a. Handling cases involving lawsuits (ex. Puppy mill busts)
b. Working with local law enforcement to ensure animal welfare
c. Intake policies
There is no shortage of homeless animals needing help. The thing you need to think about is where you want to take animals in from and how you want to do that.
As a new rescue, you likely won’t be involved in any cases where masses of dogs are coming to you from a puppy mill bust, a hoarding case, or a severe neglect case. If you are contacted about any of these, make sure you assess whether or not you feel your volunteers have the skills needed to support special needs dogs in recovery and that you can afford the specialized vetting most neglected dogs require. If this is an area of special interest for you, it would be good to connect with local law enforcement and other groups who already work on cases like these and get advice about how it works in your area, and where the need is.
Getting animal cruelty and neglect laws enforced is often very difficult. If this is an area where you want to focus, it would be good to figure out what the humane agent certification is like for your area. Note that humane officers do not always do their jobs and it shouldn’t be taken for granted that they will follow up on cases reported to them. However, as a rescue, you are not able to enforce the law. You are only able to help gather evidence to support law enforcement in doing its job. And pester them relentlessly until they address the issue if they don’t respond right away. Keep a log of the date and time you called, who you spoke to, and what was said. Getting multiple people to call on one issue is always a good strategy.
Intake policies will vary from group to group. Our group is the only rescue group I am aware of in our area with a waiting list. We have the philosophy that whoever is contact us for help only has to worry about the animal(s) they are calling about, not the dozens or so we do. So we tell them we will take the dog if they can keep the dog safe until they reach the top of our waiting list. We feel this is the fair way to go about things. Unfortunately, that also means that we end up with the dogs no other rescue would take much of the time. We get a lot of seniors, dogs with health issues, behavior challenges, etc. But, as a rescue, we feel that helping those who have been rejected time and again is appropriate given our mission.
We have an surrender form we ask independent parties to fill out. These are called family surrenders. We ask about the dog’s history, why he or she is being given up, and for vetting details, if they have been around other dogs, cats, or kids. We have a specific intake person who only interacts with family surrender people because they require more time and need to have their hands held through the process more than a shelter transfer, or a dog coming from another rescue person or puppy mill. You should pick someone who is very patient and interested in taking a person from inquiry to surrender – the whole way. That person will be responsible for helping the person prep their dog for surrender, have them gather needed vetting history papers, fill out the surrender contract, and be the go-between for the surrendering party and the foster home. We request a donation from family surrenders, but we don’t require one.
The other intake person in our group handles all the rest, including maintaining the waiting list. They are the person who gathers pertinent info about the dog, finds a suitable foster home (often working with the foster coordinator on this as well as the foster team leads) and works with transport coordinators if needed. We enforce a one week break for foster parents in between dogs in case there is a return and to prevent burnout.
When a dog is returned to the program, they are automatically moved to the top of the list in our rescue.
There is a constant dance between intake and the rest of the group. It is critical everyone focuses on doing their job, remains professional, and understanding about each of the pressures involved in the various roles. Supporting the other people on your rescue team is so important. If someone is struggling or feeling overwhelmed or has a personal emergency, ask what you can do to help.
Homeless pets needing help
One of the most difficult things, but also one of the most important, is to remember to always be professional when handling certain situations. It is very easy to allow your emotions to take over your common sense when dealing with cases involving lawsuits and the well being of animals. In the rescue world you see a lot of terrible things and you must ALWAYS handle these things with an ounce of professionalism.
Instances where there are lawsuits such as puppy mill busts must be handled carefully. It is very easy to get excited about the dogs that have been “saved” but if you are pushing them through the system before you allow for the proper procedures to be completed, you are doing no one any favours.
Remember to get ownership of the dogs before taking adoption applications on them.
It can also prove beneficial to take some before / after pictures for promotional material.
Make sure you work with law enforcement, canine control and any other animal welfare agencies rationally and with a clear head. If you hinder their work, you are helping the individuals who should be punished. Often times, rescues get involved and start pulling dogs out of situations before the law enforcement is charged. It is prudent to work WITH law enforcement – not against it.
Intake policies are one of the things that are often overlooked in rescues. When a rescue takes in a dog, they should have a specific outline and holding period that should be observed. (We will never again work with a certain JRT rescue who took a biter and adopted him out before they even had him!) Rescues should go over specific criteria when intaking an animal. The important criteria that should be assessed when first intaking a dog are:
- physical check
- ear mites
- temperament check
- Food aggression?
- Toy aggression?
- Inter-dog aggression?
Anything further can be assessed during the time you have the dog. These are simply good starting points.