So You Want To Start a Rescue?
Advice from the experts

From the The Original Letter to one of the following rescuers, that started all this:
I  would like to start an all-breed rescue in my county.  How did you get started?  Would you mind giving a newbie the benefit of your wisdom?
Thanks, Shannon



From: Cathy Ryan
Ryan's Dog Rescue

First you need to decided on a breed style, meaning, can you handle certain weights, long/short haired, and what temperament of a breed do you want.

Lets say you choice 40 lbs. and under and you don't have the background to deal with long haired dogs....... Ok this would be the type of dogs you can deal with.

One of the most important things to do is get a animal health background, learn all the A&P you can on dogs. Ask your vet if you can spend time with him, learn all there is to learn. This will help when you get sick dogs in and believe me you will get your share of them. When you have some type of medical back ground, it can make the differences in whether a dog lives or dies.

You need to look at your home, your yard, the laws in your city, your time you can comment to this. One important thing is you need to have the bucks to care for them. This is not nor never will be a money making thing. I have stayed in the negative for close to 30 yrs. You will need to buy crates to keep dogs in.

You might as well forget about friends because your home will be a home for dogs. You will need to set yourself a LIMIT..of how many dogs you can care for at one time. I can do 10..but that is my max..PERIOD..I never go over it unless I have dog breeds that other rescue groups are coming to get within a few days. There is a good feeling in doing this but you will shed many a tear in the fact there are going to be dogs that you will have to put to sleep. This is not a fairy tale world that all with be happy in the end. I have put to sleep many dogs for health reason/aggression and other things. I stop counting the times I
would cry after I left the vets office, when I sent a fur baby to Rainbow Bridge. The battle goes on everyday, we must stop the puppymills and the backyard breeders. We must educate people about spaying and neutering. This is where it starts.

If I were you, the first thing I would do is check out your humane society and go help them for a few weeks. Bath dogs, give them affection, take them for walks, help prepare them to be adopted. This will be an eye opening for you. Then talk to your vet and spend time with him and watch and learn. The most important thing is listen to what people say and listen to the vet.  As I said before and I will say again...learn all there is to learn. 

I would say after that learn to foster for a rescue group. ALL RESCUE GROUPS never have enough foster homes to help them out. You will learn how to work with a dog that has been abused, neglected, dumped & injured. Most dogs come with a package, of unanswered question, ones sometimes we just can figure out. This will never be a thing of bring a dog home getting his health all straight and finding a new home..there is so much more to this. I am going to send my letter that I have written to you to a bunch of great
people I know who do rescue that will add to what I have said. We want you to be able to do rescue but I must be very up front that it is not all fun and glory. I wish it was. Talk to people ask all the question you can..we all are here to help. I have a few web pages to help you. please take the time to read them.
 

Cathy Ryan
Ryan's Dog Rescue

http://www.akitarescue.com/starta_rescue.htm
http://www.petrescue.com/library/free-pet.htm
http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/lists/www-list.html#groom



From Rachel Osborn
Greater Ohio Boxer Rescue

Cathy has really covered so much, it is hard to say much more, but one thing you might want to consider is still left for sure.  Do you really want to start your own rescue group, or would you prefer to JOIN and HELP in another group that has already been established!  If the latter is true then you still need to decide what size, breed, and so on that you'd like to work with, and be most comfortable with as well.

Not only time, but MONEY!  Lord, when we first started, thank heavens there
weren't as many Boxers as there are now needing us, or I don't know if we'd
ever got off the ground!



From Robin Pressnall
Small Paws Rescue

Yes...try to help someone first..trust me..unless you have a LOT of time..you don't want to have your own rescue..:)))) There is much to be done..and we all need helpers!!:)) Love,Robin (Poochini, Small Paws Rescue)



From Lis' D'Hondt
Tampa area Rottweiler Rescuer

I will recount my own experience, then hopefully this can help give the lady some tips.  I'm sorry - it is long!!!!

I fell into rescue by accident, I have a beautiful Rottie, who is well trained, and I use to walk him morning and night around a 1.5mile block in a pretty nice area of town. 

One morning I went outside and there was a rottie tied to our fence, with a note, I know you look after your Rott, could you please take care of mine, I am unable to.  Her name is Jordan, she is 3yrs old and has all her vaccinations and is spayed.

I contacted National Rottie rescue and they gave me some ideas, and I contacted the local rescue group who worked out of PetsMart.  They allowed me to show her there on the weekends, and using the National Rottweiler Contract, I did a home inspection and placed the bitch.

Not long after this happened several times, all following were not sterilized, nor could we find out if they had been vaccinated, in the first eight months of being 'forced' into rescue I spent $7,000 of my own money, money I did NOT have!!!

So, I did a restock, and contacted the group out of PetsMart (St Francis Society) and they offered to cover the medical bills, if I would take all the Rotties, and work as Rottie Rescue but under their umbrella.  I did this for 3yrs, and my name was out on the internet, and at every vets office.  I also did 3 tv appearances, and that just brought in more dogs, not more foster homes or adoption homes.

The whole time my aim was to educate, I would go to any type of dog related event, and promote Rotties as the loving dogs they are, I would spend on average 6-8 hours up at petsmart every weekend, and when I didn't have dogs, I would take Kumba, and would actively seek foster homes etc.

Before you get into rescue, go under the umbrella of a group.  If you want to do mix breeds, find an 'all breed rescue' that you like their policies (home inspections, microchip their rescues etc etc) and offer to work as a foster home for them initially.  That way you wont personally be responsible for vet bills, (and they add up - SFS last year had over $45,000 in vet bills alone!!!).

I would read the classifies, and I purchased several large crates (89z) for a reduce cost, also each year, if you are a non-profit group, Midland Crates will donate one crate to you.

I have numerous crates available now, I often lend them out to people who have found dogs, and don't want to take them to the 'pound' , I offer my crate, and donated food if they will foster while I get the medical work done on a dog.

Call around vets - what I did was write up a Excel form, with the 30 main procedures that rescues need (bacterial dieases, sterilization, microchipping, hip surgery, ear infections etc), and got them to price it for me on paper.  I then located 3 vets that I liked, who's prices were 'right' and I used them, since I deal with Rottweilers, I needed a vet who wasn't scared of large dogs.  I spent 2 hours with each vet, and we spoke about our Put to Sleep policy as well, I do put a dog down that is proving to be agressive - I will NOT adopt a liability out to the community. Thankfully in total of the 270 dogs I have adopted out - 3 others have been PTS. 

I have a close relationship with Animal Services, and they will not adopt Rotties straight to the public, if they deem the dog is of a kind nature and would normally (if not a Rottie) go into General Adoption, they contact me, these dogs are normally vaccinated, and sterilized, but are often Heartworm positive, so make sure your vet can give you a good rate for heartworm treatment.

I buy my vaccines from the internet, it's a lot cheaper.  Vaccines are easy to administer, and by spending time with the vets I had chosen, I was brushed up on my drug administration skills by them.  (I grew up on an 800 acre farm, so was more use to administering drugs to sheep, horses and cattle!!).

Have a water tight contract, I know many groups have taken the National Rottweiler Rescue Contract and use that, yes it is six pages long, but it protects YOU, any group you might work for and it definately protects the dog.  Because of that contract I have pulled two dogs from their placement homes, without issue, because they had signed the contract and were not following through (I have a training clause in my contact, and I enforce that TIGHTLY).

Be prepared to not have a social life in the busy seasons, cause it gets crazy.  Also know your limits, don't feel bad if you need to take a 4 week 'holiday' from rescue, I know dogs will suffer, but if you burn out completely, only more dogs will suffer.

When you adopt a dog, have a home inspection form, it makes it easier, and sets you a protocol as to what you are looking for.  My first home inspection took over 3hrs, I can now do them in under 45mins with a form.

Never feel pressured to give a dog to a family, if they are putting that much pressure on you, walk away and take a deep breath.  Not only do I place a dog because of good home inspections, but their has to be a gut instinct within yourself.  Watch the dog with the people, is there a bonding there, is there an understanding with the new family, that this dog is a rescue, and is not perfect etc?

I have taken a dog to a 'perfect' family, and they loved the dog, but I couldn't see a bonding, perhaps the lady looked too much like the women who had neglected and abused the dog in it's past.  I felt bad, but I could not place that certain dog with them, however 2 weeks later I had a perfect dog for them, and everyone was happy.   It is for the dog we are doing this, placement is important.   I have found by having a training clause in my contract that this helps with the bonding between the dog and family also.

I also recommend all foster parents to attend training with their own animals, and if you have done this, ask the training facility if you could assist a trainer in classes, you often see a LOT of behavior issues in basic obedience classes, and by doing this, you can see how an experienced trainer deals with this, so if and when you have dogs that come through your home with certain problems, you have the knowledge of how to deal with them.

I have a full doggie first aid kit in my home, I also have over 40 different size collars and leashes, and in my car I carry a Velcro Muzzel and several different size and types of collars.

When a dog is an owner turn in, I request ALL of the dogs belongings, if they provide bed, crate, food, leashes, toys etc, and if the dog is uptodate with shots etc I do not charge a 'turn in' cost, however if they just want to 'turn the dog in' I charge $50 (if I can get away with it) and make them write the check out to the vet, cause the dog is going to need to be brought up to date with all shots and sterilized, so I believe the ex owners should take some responsibility for that.  When the people adopt the dog, I give them the crate and all the dogs 'toys' that makes it easier for the dog to adjust to a new home.

Have a good relationship with your local Fire Service, I can not tell you how many times I have rushed down there with a dog who was picked up with it's choke chain inbedded into it's neck, or so tight that we can't get it off.  The local Fire Service here are wonderful to me.  Last time I had a dog like that - they did a whip around for him while I was there, and they gave me $80 to help towards his care, and actually one of the guys adopted him.

I also have a great relationship with the local K9 Police Staff, and the Airport Police Staff.  Spending time with both, I now know what tests they do on their 'working' dogs (drug dog prospects), so if I get a lab or another dog that is young, healthy and shows drive, I will contact them, and they will often take the dog - in my 3yrs I have placed 9 dogs into 'govt working programs'.  Also the K9 people often have a 'wish' list from their own of people wanting dogs for their families - I'm lucky, my local Police share their 'wish lists' with me, and we hve been able to help place
dogs to many of them.

Contacts are so so important - Education is VERY important.  Whenever someone adopts from me, they are not handed the dog, and sent on their way.  They receive a manilla folder with all the dogs records in it.  They get 40 pages of information from crate training, to basic obedience ideas, I supply coupons that 3 training establishments that I recommend have given me (normal course costs $60 - if you rescue through me, you get it for $40 - $50 depending on who you use).  I also have several videos that I will loan to adoptees, two are basic training videos, one is a Rottweiler Video and the other is a wolf video that I taped off discovery, and it helps explain the Alpha role of dogs.

You deal with many ppl who have fallen off the train and smacked their heads at a young age in rescue - they have NO clue of responsible dog ownership - and this is the hardest to deal with in my experience, these ppl can smack your best intentions around, and often make you wonder why you are doing rescue, but you keep reminding yourself you are doing it for the dogs, educate those you can.  Ignore those you can't and move on.

I hope I haven't put you off with all this information, it's just ideas of what has helped me, what has educated me and made rescue for me a worthwhile cause. 

Good luck 

Lis' D'Hondt



From Robin of Howling Hill Farm
All Breed Rescuer

Hi, Shannon...........

Regarding your question about starting an all-breed rescue in your county.  Are you talking animal rescue with an animal shelter?  Or just personal rescue?  If you're talking rescue with a shelter, I've been there, done that.  LOL.........I don't know what kind of county you live in, but if it's anything like mine (poor and rural), trying to start one will be like spitting in the wind.

BS walks, but money talks.  And when I say money, I'm talking big bucks.  To get a decent animal shelter going for your rescues will take about $75,000., and that's probably a low figure.  You'll need a building, enough land for outside runs, at least one computer, a few people on paid staff, and plenty of volunteers.  You'll also need at least one veternarian on call, and willing to work for less than he/she normally charges at his/her clinic.

You'll also need the backing of the county if it's going to be a public rescue shelter, and some damn good certified ACO's (animal control officers) who know the laws, how to deal with people, and are not afraid of "big, mean dogs".

Now, if you're talking about personal rescue, I think Cat and the others covered most of that.  But, you've still gotta have the room, a vet that'll work with you, volunteers to help you, and $$$$$$$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yup, my husband and I do rescue, but what critters we rescue, stay here!!!!  We've only had to have taken a few dogs to a no-kill shelter 'cos they were cat killers, but all of the others have gone no further than our front gate.  And, all are spayed and neutered - we may take them in, but we sure aren't gonna let them have anymore pups or kittens!

LOL............And that's how we ended up with 38 dogs, eight cats, and one horse - all rescues.  But, we also have two other horses, and two burros, one of which was one of the wild burros that we adopted in '85.  So, I guess she could be considered a rescue, too!

At any rate, good luck!!!!!!!!

Robin (a/k/a Bluburd)


Back to Starting Your Own Rescue links

Copyright of the individual authors
All Rights Reserved