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rec.pets: Starting A Successful Rescue Club FAQ

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Archive-name: pets/starting-rescue
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 21 Mar 1997

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                      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.
   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
       responsibility seriously).
       - 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
   you credit.
   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._
   Good luck!
   Last updated: Sunday, March 09, 1997

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