This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.

If you adopted your animal companion through Petfinder, there’s a good chance that you didn’t know much about the rescue that listed your pet, nor the foster family that housed him or her until your adoption. According to Petfinder’s data, their daily site shows over 345,000 homeless pets in more than 13,000 animal placement organizations across the U.S. and Canada.

As a co-founder of a Border Collie rescue in the early-2000s, I was immersed in the rescue community. What an eye-opener! We found big hearts out there. And fantastic, reputable, do-it-right rescues, who I hope we emulated when we incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization.

Who monitors rescue organizations?

But the rescue community also has problems. Hoarding situations. Over-extended and burned out volunteers. No medical attention for the animals. Who checks up on the organizations, really? In the 5 years that our rescue existed, no Dept. of Agriculture representatives contacted us. Anyone can start “saving” pets and rehome them through Craig’s List or pet-listing organizations (unlike Petfinder, which does require rescue/shelter organization qualifications and validation).

When one surrenders an animal to a rescue, the thought process is that the pet is going to a great home. Although Fido often does, many rescues don’t do references or home checks prior to adoption–how does the rescue know the character of the new adopter? How do they know if the surrendered animal is going to the right home? What’s the adopters’ environment? What are the adopters’ training methods? Who actually advocates for the dog, who has been through rough situations? If Fido doesn’t find the right home, he keeps coming back to the rescue. Or worse–he gets euthanized for being “unadoptable.”

Are all foster families ready, willing, and able?

As for foster families, rescues are desperate. So many dogs are surrendered, or they’re in kill shelters with little to no time left. Because it’s so difficult to turn down pets in need, rescues become overwhelmed. They sometimes allow anyone with a roof over their head to foster–with no training whatsoever. One rescue organization’s site says “Please take in as many dogs as you can; we need your help.” Are these all good homes? How do you know how the foster family will treat the dog? Although started with good intentions, standards start slipping. After all, the rescue saved the dogs; they have to go somewhere before adoption. But is it optimum care?

What can we do to help rescue organizations solve their issues?

So what can rescue and foster family advocates do? If you’re participating in Blog the Change, you’ve read about Kyla Duffy and her Don’t Kill Bill: A Dog Lover’s Night Out aerial performance and tales of puppy mill rescue event that’s coming to Boulder, Colorado February 12. (Be sure to see the Boulder Dog and This One Wild Life posts for the event’s amazing backstory, and the Up for Pups post about Aly and her talented rescue dog Clem, who will appear in the show.) Ticket sale proceeds from this event are going to a very special effort to address these rescue/foster problems.

Kyla’s 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Up for Pups, came up with an idea worthy of Blog the Change: a “Road to Rescue” Best Practices Manual. Within the next 6 months, the Up for Pups board of directors are developing an “indispensable manual that will serve as a guide for established and developing private rescue organizations, helping them to work most effectively.” The goal?  The manual “will help rescues save the most lives, spend the least money, and ensure a good experience for all volunteers involved,” Kyla says. “Standards manuals are available for shelters, but rescues are run differently; they don’t follow similar practices.”

What’s the big picture?

Kyla adds that Up For Pups is partnering with 15-20 “reputable, experienced rescues–large and small, purebred and mixed-breed, to create this manual, which will serve as a toolkit to help rescues self-evaluate and grow.” While the initial effort will focus on decentralized rescues that use foster homes to house dogs, “we hope to expand the manual to include rescues with centralized facilities and rescues that take in other types of animals. Since each has different needs, we’ve decided to first focus on decentralized rescues because they are prolific and without anything of this sort.”

Up For Pups has evaluation and data collection plans to compile commonalities and what has and hasn’t worked for the rescues. “Down the road, we hope to be able to financially reward organizations who can prove their holding themselves to the highest standards each year, and we believe this manual will help them out.”

Who doesn’t want that?

Rescues interested in participating in the creation of the best practices manual can contact Up for Pups here.


21 Responses to “Best Practices Reward Rescue Groups”

  • Nice post, Hilary. My one regret is that I won’t be Colorado to see Kyla first performance of Don’t Kill Bill. But I know it will be fabulous! Kyla is such a wonderful advocate for rescue dogs everywhere.

  • Kyla has such terrific ideas and brings SO many talents and passion to her work. So glad you shined a spotlight on her efforts today.

  • Edie:

    That manual is a great idea, and kudos to Kyla for organizing it.

    One thing you didn’t mention is the opposite problem (except maybe it falls under the aegis of hoarding): People who impose impossibly high standards on potential adopters, to the detriment of the animals who might be deprived of good homes as a result.

    It’s a delicate balance. And I’m glad that something is being done to achieve it on a consistent basis.

    • Good point, Edie. Many rescues do have such high standards that it’s tough to get the dogs adopted. We had high standards, too, and many of the adopters didn’t want to jump through what they thought were hoops. I can see that, but we also didn’t want the dog to come back into rescue or be rehomed, so we wanted a commitment of having the adopter let us visit their home, get those reference checks, and not always adopt them the dog they want because it’s not a good match for their home… That said, I did see some rescuers use their so-called high standards as a control issue. I know several who collected the dogs, but no one was good enough to adopt them. I know one who left a rescue organization with 23 dogs, bought a home on acreage, and kenneled all those dogs, who are still on petfinder and won’t be deemed adoptable. They’re outside with basically no attention. So you’re right; could be part of the hoarding aegis.

      Perhaps there will be rescue adoption best practices, too. I think there is a good middle ground.

    • Edie,
      Thanks for bringing up a great point! Just last year, my good friends tried to adopt a Boxer from a rescue, but the rescue turned them down because their fence wasn’t high enough. There were no questions asked about whether or not the dog would be obedience trained, allowed outside without supervision, etc. They were just flatly refused. They almost ended up at a pet shop, but luckily I was able to persuade them to go to the shelter.

      Many complain that shelter adoption requirements are too lax, but the opposite problem definitely does exist, as you pointed out.

      There are so many topics to address in this manual, and the intention is certainly not to give a “one size fits all” solution. We hope to be able to address some of the differences between organizations as well as the similarities.

  • Great post Hilary. I learned a lot. Edie makes a good point as do you about finding a workable middle ground for the dogs and adopters. I hope Kyla’s publication includes best practices regarding adoptions.

    • Thanks, Deborah. I’m sure the best practices manual will cover adoptions, since its goal is standards and consistency among rescue groups. I bet there are more rescues that don’t have high standards than there are who have standards that few adopters can reach. Neither are good.

  • You bring up good points! The rescue organization where our Mama volunteers screens the foster homes and the adoptive home. But it seems like it would be very easy for a well-meaning person, overwhelmed by all the bad stuff that happens to animals, to try to take on too much single-handedly, and end up hurting everyone involved. It is a hard line to walk!

  • tena:

    This is a great post… I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know my most recent pup’s foster family. They follow me and him on youtube and we email regularly (or for special occasions)…and it’s so nice to know he was in one of those good families and through our conversations, i found out they had TONS of interest in him but turned lots of people away waiting for someone who could deal with his energy and… quirks.

    Through the blog the change link hop, I’ve read quite a few blogs about (or seen banners for) Don’t Kill Bill… i’m sad i’m not local LOL!

    • Wow, Tena, it’s great that you keep in contact with so many of the foster families–youtube is a great idea for showing how the pets are getting along! Foster families are the ones who find out the most about the dog so that the adopter knows all the quirks, as you say! As for Don’t Kill Bill–Kyla will most likely post highlights once the show is over!

  • Fantastic article! I’m so thrilled to see someone is tackling the huge compilation of issues that rescue groups contend with. So many have their hearts in the right place, but are off-base on how to manage themselves. The issues each deals with are probably quite common with others, so something like this could be invaluable to the rescue community, and the pets involved as a result! Thank you for highlighting this!

    • Thanks, CindyLu! It’s a fine line, as other commentors have said, regarding when the rescue is too overwhelmed, or when the rescue is too controlling. I work with Western Border Collie Rescue, and they do it right–they rely on a cadre of volunteers and delegate responsibilities. That’s very important; one person can’t do it all. You have to depend on the volunteers, giving them training and responsibility.

  • Thank you for a great post, Hilary! This definitely sums it up. The manual is in its infancy and we are excited to explore the different aspects of rescue with experienced rescuers just as soon as I get through that “one little thing” I’m about to do on Feb. 12th. :)

  • […] … all these years ago) Hilary Lane from Fang Shui Canines wrote all about this event and the BEST practices for rescue groups book that will come from it on Saturday’s big Be the Change 4 Animals […]

  • The Best Practices manual is a great idea! It goes to show that there are many, many ways to help save pet’s lives, even if you aren’t able to adopt or foster an animal yourself. Great work, Kyla!

  • […] what we can do about puppy mills with our guest Kyla Duffy, founder of Up for Pups and author of a best practices manual for rescues. Her traveling show, Don’t Kill Bill, was a resounding success this past Saturday–sold […]

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