Rescue Journal

rescuing animals from rescuers

Carol  ·  Feb. 5, 2008

with missy's passing, it brings to mind our responsibilities in rescuing and caring for homeless animals.

we all know what a political minefield rescue can be. so easy to destroy the work of a good rescue group with ill considered accusations and innuendos. an example of this is the damage that "ellen" did on national tv over that little dog she adopted and then in defiance of her adoption contract, gave away to a friend. her dramatic, uneducated hysteria over the incident, ruined a rescue group and cut off yet another rescue option for homeless animals in need.

we saw the same thing again this fall when visitors not understanding not only the very alien to us issues surrounding northern rescue, but the difference in the physical and emotional appearence of dogs on the road to recovery vs dogs who are being neglected or abused.

and then we see the news casts and the video of a rescue back east whose animals were seized by the SPCA. the filth, the squalor, the profound and utter neglect that these animals suffered in the name of "rescue" is enough to destroy anyone's faith.

i don't much sit on the fence and especially not when animals are suffering. i understand the differences in issues and knowledge and resources. i understand the difference between what is absolutely necessary and what is extra fluff.

there are rescues in every single province whose animals need rescuing from their rescuers. anyone can open a rescue. it does not take brains, it does not take comittment or resources, it doesn't even take a conscience or a sense of can open a rescue without any of the above if you are not too worried about the result.

i will purposefully take animals that i don't have room for, if i hear that the very next option is a rescue that i know will not care for them properly. i will turn away an animal destined for euth, before i will turn away one headed for a really hard time.

there are people who are not saints supporters, they use every opportunity to undermine the work that we do...they need to see some of these other places to see the difference in the level of care and knowledge and responsibility in caring for each animal here.

missy was very lucky, even tho she lost her long term home. she came to a place that cared about how she felt and how she lived and if she was happy, every single day. saints may not be ideal, but then ideal can never truly exist in rescue anyway...ideal is the perfect home which homeless animals don't have. however, we do have an absolute responsibility to provide the very best we possibly can...and if we can't even provide the basics unfailingly to every animal in our care then we better not be involved in rescuing animals at all.



Mia, I have no idea how many dogs you are involved with in any given year, nor have I made any assumptions. My opinions were not directed to you or at you.


I think the line of "sub-standard" will vary dramatically depending on where you're living and what you have. For example, on the TG blog there's an e-mail from a gal in Kitkatla reserve. Here's the quote:

"They are starving and freezing, literally to death. The stronger ones are killing the weaker ones and then eating them. It is unbelievably heart-breaking. There are puppies wandering in snow and freezing rain because their mothers are too weak to look after them."

Humble opinion: these dogs would be thrilled to get "just the basics."

In people rescue ("aid"), for example the Millenium Poverty Project, the focus is on eliminating the most grinding, grinding, awful poverty. Such as the women who have to walk 4 hours a day each way to get water for their children from a foul little pool such that the water gives her kids diarrhea and likely some of them die. I don't know about you, but I have a bad back: I bet some of those women have back spasms, or migraines, or other stuff, but they have to carry that water anyway, every day. Probably they're weak because they gave their kids their portion of the food.

Now I would hate to have to be the one who argued that providing 100 woman like that with a clean well, rice, and lentils, and vegetable seeds (with which she could garden with the time saved not going for water) was "not worth doing," because I couldn't send her kids to college or provide her with a Chevrolet.

In any ethical problem, you have to do SOME kind of calculus about what "does the most good." It seems pretty clear to me that eliminating the most horrible, grinding, awful conditions is a pretty strong contender for "doing the most good.".

Again, I would hate to be the one to argue that it would be better to send the kids of 2 families to college than to provide 1 well for a village (not a fair comparison, since sending the families of 2 kids to college would be about $80,000, while providing a well would be about $10,000--you could actually provide about 8 wells--but still). The aid organizations think so, anyway.

I don't really see why the picture is different for animals than it is for people, so it does seem to follow from that, that in a situation such as the lady in Kitkatla describes, for people OR animals, and providing "just the basics" is a good candidate for "doing the most good." And if it isn't even "the most good," it is certainly "worth doing."

You might argue differently, but you'd have to give me pretty good reasons. (I haven't seen them yet.)


I just want to say that I am glad we can discuss these sorts of issues here. I like to get the perspectives from people who read this blog because I think they are truly in the thick of things but are able to discuss without resorting to name-calling and grandstanding.

One thing I will say in response to Deb's (who always has a wonderfully lucid and insightful way of writing) post is that we do force our beliefs on each other in culture and society. It's how society functions. We force our beliefs about the treatment of children and women and different races on each other all the time...about smoking...about which animals to eat and which to pet...about a whole mess of things.

Women and minorities would never have made strides towards emancipation without forcing their beliefs on others and now we take those beliefs to be givens.

It is the murky world of animal/human relations where there is a lot more grey...because, of course, we as a species has not yet figured out how we should treat other animal species.

Those of us who are striving to change attitudes towards other animals struggle with how MUCH to force our beliefs because it is a very large leap for most people to make to look at other animals as in any way equal to us. And so, at this stage in the game, forcing beliefs and opinions is often counter-productive and certainly alienates people.

And within the community of animal people there are just too many differing opinions on the ins and outs of caring for domestic animals...we will never agree on all the points. But the animals are never served by us staying silent which is where all these debates come into play. Silence and fence-sitting only ever helps the oppressor not the oppressed. I always thought to myself, "If I was stuck in a cage in a laboratory receiving shock treatment 10 hours a day for years of my life or if I was in a pound with no room for me and days away from the needle would I want someone out there to be polite and not upset those who put me here or would I want someone yelling and screaming and making a whole lot of noise? Of course, for me it was the latter. Societal mores be damned! :-)

Carol, my fear about leaving "policing" to the SPCA and the authorities is that these are often the very groups who see animals as little more than property to be disposed of if too much effort is involved to rehabilitate or rehome.

In my position here, I would NEVER report this particular case to the authorities. They would simply come in and euthanize...we already have many examples of it here. So, that's why I hem and haw about the amount of nose-sticking other rescuers should be doing in each other's business.

Of course, it doesn't have to be couched so negatively. It would be nice if help offered was simply that and help received was simply that and no strings attached...only wanting the best for the animals. And perhaps there would be less anger and distrust between rescuers. But we're tough nuts to crack so I guess that won't happen anytime soon. But I do keep bringing it up to everyone I meet...more cooperation...less dissension. It's why a lot of the general public dismisses us out of hand as crackpots and bunny-huggers.

Anyway, ladies, thanks for the back and's very healthy to share differing points of view!


According to Merriam Webster Dictionary rescue implies "freeing from imminent danger by prompt or vigorous action". It doesn't say anything about judgment, or who gets to define "substandard". A whole lot of variables go into what makes a rescue a sanctuary for animals. It is my belief that saving those animals from certain death is a pretty big issue, after that, it's a matter of opinion, not fact, that defines the quality of rescues.

According to PETA, those of us who keep animals as pets are abusers. There are people all over the place who want to force their beliefs, their standards and their ideas on others. Does that make "them" right, and "us" wrong?

Sometimes looking at oneself as the accused instead of the accuser sheds a little light on a complicated, emotional topic.


crap, no i forgot, i will find out tomorrow. i am supposed to be studying right now!


lol..i was trying to protect you from being the meanie blog bouncer!
hey! BTW i keep forgetting to ask you... did you ask your brother...should i press the yes or no button on that firewall thingy that keeps popping up?


that really should say I gave you a heads up on that fact that my finger is hovering over the 'administrator must approve all comments' button.


nicole gave me a heads up on this so i just had a quick look and want everyone to know where our line is on this are free to discuss issues but keep it non personal.
clear as mud...but we have mud goggles.


Good points made Marisa but sadly that HAS happened here in BC, and is happening! There was a rescue that many rescuers pushed the SPCA to visit and if they weren't so vocal many more dogs would have died. It happens right here. So do we as a rescue community ignore it or do we report it? There are no laws, there are no guidelines. Carol has stated that she won't send a dog to a place where she thinks they won't get proper treatment - that's judging but others can't?! Yet states that if they get the basics that should be enough, where as I feel that if we are adopting dogs out they should be ready to be in the world with their new family and yes Deb that can be done with many dogs, please don't assume you know how many dogs I help in a year or what I do, as that has little to do with the conversation at hand. You can contact me privately if you want to chat.

What matters is, what do we give to the dogs? Do we give them full effort of half effort? Is the glass half full or half empty? If they were on a chain of 4 feet and we give them 8 is that really better? I feel that if we aren't making a dramatic change in their lives for the better, why bother? Carol called it fluff, well half of dog ownership is fluff. She feeds the SAINTS dogs pizza and chips, well isn't that fluff? Isn't that part of the fun? Shouldn't the dogs life be fun? If we aren't going to make a dramatic difference, they won't know the difference so why waste the effort if its not really a change? Many dogs survive happily in a yard getting food water and shelter, so why rescue them if you aren't really changing things? I know dogs that could have perfectly stayed the way they were but their lives were dramatically changed by a rescuer which was for the benefit of only the dog, which makes sense but to only provide the basics when they already had them seems benign.


the other question we even have the right to step in. we rescue animals and run our rescues the way we think we should, we can and do police ourselves. is it our job to police our peers,(esp. with our differing values, opinions, experiences and knowledge bases) who honestly, once truly out of control and over the edge, will not listen to any one of us anyway? or is that the job of whoever has the legal authority to act to protect those in canada's case, the SPCA? so.... is our job then to report to the proper authorities and allow them to follow thru and investigate? they know what the law is, they know what the basics of care entail, they have the power and know how to enforce that law.

and how bad does it have to be to "turn in" one of our own?...i am in a unique positon, i have friends within the animal controls and spca's. they come to visit me at saints and can see for themselves what we are doing whenever they want, and there is not a single one of them who would not nail me to the wall if we got out of control...hah, it takes the pressure off someone ever having to report me!

and maybe that is the answer, free access to SPCA staff to come by and visit whenever they want...that would stop the hidden horrors inside garages, and baements and shelter back rooms.


Hmmmm...this brings up a conundrum which hits close to home. As people who hold the welfare of animals close to our hearts, when DO we step in to intercede when we believe harm is being done? If we all have different value judgements (and I don't believe ANYONE is free of judgement no matter what they say...objectivity is an illusion) when do we mutiny and say to a fellow rescue Captain, "That's it. You're done. You are no longer fit to helm this ship."

Throughout many of her blogs, Carol has pointed out the pitfalls of jumping on people to bring them down or mudslinging or judging too quickly. But there must be a time when it IS right to step in on behalf of the animals.

When I read those stories about animals found neglected, half-starving, disease-ridden, trapped in cages, etc. because their rescuer died or was invaded by the authorities I get very worried. Because then the question is, "Why didn't anyone step in? Why did people turn a blind eye?"

And I wonder, in my neck of the woods, am I turning a blind eye? How bad should it be before you walk in the door of someone who has loved animals all their lives and has given up everything for them and still works 24-7 doing their best but who has also taken on way too much and has become nasty and resentful and self-absorbed and simply can't keep up with the needs of the animals...and say "I relieve you of all this. I take away everything you care about because you're not caring in the right way"?

I am watching a particular situation very closely to see when the tipping point occurs, when every volunteer is alienated and every potential adopter is sent packing, when the animals start to fill every nook and cranny and the food starts to run out. I just can't help wondering if those of us who are aware of the situation should WAIT until the tipping point happens. Should we step in earlier? is such a difficult scenario when every attempt to provide help, relief, support is stonewalled.

Sorry for the ramble...but I believe it is one of the most pressing questions in animal rescue. How far do we police each other and when is it essential to step in and when is it just pettiness or ego-boosting? I know there's no easy answer and those who think it is an easy answer have never lived the life of a person running a sanctuary. It is never cut and dry. It is never an evil person out to harm animals...there is more complexity than that.

I remember the vitriol posted on the discussion boards for the Pahrump rescue. These people were just dripping venom for the woman who was held responsible for all those cats. They thought she was the devil incarnate but I couldn't swallow that. It was too easy. In 99% of those situations there is no malice intended, no harm willed upon those animals. They are situations gone out of control. But how do we help to keep those situations IN control?

As Carol and Mia have been discussing WHERE is the line? WHAT is considered suitable care? I suppose as with everything it is all subjective. I just never want to have to witness what happened on the East Coast or in Pahrump or at Pets Alive and say, "I could have stopped this. I could have done something."

BTW, did that rescue who adopted to Ellen REALLY have to shut their doors?!! I knew as soon as I saw that plea of hers that it would be BAD, BAD news for rescues. Sigh...she is a prime example of how a pure motive couched in ignorance can have terrible repercussions.


I find it funny (not haha funny) that even the basic's aren't provided by some rescues, but they are still allowed to operate. Not only are they allowed to operate, but they are encouraged to take on more and more animals.
Personally I think that it is very important to realize just what basic care means and can we provide it for every single dog in our care. If not, them perhaps those dogs shouldn't be there.
Deb, better someone step up to help one or two or five or twenty dogs a year than to allow substandard care for 40 - 50 of them.


Mia, if "providing the basics, anyone can do" were even close to the truth, there would be enough rescues to keep all animals out of harm's way.
It's lovely to help one or two dogs, no expense, no resource, no rehab unexplored, two or three or four times a year. What about the hundreds and hundreds of other dogs who die unnecessarily due to lack of just basic resources while one or two are turned into poster dogs? Do those dogs deserve to be ignored because they can't be made perfect?


the answer to that would be that the majority of animals in rescue, are in rescue because A. they are homeless and either sick or unhappy or unadoptable in a shelter somewhere or B. someone is either actively neglecting, abusing or attempting to kill them.... for these animals, even the "basics" are a vast improvement to what they were facing without rescue intervention.
i would think this would be a valuable use of our time...i think the animals might agree.

here is a moral question for everyone...if we cannot provide more than the basics until possible adoption are we in fact better not to do anything at all?


Well Carol we will have to disagree, I see no point in bothering if one is just going to provide the basics, there is no rehab in that and no quality in just the basics. They had food, water and shelter before, why bother "rescuing" them? Providing just the basics anyone can do. If one is not improving a life why take them away from what they have? The dog won't know any different? Part of rescuing is preparing them for a better life, showing them what is out there and available to them, why let a new family have to go through that, some times it's not easy for the dog.

The way you put it, sounds like we are wasting our time "rescuing"


thank you for that wish lindsay...that would be something special to look forward to...those animals would make where ever i end up heaven for sure!


i don't agree mia...rescue is not much different than nursing or parenting or any other kind of care-giving...there is a basic standard of care to be provided, no matter what is happening, crises or lack of funds or people to help, or care-giver stress...the animals are not hungry, the animals are not living in feces and urine, the animals have clean water, light, and a dry place to sleep, they need enough exercise so their muscles do not atrophy and necessary medical care so they are pain/discomfort free and cannot reproduce... the animals need positive human interaction each and every day....those are the basics in rescue, that is what they absolutely have to have in order to stay well until a home is found...the rest of the stuff is the nice-to-do, the fun-to-do, even the great-to-do...but they need the basics to stay well and survive.


Carol, here's what I wish for you--
That when it's YOUR turn to cross the bridge, there will be Missy, and Bill, and Jazz, and Pops, and Wilbur, and Tom, and Sam, and ... , and all those happy, loving faces waiting to welcome you.

And they'll say: "WE know what you did for us. WE know how well you loved us. WE know... and now we're here to love YOU."

I'm hoping for that for you. What a welcome that will be!


Carol - you judge other rescues just others judge. What one perceives as right or appropriate may not be to another. What you see one day may not have been seen by another. The joy of having a rescue is you do what YOU feel is right for the animals in YOUR care but there is a basic line no? Shouldn't animals benefit in rescue, and thrive? Who's to judge? I know I have and will continue to do so because it's about animals and what is best for THEM. I have seen 'bad' rescues, I have seen dogs die in the name of rescue, I don't want to EVER see it again.

I hope there is change in the future for rescue as the public is losing faith as are some old time rescuers.