by Cheryl Minnier
Anyone can start a pure breed rescue,
and many people do. However few new rescues are still around six
months later. What does it take to be successful in rescue? First you
have to define successful. Set goals and refer to them frequently. Do
you want to cover one town, one county, one state or more? Will you
take only one breed or will you concentrate on a group of dogs such as
Northern breeds, terriers, toys? Will you take only purebreds or will
you accept any dog which closely resembles your breed?
The novice should stick to a
manageable task. One breed is preferred in a small geographic
location, as is limiting yourself to purebreds. If you become well
organized and successful, then it is okay to change your goals and
branch out. Remember, burnout is fatal in rescue, for both you and the
dogs you are trying to save. Set your limits and STICK to them!
Once you have set your goals, you
need to take care of legalities. A good step before beginning is to
incorporate. It can be expensive, depending on which state you live
in, but a "not for profit" organization is by far the safest
route to follow. You can try to do this yourself, but an attorney
makes the process much quicker.
At this point, if you are starting
out on your own, you may want to consider recruiting others to help.
They can share in the expenses and the decision making. Finding other
people that share your passion for your breed is not always easy, but
local breed, obedience or all breed clubs may prove a good starting
Some rescues are an outgrowth of a
national or local breed club. There are both advantages and
disadvantages to this. Some breed people tend to view rescue workers
with suspicion. They assume you will condemn them for breeding or take
all the "good" homes. Remember, alienating people doesn't
help anyone. Learning to see both sides of the issue will, in the long
run, be much more productive. Some breeders will not want you around
because it is a reminder of what they are doing wrong. EDUCATION
RATHER THAN CONDEMNATION WILL GET YOU MUCH FURTHER.
National clubs can provide access to
insurance at reasonable rates, advertising and promotion, and for some
breeds, financial support. Local clubs can provide foster homes and
people who are very knowledgeable in your breed. They can also provide
referrals if relationships are cordial.
On the other hand there may
understandably be different priorities between you. That may get in
the way when it comes to the tough decisions about money that all
rescues need to make. If you will be affiliated with a local club make
sure there are policies - in writing - that address such things as
funds and fundraising, decision making regarding accepting, placing
and euthanizing dogs, individual responsibilities and so on. This will
go a long way toward preventing misunderstandings in the future.
If you will be separate from local
and national clubs, start out on the right foot. Introduce yourself
and your organization. Offer support to the club when it comes to
promotions and education. If you end up with a surplus of adoptive
homes you may be able to provide assistance to club members in placing
older dogs. This is a source of considerable debate, but I believe it
assists breeders in taking responsibility for their puppies rather
than discourages it. Breeders looking to rescue for help in placing
dogs should ALWAYS be financially responsible for their dogs and
willing to provide foster care. Rescue can then refer families wishing
to adopt to these breeders as appropriate. It should go without saying
that truly homeless dogs should come first.
The next step in the process is
developing policies and procedures. Many people can’t wait to go
trolling the shelters for homeless dogs but you should restrain
yourself until guidelines are in place. Procedures should be developed
INTAKE: Who will be responsible for
accepting dogs into the program? Will a visit be necessary first. Will
a donation be required? Requested? Where will dogs be taken? Will vet
checks be done first? Who will be responsible for obtaining vet
records? You will need a form for surrender, that owners must sign,
giving you ownership of the dog. It is also wise to include a
statement for them to sign, affirming that the dog has never bitten
HOUSING: Will foster homes be used or
will your group rely on kennels? If foster homes are used, which
expenses will be reimbursed? Vet bills only? Food? Agreements signed
by foster homes releasing the organization from liability,
acknowledging understanding of group procedures, and agreeing to abide
by all policies are a must.
SCREENING: You will need to develop a
screening tool (usually in the form of an application) to decide who
qualifies to adopt. Some questions you may want to consider will be:
· Who are the members of the
household, with ages. (Some dogs should not be in homes with small
· Have you had pets before, what
happened to them? (If they were hit by a car, or ran away - the family
may not take their responsibility seriously).
· What size is your house? Fenced
yard? (Not all rescues require a fenced yard, some require it for dogs
below a certain age)
· Name and phone number of a vet who
has seen your animal? (Most vets offices will be happy to tell you if
the past pets were kept up to date on shots, on heartworm, spayed or
· Who will care for the dog? Where
will he sleep, do you have a crate?
· Have you ever taken an obedience
· Are you ready for dog hair
throughout your house? Can you groom the dog yourself or will you use
· Tell us why you want a (fill in
breed). (Answers such as "for the kids" or "as a
watchdog" may indicate the need for further education). These are
just a few question to consider. You will need to decide what other
information you want and add it to your application.
ADOPTION CONTRACT: You will need a
contract for adopting families to sign. Provisions of this usually
· A waiver agreeing to not hold the
rescue responsible for the dog.
· A return contract, stating that
the dog must be returned to you if they can’t keep it.
· A spay/neuter agreement if spaying
and neutering is not done by your rescue.
· A clause giving rescue the right
to reclaim the dog if it is not properly cared for.
· Stipulations for the dogs care,
including housing, food, medical care and restrictions on use (i.e. no
attack work, dog fighting, research or experimentation etc)
It is helpful to have an attorney
look at all your forms when you have them completed to assure that
your liability is reduced as much as possible.
The next thing to consider is
fundraising. Most rescues find that their adoption fees do not totally
cover their expenses This is especially true for senior dogs and
medically needy dogs. Unless you decide not to take these kinds of
rescue dogs, you will need to have a fund raising plan. Some groups
solicit funds through newsletters, others sell or raffle off dog
related items. Whatever method you use, you will want to learn the
laws in your state that cover fund raising. [The Chow Chow Club, Inc.
has funds for medical care of rescued Chows available through grants.
Contact the CCCI Welfare Committee for grant
You will also have to consider the
toughest questions that rescues have to face; when and why to
euthanize. Do you put a dog down for showing aggression?, or only for
biting?, for serious health problems?, only if the animal is
suffering?. These emotional choices are easier (although they are
never easy), if you have decided on a policy before you are faced with
an old dog in a crate in your living room. Remember, aggressive dogs
are a safety issue and a liability issue. You will need to keep in
mind that your ability to help dogs in the future may depend on your
decisions today. Find support for those tough choices. It helps not to
try and make them all by yourself.
It is also very advantageous to find
a veterinarian who will advise your group. Many vets will give reduced
prices to rescues. It also helps to set up billing procedures before
hand. You may need to prove that your group has the ability to pays
its bills and that you are responsible enough to take care of them
quickly before vets will give you credit. To summarize, perhaps the
most two most important things to do before you start a rescue are to
set limits and be willing to stick to them and secondly, to have well
though out policies and procedures in place before taking your first
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