I love the holiday season! Why would I say that when celebrations of all stripes seem to have become advertising vehicles for consumer extravaganzas? Ah the answer to that is so simple that even the toad hibernating under my bridal wreath can understand.
Celebrations in this house are long on good food and cheerful decorations and very short on any wow factor when it comes to gift giving. Truth be told, by current standards, I am really quite a Scrooge.
In the sixties, we used to refer to this sort of thing as “keeping it real”. As with anything else in life, there is simply no substitute for common sense. Does that apply to animal rescue? Of course it does.
There is a phrase I really like that is gradually superseding the well-worn descriptive “reputable rescue”. Why? What is wrong with the idea of a reputable rescue? Actually nothing at all … except for one teeny tiny little detail. Like any buzzword, it is often being misused by the very folks who inspired the original movement to regulate rescue.
To be fair, it is not the first time this has happened. Remember when folks began to realize that the word rescue had tremendous emotional appeal? It got to the point where even commercial puppy peddlers were referring to themselves as rescuers.
But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way. The new word that I really like is “accountable” . Why? Because it takes more than good intentions to run a rescue properly. Those who have been ‘in the game’ for any time at all have found out first hand that following proper protocols always involves accountability.
As sidebar note, I believe the phrase was originally coined by The Animal Rescue Coalitions who certainly do more than talk the talk. In my not so humble opinion, they set the bar for rescue protocols and standards. No surprise really, when they were rescuing long before rescue and No Kill became ‘fashionable’.
First and foremost, well run rescues understand that they are accountable to their communities. In this country, in legalspeak, animals are property. What does that mean in plain english? Simply that rescues have a legal obligation to ensure that the dogs in their care are properly assessed.
Equally importantly, it means that it is essential to find the appropriate home for each animal that comes into care. For instance, there is an appealing Rottweiler who has been in care for some time with Misfit Manor Dog Rescue. It certainly is not for a lack of applications from wonderful homes. Did I mention how appealing he is? The short version is that the right for him application simply has not come in yet.
Nor is this a singular situation. I have seen dogs in care for a year or more. Much more. Why? Because accountable rescues understand that racing to save as many lives as possible without proper placements can cause havoc in communities.
Let me be crystal clear here .. any rescuer who drags hundreds and hundreds of dogs up from the southern states and adopts them out is responsible to the communities where these dogs are adopted. There are no free passes by blaming the fosters they screened or the adopters that they approved. The rescue is legally responsible. Straight, sweet and simple!
Not to be mean .. but there is also the very real probability that the “incidents … or attacks” that arise from rushing the screening and adopting procedures will have another unintended consequence. What do I mean? Simply that whenever there are attacks involving “pit bull” or “pit bull type” dogs that there is always a politician waiting in the wings with the promise of a breed ban.
No .. this sort of fly by the seat of your pants rescuing is not at all the life saving activity the participants would like to think it is. Exactly the opposite actually with the harm that is done to the overall reputation of all rescues.
After all, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, most good homes only ever go looking for a new dog every fifteen or twenty years. They love their pets for life, eh? If there is an unhappy ending to their adoption experience, they will normally never, ever apply to adopt again.. from any rescue. Nor will their friends, families, coworkers or neighbours be disposed to see pet adoption in a favourable light either.
And that boys and girls is only part of why accountability is so important. There is also the other end of the stick .. so to speak. What do I mean? Let me be perfectly clear. In a world where there are waiting lists for local pets with EVERY rescue and shelter in this province, rescues are unlikely to gain sustained community support if they are unwilling or unable to help the pets in need in their own community. Straight, sweet and simple.
Although he seldom used such language at home, my dear departed Dad was as capable of earthy expressions as the next man. When he would encounter idealistic folks who had little if any common sense, Dad would refer to them as starry eyed assholes.
Here in the real world, it takes more than good intentions to run a rescue properly. It takes a community.