Today’s post is about further considerations when starting a rescue. It is written by Linda Sutphin of Dogs 2nd Chance Rescue of Tennessee. If you’re just joining us for the first time, you’ll find that every Tuesday and Friday through May we’ll be posted one section of our upcoming best practices manual for which rescuers can provide feedback.
Today’s Post Covers: Starting a Rescue, Key Considerations
- I. Time Commitment
- II. Financial commitment
- III. Emotional commitment
- IV. Structure
Starting and maintaining a Rescue Group is a full time job. The majority of Southern Rescues consist of volunteers that work full time, paying jobs. So basically you are working two full time jobs. There is computer work, working with the animals, daily maintenance, vet visits, networking, and much more. If you can not commit a great amount of your off work time to the animals, then starting a rescue is not for you. Volunteering and fostering for an established Rescue Group consumes much of your off time, but not nearly as much time as running a Rescue. I would advise to first volunteer/foster with an established rescue group. There you will gain valuable experience and discover if you are willing to commit to the time involved and make the necessary sacrifices.
One major concern to most Rescue Groups is finances. Even established 501[c]3 animal rescues have never ending Vet bills. If you do not plan to spay/neuter the animal before adoption, then you are adding to the overpopulation problem. In our rescue, which takes all breeds and mixes, we take care of routine procedures such as vaccines, heartworm testing, fecal/de-worming and spay/neuter upon accepting the animal unless there are medical conditions preventing any procedure. We also treat for heartworms, which is very prevalent in the South. We also cover the costs of any medical issues such Demodex, that is easy to treat to orthopedic surgery, amputations etc. These procedures can be very expensive. Just the basic medical care of a rescued dog is costly. These are expenses that most likely you will have to cover out of pocket at first. Some Veterinarians may give their clients a small discount occasionally. But few Veterinarians discount their services. The ones that do, normally only deal with established rescues. This is a major consideration. You need to establish an adoption fee that will at least cover the basic services. Donations will help to cover the non basic procedures. To succeed you must have a Veterinarian willing to work with you and discount services. We are fortunate to have one that is very caring and rescue friendly also.
Once you are established and doing well finding the animals loving new homes, and your finances are in order, you should consider the pros and cons of becoming a 501[c]3 public charity. The filing fee is expensive and some rescues feel the money can be spent much better on the animals. But many rescue groups feel the pros out weigh the cons. There are grants available to cover the costs of preparing and filing for non profit status. These can be found by doing a little research, or emailing me. Another option to avoid the expense of a 501[c]3 is to become an affiliate of a rescue that already has the non profit status. More on the 501[c]3 will be covered later, I believe. Most states have some sort of registration fee to solicit donations and to incorporate as a non profit. Each state is different, so you must do research on your states regulations and start up costs. An animal rescue is a Non Profit business and must be treated as such to succeed.
Rescuing and fostering stirs up many emotions. You will feel anger, shock, sadness and disbelief in the way some animals are treated. You will feel sorrow when a puppy does not make it or a senior must be sent to doggie heaven to stop the pain and suffering.
You will also feel amazement, happiness, pride and much more.
It is a wonderful feeling to see your foster meet his future parent and things “click”, love at first site. Fostering is very rewarding, knowing you had a special part in finding a loving dog a wonderful new home. Our foster families make it possible for dogs who would not otherwise be adopted, to find new homes.
Sometimes it is hard to give up a dog you have fostered. You may worry about getting too attached to your foster. We have found it much easier to give up a dog when you KNOW that you have helped it find a wonderful, loving home and that you are giving it up because that was YOUR role in its’ life. It can be a bittersweet, happy experience that gives you the satisfaction of knowing you have helped save one animal and now can make room for another.
Each time you open your heart and home to a new foster it helps us save one more animal!
The good emotions out weigh the bad
After doing all of the above and you still want to start a rescue, you must have help. Trust me, you need it. I started as one person saving one dog at a time. That is fine as long as you keep it that way, a one person show. But once rescuing gets in your blood, you will expand and need to recruit volunteers. When this happens it is time to establish different jobs for different people. You can not be the super person wearing all different hats. I suggest electing at least three officers. That is the minimum number for a board of directors. You must have a board to file for 501[c]3 status.
My suggestions are to divide jobs according to experience and where people excel. I finally quit wearing so many hats and allowed our wonderful officers and volunteers to experience more of the responsibility.
We now have:
- President – Gives guidance and works with all the different coordinators, makes final decision on matters when necessary, helps in all aspects of the rescue
- Treasurer – in charge of all financial matters, paying the bills, ordering medicine working with the accountant, etc. You NEED a hopefully volunteer at first, bookkeeper or accountant to help keep your records straight and help with necessary state and federal filings.
- Vice President – fills in for President and helps in all aspects of the rescue when and where needed.
- Secretary – takes notes at meetings, records names and addresses of donors, sends thank you cards and tax receipts, basically any office type work.
- Adoption coordinator – He reviews applications, speaks with potential adopters, checks references, basically screens applicants before connecting them with the foster. Makes final decision with the foster parent to approve or disapprove the adoption. Coordinates meeting of the dogs with potential adopters if local and coordinates transport if adopters are out of the area. Very important position.
- Meet and Greet event coordinator – this is what we call our adoption events since we do not adopt straight from events. Coordinator schedules and promotes events, sets up and takes down tables, promotion items, etc. She is the one to “go to” person with questions and needed guidance
- Microchip event coordinator – this is a major fundraiser and benefits the animal loving public. She is responsible for scheduling, promoting, setting up and taking down tables, displays ,etc. Turns money into treasurer.
- Foster coordinator – maintains list of fosters, their dogs, dates preventatives and vaccines need to be given, distributes preventatives. contacts all fosters to attend events, etc
- Volunteer coordinator – recruits volunteers, maintains list and contacts volunteers to attend events
- Marketing and promotion coordinator coming soon [we hope]
Officers, coordinators, committee chairman or whatever you call the “in charge” people help to maintain order. Certain people are responsible for certain jobs and if you all work together, duplicate emails, phone calls, etc will be avoided.