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?
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.