image source: filmmovement.com
In our business of crafting custom leg braces and prosthetics for dogs and other animals, we see quite a few dogs whose owners or foster families located them through rescue organizations (check out James, Rosie and Gabe on our Dog Stories page). We admire these folks and the work of rescue groups to save pets from otherwise lonely, stress-filled or abusive lives. We wanted to find out more about rescue organizations, what they do, and their place in the network of pet-related cruelty-prevention, shelter, and other such groups.
We weren’t able to find concrete, widely held definitions of shelters vs. rescue groups, but our research involving quite a few website resources led to this general understanding of the process:
Shelters are usually the first stop for animals that have been abandoned or whose owners can no longer care for them. They are often funded by local governments with limited budgets (though not always–there are also small local shelters that are privately run), so that services provided are necessarily basic. Shelters typically house animals onsite, but also utilize foster homes when possible.
From there, rescue organizations adopt pets from shelters and attempt to find permanent homes for them. Rescue groups, like shelters, are run by caring animal advocates who go to great lengths to ensure pets have happy lives. There are breed-specific rescues for most dog breeds, as well as all-breed groups. Widespread networks of volunteers create and maintain the rescue groups, doing their best to match up pets with their “forever homes.”
Rescue organizations are usually funded by donations and are able to provide training and in depth medical care and focus on getting to know the animals, the better to help each prospective adopter find the best match for their family. Sometimes placement means moving pets across long distances, with volunteers setting up chains of transportation across many miles. And it’s not just road transport–one of our clients recently told us about Pilots N Paws, whose volunteer pilots reduce the time and stress caused by long trips, by flying pets from shelters to rescue groups, and from there to their new families.
The ASPCA estimates that approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized. The good news, from an article in Veterinary Practice News, is that in a survey comparing March 2012 to March 2011, euthanasia of cats and dogs at North American shelters declined by 19% and 12% percent respectively. And “live release” outcomes increased 5% for cats and 11% for dogs during that same period (live release includes adoptions and returns to owner).
Here’s a disturbing reality we weren’t aware of: the ASPCA warns that animal hoarders can pose as legitimate rescue organizations. Shelters looking to foster animals, as well as pet owners looking to place animals with shelters or rescue organizations, need to use caution. Animal hoarders often seem very sincere in their love for animals and can have websites which appear legitimate. The ASPCA website lists these signs which could indicate a shelter or rescue group involves a hoarder:
- The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where animals are kept.
- The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care.
- Little effort is made to adopt animals out.
- More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals.
- Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy.
- Animals may be received at a remote location (parking lot, street corner, etc.) rather than at the group’s facilities.
Below is a sampling of national, and some local, organizations supporting pet rescue–there are many more out there. Along with links, we’re showing a quote directly from the “about us” section of each organization’s website.
Humane Society: “The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization, backed by 11 million Americans. We help animals by advocating for better laws to protect animals; conducting campaigns to reform industries; providing animal rescue and emergency response; investigating cases of animal cruelty; and caring for animals through our sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, emergency shelters and clinics.”
ASPCA: “Founded in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere. Our mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide.”
American Humane Assn: “Since 1877 the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society.”
Petfinder: “Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals who need homes. It is also a directory of more than 13,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.”
AnRAA: “Animal Rescue Association of the Americas is the advocacy association for the animal rescue community. We believe in the power of a unified voice. Our mission is to mobilize our members’ combined strengths and resources in order to rescue thousands more animals, reduce intolerable rates of euthanasia, promote a rescue code of ethics and elevate the entire animal rescue field.”
Pilots N Paws: “Pilots N Paws is an online volunteer organization where general aviation pilots can connect with rescue volunteers to transport animals in need to safe havens. The mission of Pilots N Paws is to provide a user-friendly website communication venue between those that rescue, shelter, and foster animals and pilots and plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of these animals.”
Greyhound adoption: “The National Greyhound Adoption Program was founded in Philadelphia, PA in 1989. Our main goals are to help find loving, adoptive homes for former racing greyhounds; to provide superior knowledge and support for greyhound adopters and other adoption groups; to educate the public and spread awareness about the plight of the greyhound; to provide specialized medical care specifically geared towards the greyhound.”
Lab rescue: “Wild Heir Labrador Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non profit animal rescue organization benefiting unwanted Labrador Retrievers.”
Wikipedia’s page on animal rescue groups
The Animal Rescue League of Western PA: “Mission: To provide temporary shelter, food, medical attention, and comfort to all abandoned, neglected and injured animals brought to us by the community; to restore lost animals to their owners or seek new homes for them, and educate the public about humane care of animals with a goal of reducing overpopulation.”