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rec.pets: Starting A Successful Rescue Club FAQ
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 21 Mar 1997
STARTING A SUCCESSFUL RESCUE....
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 point.
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 doesnt 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 cant wait to go trolling the shelters for homeless dogs
but you should restrain yourself until guidelines are in place.
Procedures should be developed for:
* _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 anyone.
* _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 children)
- 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
- 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 neutered)
- Who will care for the dog? Where will he sleep, do you have a
crate? Have you ever taken an obedience class?
- Are you ready for dog hair throughout your house? Can you groom
the dog yourself or will you use a groomer?
- 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
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 include:
- A waiver agreeing to not hold the rescue responsible for the
- A return contract, stating that the dog must be returned to you
if they cant keep it.
- A spay/neuter agreement if this 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 GRCA has funds available through grants. Contact the committee to
assist rescue for applications.
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
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 thought out policies and procedures in
place before taking your first dog._
Last updated: Sunday, March 09, 1997
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