Five Things Pet Rescue Groups Do Wrong

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Good rescue groups and organizations do not get enough credit for the painstaking, gut wrenching, heartfelt labor of love that goes into every effort in which they are involved. I am indirectly involved in dog rescue: Though I am not on the front lines, I am behind the scenes and involved in the fundraising and social media aspect of dog rescue. There are things, however, that some pet rescue groups do wrong.

During the BlogPaws pet bloggers social media conference in 2013, I had the pleasure of listening to a few dozen rescue groups talk about who they are, what they do, and how the folks in attendance could help. Throughout the evening, it occurred to me that there are things I could offer in terms of advice. After all, I am a rescue group’s target audience: Loves dogs, has rescued before and will again, is willing to put her money where her mouth is and donate. I cannot wait to learn about upping my rescue work game this year at the BlogPaws Conference in Vegas in May.

So here’s my stab at some constructive criticism. Here are a few of the things rescue groups are doing wrong and what I propose they do to make them right.

1. Posting horrific late-night Facebook pleas

Waiting until 10 at night and sending a barrage of “Rescue this dog or he will die in the morning” notices across my Facebook feed do not help, in most cases.

Recently, I asked a few dozen of my Facebook friends what they do when those posts cross their wall.

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The majority of them either hide those posts or hurriedly scroll through their feed. I share dogs who need homes all the time on my Facebook page, but I stopped putting them as 11th hour “do it now” and with guilt-inducing prose to accompany the sad photos. I love dogs, my heart beats dog for Pete’s sake, but please don’t wait until late at night and expect many of us to act.

As an aside, how many of you hear Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel” as it blares from your television and hurry to flip the channel because those poor dogs in cages makes you cry nearly instantly?

2. Neglecting to attend conferences and mix with pet bloggers

How many rescue folks are attending pet-related conferences that matter and can actually give them a voice, someone to listen, and get their word spread like wildfire? I realize there is a cost involved, time away, someone to take care of tasks in your absence, but if it means more lives can be saved, isn’t it worth it?

“For me, having a blogger write about Hope for Paws is something that is worth money I would be more than happy to pay,” rescue rock star Eldad Hagar told me at the BlogPaws Conference in May. If you are unfamiliar with Hagar, he is also known as the “stray whisperer” who rescues homeless dogs no one else can reach.

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Meeting Eldad of Hope for Paws

Hagar incited an idea, which is usually the case with great rescue folks. The BlogPaws team listened and put together a “Meet the Rescues” event at its 2013 conference, after all the seminars, meals, and socializing came to a halt for the day. There they were, sitting in a lobby of a hotel in Virginia, eyes glazed over but sharing stories of what they do for animals, how those in attendance could help, and asking pet bloggers and microbloggers to spread their message. Never before was I so inspired as I was that night, surrounded by the a group of people in the “right” trying to fix all the “wrongs” done to animals.

If you are a rescue, get your presence known: Attend conferences and expos that matter and mingle with the right people. It takes effort, time, and money; trust me, I know. The return on investment is immeasurable.

3. Lying about a dog’s history

A friend of mine adopted a dog from a shelter in my area. Zyla Cocoa was her given name and her story was something about being a drug bust dog, confiscated in the rescue, well-behaved, housetrained, and microchipped. Four of the five statements about the dog turned out to be false.

Zola is an amazing dog and my own pooch’s best furry friend, but she had some major issues. Of course, my friend worked with the dog and a behavioral specialist who practiced positive reinforcement. What about the people who lie to get a dog a home and the adoptive parent isn’t so accommodating? This perpetuates a cycle of return to shelter or worse.

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Be honest and be clear a dog’s issues, and offer advice on how to manage or correct them. We all want what’s best for the dogs, and stretching the truth helps no one. The dog ultimately (and sadly) is the one who suffers.

4. Infighting and working against each other

“I cannot let people think Mary did all the hard work on this transport when I clearly did it.”

“Do you know she sits on her butt all day and doesn’t make as many phone calls to shelters as I do?

The above are actual statements I have been privy to over the last year. Why is there so much infighting and “I can do it alone” mantras in some pet rescue circles? Ultimately, people will not want to donate, and who suffers then? The dogs in need take the brunt of it and may pay with their lives.

If you are in rescue and ever harbored ill will or shared cross words via a post or email about a fellow rescue comrade, think wisely about why you are doing it. The general public is watching and many of us want to help, so make it easy for us. Crazy turns me off no matter who did what to whom.

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5. Thinking your rescue isn’t “worth it”

You might recall that my dog took part in the Wigglebutt Wedding last summer, a fundraiser for for Cocker rescue. Being creative about fundraising is why social media and traditional media stood up and took notice. We have since formed Wigglebutt Warriors and will crusade to save dogs’ lives. Our next fundraiser is a gala pet-friendly event taking place September 20, 2014 in Sterling, Virginia. Join us for Wigglebutts Go Hollywoof.

Want to learn more? Join me in Vegas for Meet the Rescues during the BlogPaws Conference. I will be speaking as will experts in the pet rescue field. I cannot stress enough the info you will learn just by being there, networking, and your rescue could even walk away with a donation.

wigglebutt_wedding

Being creative about fundraising is the new norm, and while auctions and raffle ticket sales are fun, I advise rescue groups to think outside the box to get their rescue group noticed. Is it more work? Yes! Is that time you could spend rescuing another dog? Yes. If you aren’t being creative and unique in fundraising efforts, another group is. Some of the most creative people I’ve met are in the rescue world, so use those mad skills.

Note: I originally wrote this piece for Dogster magazine, but considering pet rescue is an ongoing hot topic and pets in need always need the help, I am re-running it here.

Here are some pet bloggers I bet have a passion for rescue:

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Comments

  1. I agree 100% with your list. I might add “making it too difficult for good families to adopt”. Some rescues are a little overzealous with the rules and put people off.

  2. Christine Hoy says:

    I agree as well! Great post! I Love all animals, and just hate those “share or he will die” posts in my news feed. I’ve left several pages who only do this. They need to find a better way to communicate. And the creativity with fund raising is a must! I have a friend who runs a Cat rescue in Michigan. She holds several different fundraisers all year, from online coffee sales, to bowling events, dinners at local restaurants, garage sales. It takes time & energy, but she’s very successful. Then when a “basket case” comes to them, they have the funds to help. They also stay in touch with their previous adopters, through email, FB & Christmas cards. Often those people become your biggest fans & donators. I’ve heard the infighting is so bad in rescue that it turns so many away who really want to help. And Kate has a very good point as well This is especially true when it comes to cats & declawing. Many groups won’t let people adopt if they want to declaw the cat. While I personally would never declaw my cats, I believe if it’s done humanely, with pain meds, and at a young age that so many more cats can find their forever homes.

  3. Thanks so much for joining the hop with this great post. All of the things you list are great suggestions, but your #3 is my biggest pet peeve about some rescues. You are right, it does nobody (especially the animal) any good by not being totally honest about the animals history or quirks. And to go with that, if you make a placement of just such a pet, be prepared to take that animal back. It isn’t good enough to say:, you keep the animal and we will try to place it. If the animal is dangerous or a real problem, that is where the “or worse” comes into play.

    I think I would also add don’t be rigid on requiring fences and/or a certain number of hours at home. Hubby and I were turned down by a rescue for not having a fence and having two full time jobs. I should ask the brown dawgs if they mind that we work or don’t have a fence. ;)

  4. Hi Carol, thanks for joining the blog hop!!

    Would you believe when we got Delilah we were told 1) she was a mix 2) she was spayed 3) she was 2/12 to 3 years old and none of those were true? She was also totally nuts and I almost didn’t keep her but I didn’t want to be just one more person who failed her.

    I also think sometimes rescues are too strict about fences. We were also turned down for puppies because someone wasn’t home full-time. :-( Still I would and will rescue again.

    As for the Facebook posts, there is a new rescue that started in my town and she thinks we should share every dog! I just can’t do that. I try and limit my sharing to one or two per day. Some days I don’t even do that. The logistics of it throw me off too, sometimes they don’t even say where the pet is located. So when I share, I try and say, “Portland, OR PEEPS” or wherever the animal happens to be.

    Sorry for the long comment, this is a great topic.

    • Melissa says:

      BIG BIG pet peeve of sharing and networking a pup that has NO location listed at all. They don’t know where they shared it from, etc. etc. That really cuts the chances for them finding a home! Great comment above.

  5. I agree with your list, especially number 4! When I worked in a shelter, there was a second shelter a town away that would publicly post negative things about our facility. Unprofessional much?! This business is about HELPING ANIMALS, and it is sad when people lose sight of that. Thanks for this post.

  6. Completely agree – with #1 and #4 specifically! Politics and whispering among rescue groups and their volunteers has completely left a bad impression with me for some of our local groups. Seems like the bigger picture can be so easily lost.
    To this list I’d add awful websites and flippant posts – clean and professional communications are so important if you want to be taken seriously!

  7. We see a lot of #4 in our community. It’s sad and disappointing and I have a lot of respect for the rescues who can rise above it all.

  8. So true! Being on both ends of the spectrum (an outsider looking in at a rescue, and as a volunteer privy to the inner workings of the rescue world), it’s fascinating and kinda disturbing to see the things that go on… While I understand why those photos of sad dogs in the shelter are posted, when I go onto my Facebook feed, that’s not all I want to see-and I’ve unfollowed many of those types of posts and pages that ceaselessly post like that. There are better and more creative ways to help the animals which encourages people to follow the posts and want to see them-like HeARTspeaks. That page is always a welcome sight in my feed and a daily pick me up. #3 is just sad and dangerous-I was horrified to hear that some organizations do this. How can you lie about the dog and place it in a home where a problem arises that could have easily been avoided? (i.e. Just as an example, say a dog is not dog friendly, but is marketed as dog friendly, placed in a home where it then proceeds to kill the resident dog or harm someone else’s dog. I could not imagine that kind of heartache. Had the adoptive group been truthful, that kind of heartache could have been avoided.) As you’ve said, it’s so much better to be up front and acknowledge the issues and say, “Hey, here is this dog and she has x,y, and z issues, but as long as you are aware of that, ok with it, and if you still want to adopt her, then by all means do so!,” then it is to lie about it and have issues arise seemingly out of nowhere. Great post!

  9. This is very good advice and all of it I have noticed rescues doing. Probably why I try to not get involved which I hope sounds worse than it is. Something I learned when working in an office that handed out grants from one of the countries largest foundations is that there are too many non-profits that work against each other. If you combine forces your can help more than just wanting to help only your cause. The Lady

  10. This post is superb. I also agree with everything on your list. As for the horrific posts coming through my facebook feed? Sadly, I have “unliked” a number of them and if I don’t do that, I click on “hide” for ALL of their updates.

  11. I work indirectly with an animal rescue too (and yay you). I am their social media strategist. Of course I think they are awesome because I work with them and I got Gretel there, but they are really doing amazing things. They don’t make these mistakes and are trying to change the face of animal rescue. They are “hip” and just started their own non profit doggy daycare as a constant, annual source of funds. They hope one day to be a model for rescues across the country. You can check them out at http://www.MotleyZoo.org

  12. Great list! I have personal experience with many of those, especially number 3. When we got our first rescue dog, we were lied to about his history and behaviors. If we had been allowed a trial period, we would have quickly noticed all the things we were lied to about him. I’m so glad we owned that boy as he taught me so much. He is the reason I became so interested in dog behavior and, well, everything dog. A blessing in disguise.

  13. Great information and very insightful. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I have fostered for 4 years, mostly with one dog rescue during this time. I tried to foster for 2 different rescues and got no where. I could not understand if you need so much help, why do you not want my help. When I did get a foster dog from another rescue, I was treated with less than respect, and that is putting it mildly. I do not like to bad mouth rescues, they are saving dog’s lives. And put up with it for a long time for the sake of the dog, I was telling myself. I do not understand rescues that treat dogs with respect but not people, especially the people that are donating their time 24/7 to help. Enuff was enuff and I now foster for another rescue where I am valued and respected as a volunteer.

  15. Oh yeah, and I hate the ‘this dog will tomorrow’ pleas and ‘this dog was burned and/or tortured nearly to death’ on facebook. i am a very compassionate soft-hearted person, but please. i seldom make these kind of posts on my facebook and have deleted those that ONLY make these kinds of posts.

  16. I’ll share more than 80 reasons why I respectfully disagree with #1 …

    Ellie: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/shelter-dog-adopted-in-last-2-hours-of-life/
    Pippi/Max: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/shelter-dog-adopted-in-his-final-hours/
    Little Man: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/miracle-dog-lil-man/

    A city shelter planned a mass killing of 80 pets and gave us all very little notice – only a few hours, actually. But that urgency created an immediate call to action and people made miracles happen that day: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/five-lessons-learned-from-the-fort-worth-animal-shelter-scramble/

    Last minute posts are generally NOT the work of the rescue, they are often the result of a shelter publishing a list at the end of a day for the next day’s kill schedule. As more shelters publish lists, we’re seeing more pets saved because people temper how it makes them feel, and instead create awareness that saves lives. Some shelters do it well, some do not. One thing to keep in mind, a shelter does not have the luxury of planning “inventory” – they never know when they will receive an influx of owner surrenders or truckload of strays and suddenly have to make room for them.

    I wrote about this subject in 2011: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/why-we-share-the-animal-shelter-urgent-kill-lists/
    But as you can see from these Facebook stats, not everyone looked away; in a 2 year period, we received more than 44 million post views – and we saved a LOT of endangered lives and raised funds for rescues to care for sick and injured pets. See: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/pawsitively-texas-reaches-more-than-44million/

    I do NOT believe in manipulating people’s emotions; I believe there are better ways to develop partnerships, create awareness, and inspire action. But, the big multi-million dollar rescue organizations run the sad commercials because they know people will donate out because of emotion. Advertising 101; emotion sells.

    I get it that not everyone cares about shelter pets. I know that not everyone can handle rescue and all the horrific challenges that come with it. But I’ve also found experientially that in the process of educating people about why we post, people that were ready to unsubscribe from the page became some of the strongest advocates for the animals on urgent kill lists. There are ways to create the sense of urgency facing a pet without getting overly dramatic about it.

    I believe in Being the Change – for the Change I wish to see and have organized/hosted two conferences here in North Texas (without a staff or budget!) as well as my blog and microblog; as a result, we’re seeing more communities develop the proven programs that are working and seeing kill rates decrease dramatically – which also eliminates the need for a flurry of last minute kill lists marketing. If we all look away, the animals surely die. That is the simple truth. My new site, http://HomelessPetProject.com has videos and resource articles from the last conference I hosted so that we can spread the message of the right way to help animals not only in Texas, but throughout the US. The videos include tours of exemplary no kill open-admission shelters and interviews with leading no kill experts. The site will launch soon.

    If all we do is sit around and agree that we unfriend and unlike people/pages that post the pets in danger, how are we truly helping them? I believe that we should know our audience and publish quality and relevant content. BUT at the same time, if we are a popular and fun pet related social media page or blog, I believe we can find creative ways to spread the news that pets are in danger, and in great need of adoption or rescue, in creative ways that won’t result in a decrease in audience readership. As talented, creative writers, we have the ability to change the world for these dear pets in ways that will offend less and create more change.

  17. All excellent points. I agree with #1, but I also like Alva’s point about shelters not being able to foresee a large influx of animals and having to make difficult decisions on the fly to make room for unexpected incoming animals. These are certainly emergency situations. However, I think if a rescue uses the 11th hour rescue-him-or- he’ll-die-in-6-hours communication too often people start to feel manipulated and stop believing these last minute urgent cries for help. Another behavior I’d like to add to Carol’s list is rescue workers who bash municipal shelters, and in some cases even inflate negative facts and statistics to make shelters look bad. I volunteer at our county shelter, which doesn’t have the luxury of being no kill, mainly because they are not permitted to turn away animals even when they’re totally full. Our partnerships with the many rescues in the community is vital, they take so many of our animals, helping to save lives daily. It upsets me when a misguided rescue worker publicly bashes our shelter to make their organization look like the saviors and shelters look like the devil. This kind of talk turns people away from municipal shelters, and who suffers? The animals, whose only crime was to end up in a municipal shelter. We are all partners, working together to save as many lives as we can. That is what truly matters.

  18. Love this post, Carol. I’ve recently noticed the rescue infighting due to my interest and advocacy in the plight of the potcake dogs in The Bahamas following my adoption of Boca. I had no idea there was so much criticism about rescuing dogs internationally or even from out-of-state! To me, a dog saved is a dog saved and geography has nothing to do with it. I wish that rescue groups would find the common ground instead of arguing.

    • Carol Bryant says:

      Gosh you are SO right. I am glad to hear you say that – the infighting has caused me to walk away from groups. A life saved is a life saved. Way to go, Lara!

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