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January 2, 2007 > Rescues...the 'in-between homes'

Rescues...the 'in-between homes'

Many of the animals that are not adopted at animal shelters look to rescue organizations and individuals for their salvation. The hard fact is there are more animals than there are good homes available. This often places great pressure on rescuers who save and rehome these animals to take in more than they can successfully adopt to the public. The burden to move animals as quickly as possible increases the probability of choosing some lesser quality homes for the sake of being able to place greater numbers. It's a dilemma that needs to be closely examined.

In more than 20 years as a regional rescue networker for OHS and as rescue liaison for the Tri-City Animal Shelter in Fremont, I have seen incredible growth in recent years in the number rescue groups. This is, of course, a positive thing but the rush to reach the goal of a "No-Kill" nation has brought with it a concern about where many of these trusting animals end up.

With few exceptions, those involved in animal rescue are caring and dedicated individuals with a mission. Their level of experience ranges from old-timers who know the pitfalls, to newcomers armed with great enthusiasm but little expertise. Both can get caught up in the rush to save, with the animals paying the price in the end.

So what is responsible rescue? What is involved in doing it "right" so the pressure does not undermine the quality of adoptions? While there are some variables, the following considerations and protocols are used by many involved in their "rescue and rehome" efforts

First of all, most of the animals that go through rescue have seen confusing and often hard times. Neglect, abandonment, even physical and emotional abuse are not uncommon. These are souls that need love...but equally important they need time and carefully considered support to heal. The healing process can sometimes take months. Experienced evaluation and time can accomplish much of this and should be done before they are ready to again face the world.

Knowledgeable rescuers know that it takes time in a quiet environment before the real personality is comfortable enough to feel safe in surfacing. This can be a time where in a relaxing place a trusting and grateful creature blossoms - or dominance and other less desirable traits are found and need to be addressed before rehoming is considered. The services of a behaviourist or trainer may be necessary to help address problems that have developed due to past experiences.

Careful behavioral assessments will tell what the nature of a forever home must be like. A home visit should be done - without exception - and it is more than a fence check, it is an evaluation of the suitability of a family's qualification and commitment to be a true animal guardian. It mandates the presence of every member to observe their interaction with their possible new member. Questions on where the animal will be housed should be asked. This is the time for rescuers to take off the rose-colored glasses for the welfare of all involved. In dogs, the knowledge of the breed or the predominance of a particular breed in the individual is essential in understanding what will be required of a new family.

The recognized basics before adoption are spaying and neutering, a health evaluation by a veterinarian with health issues addressed, in some areas heartworm testing, immunizations, grooming - just for starters.

Health issues should be addressed and treated before placement. Based on these findings, continuing or possible future complications need to be honestly discussed with a future guardian to judge the level of commitment and the ability to financially provide for these needs.

If for any reason the adoption fails to work, rescuers must be prepared, however inconvenient it may be at that moment, to take back their charge. It is important to recognize this may happen as anyone... even the most seasoned rescuer... can make a wrong call.

Another important, if sensitive, issue is whether to let a pregnant animal deliver - or not. When a pregnancy is allowed to continue, additional young creatures are brought into an already over-crowded world. This takes away potential homes from animals who are already born and who may die because available quality homes no longer exist. A logical decision based on the reality of a larger picture should then be considered. Many who work with animal shelters and are closer to the reality of the problem see the avoidable death of existing animals, and many will often choose the termination of the pregnancy as the overall kindest choice.

Bottom line is doing rescue work is wonderful but often involves difficult choices and roles - caregivers, evaluators, advisors, decision-makers and more. So, if you're considering going down the rescue so with great heart, armed not only with compassion and knowledge, but with the awareness of the great responsibility you have chosen to take on. This isn't a sport or a weekend feel-good activity. As a rescuer, you have taken on the responsibility for an intelligent and tender life who depends on your wisdom to provide a forever home that is sincerely committed to his or her well-being until the end of their days.

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