Choosing an Animal Care Facility

Whether you hope to adopt or need to surrender a pet, you should choose the animal care facility wisely. Most organizations are well run with clear policies that have the animals’ well- being as the priority, but there are some fraudulent rescue operations. Unfortunately, it is possible to label yourself as a rescue without obtaining a permit or license in some areas. While the lack of licensure does not necessarily denote a questionable practice, it does make it difficult for the average person to determine whether or not a facility or organization is reputable.

Some rescues are run out of private homes. Others use foster homes to care for the animals. The larger ones have an actual shelter facility that may be open to the public. Regardless of the size of the rescue, there are some common standards of care:

Fresh food, appropriate for the species, and water must be provided.
Animals should be housed in enclosures large enough to provide adequate exercise room. Enclosures should be kept clean and in good repair.
Behavioral enrichment, appropriate for the species, should be provided to reduce stress and stimulate emotional health.
Veterinary care must be provided, including routine or preventive care and treatment of injuries and illness.
Whenever medically appropriate, animals should be sterilized prior to placement in their new home to help control population.
Humane treatment of all animals is an absolute must.

This is the very basic standard of care. The majority of animal rescue facilities do provide a much higher level of care, including:

Behavioral assessments are conducted on each animal.
Prospective homes are vigorously screened.
Animals are handled and socialized.
Full behavioral enrichment programs are in place.
Records are kept detailing each animal and copies forwarded to new homes.
New owners must sign a contract of adoption.
Educational programs are in place and the staff and volunteers continue to update and expand their knowledge and skills.
Relationships are cultivated with others in the animal care field to share information and resources.

With the accessibility offered through the internet, it’is easy to learn about a rescue or shelter. Most have websites that will explain their programs and procedures. You may be able to find links to animal care information there as well. While it is not required, the majority of established rescues do have a 501(c)(3) non-profit exemption. If you feel comfortable after viewing their website, contact them and ask questions. Some organizations have different departments, so be sure to contact someone who deals with your issue (adoptions or surrenders). If you have any questions that were not explained on their website, ask them. Any rescue facility should have standard operating procedures and should be able to discuss them with you. Don’t be afraid to ask why. Why do you have certain adoption criteria? Why don’t you adopt to homes out of the local area? Why do you require a vet reference? Why don’t you have a license? These are questions that any legitimate rescue organization can easily and quickly answer. If they can’t, find another rescue. A substantial portion of rescue work involves education and rescuers will be happy to tell you about their work. An important question is if this is a kill or no-kill facility. Unfortunately, there are many shelters that are forced to euthanize animals due to overpopulation. Some facilities will euthanize under certain conditions. You need to realize that the animal you are surrendering stands a real chance of being euthanized at certain shelters. Try to find an alternate solution. If possible, visit the facility. Larger shelters, such as humane societies, are usually open to the public. Realize that smaller rescues that are based in a private home or use private home fosters will usually not allow visitors. In most of those cases, it’s due to insurance or licensure restrictions. Many of these smaller rescues have working relationships with the larger shelters in the area and can provide references for you. In any case, staff or volunteers should still be able to speak with you to answer questions.

Rescue facilities will have established limitations on the number of animals they can care for. Many rescues and shelters continually operate at maximum capacity. They have times when their doors must be closed to new arrivals. They will not solicit to take in animals. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a rescue offering to take in your animal, use extreme caution. There are people who use the guise of rescue work as a way to acquire free animals. They should be avoided. For many rescues, especially the smaller ones, accepting the animal into their care is not the first option. They will try to work with the current owner to find alternate solutions whenever possible. The reason is this: the goal of a rescue is to put themselves out of business. They want to see animals in permanent homes and not entering into the rescue system.

If you take the time to research and ask questions, you’ll feel more comfortable dealing with a facility or an organization. When you’re adopting, they can be a source of education and assistance with your new pet. When you’re surrendering, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your pet is in the care of someone who will strive to find them a new home and provide proper care while they’re searching.

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