just want the animals gone as soon as possible. If they do no checks at all on prospective adopters, but only care that you write them a donation check, that’s not being a rescue. It’s being an animal broker.
On the other end, hoarders hiding behind a rescue label will seek any excuse not to adopt an animal out. They can’t bear to let them go, so they will set ridiculous requirements, change the requirements arbitrarily and be generally inconsistent. Some foster caregivers do set difficult restrictions at times, but if they are stated up front and are held firm, that in itself is not an indication of hoarding. The key to knowing you may have met a hoarder is that you do meet the requirements first stated, then the rescue changes them mid-stream in the adoption process, and often more than once.
Holding Animals For Ransom
This is particularly common with bad equine rescues. ‘This horse is going to slaughter if we don’t raise X by Y’. A good rescue will ask for money and, yes, even ask for money for a specific animal. “This dog needs surgery that costs $1000.” The difference is that the ransoming rescue is saying “Give us money or the animal is going to die.”
Real rescues do not take in more animals than they can afford to treat, rehabilitate and re-home. Sadly, this often means leaving some animals to their fate. But most requests for money from rescues are more general. They need money for the feed bill, the vet bills, to reimburse a volunteer for mileage, and the like.
When After is Worse than Before
Animals being neglected or abused by organizations that call themselves rescues is a very sad concept, but it does happen. If any animal looks worse after time at the rescue than it did when it arrived…and this evidence can often be found…then it might be time to set animal control onto the rescue group.
A good rescue will do what they can to make animals more adoptable while under their care. Cosmetically, medically and in behaviour work might range from regular grooming to sending animals to trainers or taking dogs to obedience class.
Needless to say, if you go to any rescue’s property, you will see animals in lousy condition, even terrible condition, but those should be the ones that just got there, not the ones that have been there for six months.
Warning Signs of Animal Rescue Groups that are NOT Rescue Groups
Never adopt or buy an animal sight unseen. Always visit the rescue group at the care site of the animal you are interested in adopting. If they won’t let you, then that is another red flag. These top line warning signs will empower you to avoid organizations that are not reputable animal rescues. Bear in mind that con artists are, almost by definition, very nice people. There are other red flags, and don’t forget that as an animal lover, your own instinct can be a powerful tool as well.
Finding a Good Rescue
Directory of Dog Rescues and Shelters is Published Annually by Speaking of Dogs. Each of the dog rescue groups included in the Directory have passed standard guidelines, and proven themselves as responsible. Similarly, Helping Homeless Pets is a member-based umbrella group that also has stringent guidelines for the dog rescues that are screened to join. Their members are responsible rescue organizations that are sure to place the perfect companion with your family.
- With Source Information from jenniferrpovey