Considering Animal Rescue? Some thoughts before you begin your journey....

Author:  Lynn Graves

Animal rescue means something different to everyone who has ever been involved with it.  For some, it means following social media accounts of various municipal or county animal shelters and cross-posting the pictures and descriptions of the animals available for adoption.  For others, it means organizing massive efforts to remove hundreds of animals at one time from hoarding situations.

Most of us fall somewhere in between.  Taking in the odd animal here and there as we have time, funds, and space.  We care for them until they find a permanent home.  Sometimes that home is with us, occasionally with friends, but most often with people who were complete strangers until they contacted us about adopting one of our “fosters.”

Fostering can last anywhere from a few days, to several years, depending on the needs of the individual animal.  I seem to have inadvertently specialized in hospice rescues; animals that, due to either behavioral or physical problems (or both), are simply unadoptable.  These hospice rescues have ranged from a 14 year old Shih Tzu mix with a mild seizure disorder and skin allergies, to a ten year old horse with a fractured pelvis (he gets around fine, he just can’t be worked).

More and more people are deciding to adopt their next pet from a rescue agency or shelter every year, and that’s a wonderful thing.  HOWEVER.  When choosing a pet from a rescue, you should put the same amount of time and effort into your search as you would if looking for a pet from a responsible breeder.

Speaking as someone who has been involved in animal rescue for 15 years now, I would never offer an animal for adoption that I had in my possession for only a few short hours.  How can I possibly know if that animal is going to be a good fit for your family, if I haven’t watched them interact in a variety of situations?  How can I assure you that you’re adopting a healthy animal, if I haven’t kept them for at least 10 days (the minimum incubation period for most communicable pet diseases such as parvo)?  How can I be sure that you are going to provide the best home for that animal, if I haven’t seen where you live, or seen the animal interact with your family in your normal home environment?

There is a reason that experienced rescuers like myself have developed requirements and criteria for adoption.  We’ve learned through experience that it’s best to keep a pet in our possession for a couple of weeks before vaccinating, to ensure they haven’t already been exposed to a virus.  We’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that it’s best for us to take the risk of exposing a rescue pet to various stimuli that could cause an aggressive reaction.

So, if you are considering adopting a pet we cheer your efforts, but take your time.  Get to know the rescue group or person you’re dealing with.  Meet all of their adoptable pets, not just the one whose picture caught your eye online. (More than once I’ve had someone come out to meet one dog, and end up adopting another.)  Choosing a rescue means more than just picking out a cute furry face - you’re entering into a relationship that will last for years if you do it right.  Some of the best friends I have today, are people who came to me years ago in search of a pet.