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10 Surprising Facts About Dog Rescue

Perhaps this information is not common knowledge – we have a companion pet overpopulation crisis in the United States. If we didn’t we wouldn’t need shelters and rescues to find new homes for these poor, discarded creatures. Animals are dying by the thousands each month based on choices we are making. Here are ten additional facts about dog rescue that the general public may not be aware of that may change our actions and the lives of some of these animals:

  1. All rescues are not created equal. Some of the larger animal welfare organizations, many of which run the local shelters that you are familiar with, have funding backed by contracts with local municipalities, a large donor base, and huge marketing budgets to further their cause.  What you might be unaware of are the thousands of smaller rescue organizations that operate without shelters, are mostly foster-based, and who don’t have large budgets for marketing that are saving lives everyday. Many of these rescues offer adoptable animals through their websites, through composite websites (e.g. Petfinder and AdoptAPet), and at local adoption events typically hosted by large petstores (e.g. PetSmart and PETCO).
  2. A surprising number of shelters are not no-kill. Unless the shelter specifically markets itself as no-kill, it’s probably not. In cases of infirmity or extreme aggression, euthanasia may be the humanest option, but many shelters will euthanise perfectly healthy dogs and cats simply because they have been in the shelter for too long and they want more room in their facility for incoming animals. Consider the newsworthy hoarding cases of late. Large numbers of animals are taken to overcrowded shelters for adoption. Free promotion of the organization on the news may just be justification for making room for these animals. Many of these organizations are good at “hiding” their euthanasia numbers in their marketing simply because people are less likely to donate to shelters that euthanise.
  3. Mutts aren’t the only option. Let’s face it. When we decide its time to bring an animal into our homes many of us are looking for a specific breed. While mixed breeds are probably the healthiest overall, many people are desiring a certain look or temperament found in a pure-bred animal. There are hundreds of breed specific rescues located across the country for basically any breed that you are seeking. These organizations are typically dedicated to a single breed and take in both pure-bred and mixes of that breed. Breed specific rescues in your area can be found in our dog rescue directory, through Petfinder and AdoptAPet, or through a simple internet search.
  4. Spaying and neutering is a necessity. While you might believe your dog is amazing and his genes should be propagated, any additional litters of puppies only increases the overpopulation problem. There are already more pets than there are people in the US. According the the Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs are euthanised yearly – one every eight seconds – many of these are offspring of cherished family pets. And contrary to popular belief, per the ASPCA,  sterilization of your pet will not change their personality except maybe for the better.
  5. All rescue dogs do not have personality problems. Foreclosure and moving are topping the list right now of reasons that an owner may surrender a pet. Other reasons a dog may be relinquished to a shelter or rescue may include: health of a family member; age or infirmity of the dog; too many animals in the household; or determination that the cost of responsible dog ownership is too high.  Many dogs taken in by rescues and shelters were found as stray and remained unclaimed by their owners. Also consider judgement when a dog is surrendered for behavioral issues. Lack of focus on training on the part of owner for an “issue” does not constitute a “bad” or “aggressive” animal per se. What it does constitute is laziness and irresponsible dog ownership.
  6. Your donation may not go where you think. While we would all like to believe our charitable dollars are going toward bowls of food or direct assistance to veterinary care for the animals, that may not necessarily be true. Larger organizations have employed staff, management with significant sized salaries, building overhead and large marketing budgets to maintain. Smaller, volunteer-based rescues are more likely to utilize your donations directly for the care of the animals currently in their organization. Always research the organization before donating to ensure your money is impacting the cause in the way that you are most comfortable with.
  7. Bigger isn’t always better. Certainly every town has their “name brand” shelter – the one everybody recognizes. What people may not realize is that there are also dozens of small local rescues working just as hard if not harder to save the lives of animals. Many of these rescues are self-funded and are saving hundreds of animals a year. A large portion of rescues will take dogs on the euthanasia list from local shelters and foster them until they find a permanent home.  Foster-based rescues also have the added benefit of the dog being socialized in a home versus picking up behavior issues and potentially aggression associated with long periods of time living in a kennel in a shelter.
  8. “Get’em while their young” is not necessarily a good mantra. In our article Why You Would Want to Adopt an Adult Dog: Your Questions Answered we answered our reader’s questions on why adult dogs really are sometimes a smarter choice than bringing home a puppy. Aside from training issues, damage to your home, and the overall rambunctiousness of most young dogs, puppies require significant more time and care than most adult dogs.  To those new to dog responsibility, these aspects should be considered carefully – as lack of training on the part of the owner is often a reason why dogs are surrendered under the guise of “behavior issues”. Many adult dogs have some training already and are usually more eager to please than their younger counterparts.
  9. Adoption fees are not greedy. At a recent adoption event, a man said to me “What’s with the high adoption fees? Wouldn’t you rather me take home an animal that needs a home, than walk away because of the fee?” My answer, “Not really”. Surprised? What the man and many other people don’t understand is that many rescues have to operate on adoption fees and very small donations. These adoption fees pay for the transport of the animal to the rescue, food and veterinary care while in foster, vaccinations, and typically minimal overhead activities. Most people in rescue aren’t in it for the money, they are volunteers in rescue because they care about the animals and they want to help save lives.
  10. Volunteers are essential. At large and small shelters and rescues alike, volunteer help is a fundamental component of the organization.  For years, I myself, shied away from helping because I didn’t believe I was strong enough to not bring all the animals home. Let’s face it, I coped out. Once I found my niche on the technical side of rescue, I jumped in with both feet assisting with adoption events and fostering. If you love the animals as much as you believe you do, please set aside your belief of any weakness, find a few hours a month, and volunteer. There is nothing better than the feeling of helping to find a forever home for what once was a lonely, discarded animal. Contact a local rescue or shelter and volunteer today. You will never regret the time spent volunteering but you may regret not doing it.

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