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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: