When the heart gets ahead of the mind…


hoardingIn this “business” we see it all the time. Really well meaning people that get in over their heads. I’m not speaking of hoarders. Most psychologists feel hoarding is more of a mental disease than a controllable impulse.

I’m talking about well meaning rescuers that have let their hearts lead the way and they put their logic and their finances aside to try to help “just one more”.

I’ve seen so many cases where people were living in absolute squalor, all their resources gone, all their money gone, their homes in foreclosure and still much of the rescue community looks at them like they were heroes.

“They gave their WHOLE lives to the animals”.

I’m not impressed.
These people don’t impress me. I pity them. Not only that but they are HURTING us, our no-kill movement, they make us all look bad and “suspect”, and they are not good for the future of the animals in their care.

Now that they have lost everything, what will happen to those animals that they accepted responsibility for? What will happen to the future ones that they could have saved if they had the sense to develop a plan, stop taking animals in when it became more than they could handle, and prepare for the future for themselves and the animals?

images-1We have had to stop working with people in our own organization, or had to let them go because they had this same mentality. “I will stay up all night and drive 48 hours straight to save a dog!”. And there is applause everywhere. Huh? I say yes save that dog, but be smart. Network the dog. Ask for help, board the dog for a day, drive safely, don’t use the last cent you had. And if your mentality is “just one more” in some cases this can be a good thing (if you think outside the box and make it work) and on another it can be a bad thing – when you have animals stacked on top of each other, living in cages, living in filth or you don’t have the means to address their medical or care needs.

Be smarter. Plan. By doing so you will save ten dogs instead of one, and then 100 instead of ten.

And when you are out of money, space, or resources, learn to say no. It doesn’t mean ever giving up. You can network that animal, you can offer suggestions, you can ask the people to hold or foster on your waiting list but when you are out of space and out of energy and out of creativity and out of money, you must recognize that.

That doesn’t mean ever accepting death is the answer, it just means that maybe TODAY that YOU might not be the answer. But with your help, someone else could be.

One time we heard of a mother dog about to give birth in a high kill shelter. We couldn’t get her. She was very far away in another state and she was due to give birth any second and she was scheduled to die the next day. We couldn’t take her. But we networked like crazy and found someone that DID.

Never give up. Always keep striving to do better, be better, and work better and smarter…but KNOW your limitations and when you hit them, get help. I like to believe that when we can reach out for help we then HAVE no limitations and we CAN save them all. But you personally, alone, can not. You must form partnerships, alliances, friends and allies, and be able to reach out and ask for help when needed. Your community should be involved, your volunteers can be helping you and supporting you if you are willing to work with them and LET them.

cats-cages-tianjin-chinaIt is also not ok to take in animals when you can not provide for all their needs. You can not warehouse dogs and cats. You can not stack them in crates or in runs and interact with them briefly once a day when you feed them. If you are starting a rescue you MUST be able to meet the animals emotional and mental needs as WELL as their physical needs. You must play with them, walk them, provide toys and mental stimulation. You must meet these needs EVERY DAY until you have placed them into a home.

In many cases there are really bright, really well meaning people that for years have helped animals and saved lives. Many times they run the operation out of their home. They have no succession. And when tragedy strikes, there is no plan for what to do with sometimes hundreds of animals. This happened here too. Pets Alive. Five years ago. Founder is dying. No one to take over. No one to help. No funds put aside. Not even a book with logins and passwords and accounts. I sat with Sara in the hospital as she died and thankfully she had a good memory, and dictated to me lots of helpful information. But still. Why was there no plan in place?

Look, no one EXPECTS to die. No one WANTS to die, no one THINKS they will die. But one or two people running a rescue with over 100 animals could be slammed into by a truck and wiped off the planet in seconds. If there is no plan in place, what do they think will happen? And yet we see this constantly. If you are going to start a rescue – ESPECIALLY OUT OF YOUR OWN HOME – you absolutely must have a plan for what will happen. Don’t assume anything. Don’t think that someone else will step up. Everyone has their own lives and as much as they may WANT to help or as much as they love to volunteer, your dream isn’t necessarily their dream.

We are down in Arkansas because there was no contingency plan. Best Friend saved Pets Alive because there was no contingency plan.

Get a plan.
Get a board.
Get a list or a book or all the important things about your rescue – banking information, website logins and details, email passwords, mailing list accesses and databases. Help people to save the animals you loved, if the worst were to happen.

And set it up ahead of time.
Get legal paperwork stating what happens and how things will be handled in the event something befalls you.
Don’t assume that “someone’ will step up.

There are no “someone’s”.

Additionally you must STOP being so picky about every single application. I can not tell you enough how many rescues shoot themselves in their own foot because they make adopters jump through hoops to adopt animals. It is a source of pride for them to brag about how hard it is to adopt an animal from them, how many checks are done on the people and how many people they turn away.

This disgusts me.
This angers me.
This makes me weep with despair over how many animals are dying while rescues turn away loving homes because of absurd reasons.

261731_234971416531827_147776178584685_889845_292047_nTo rescues and shelters I tell you – make it EASY to adopt your animals. Make your application as short as it can be for you to get a good understanding of the people. Then get them on site. Rejecting people based on what they put on paper is absurd. Meet them. Talk to them. THAT alone will tell you more than a 15 page application will.

I see rescues that will not adopt a dog to a home without a yard.
Tell me….who interacts more with their dog?
The person that opens a door three times a day to let the dog go outside?
Or the person that walks their dog three times a day – takes a long walk with their dog and spends time with their dog doing that?
Which dog is more social? The one that meets and greets people as they pass them on the street and meets and sniffs and says hello to other dogs on the sidewalk? …or the one sitting alone in a yard never encountering strangers or other animals?
Yet you see this time and again. No yard? Well that equals rejection for many rescues. How sick.

You see people rejected because of other silly reasons too that on the surface SOUND good but in retrospect are absurd. They put YES that they will declaw the cat they want to adopt from you. Well instead of turning them down, have them come in. Show them pictures of what declawing is. Talk to them about it. Watch their face and see if they get it. So many people have ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO DECLAW A CAT! They think it is just clipping the nails way back. And if they get it and they don’t care or they don’t agree for whatever reason they think is important, then take a look around your shelter. How many declawed cats do you have? Show them THOSE cats. If everything else about this family is perfect and they are a good home, then don’t let this stop you from giving them a cat, adopt a cat to them that is already declawed. What a win. A cat gets a home and another one does NOT have this barbaric surgery performed.

jakeLet’s look at one more scenario that I see rescues rejecting people for, under the guise of “protecting” their animals from them.
“I work 8 hours a day”.
DING DING DING – rejected. MANY MANY rescues reject people if they answer this question this way.
Well hello. Newsflash. I’m sorry to say that almost EVERY household has people that work that long – every day, often BOTH parents.
TALK to the people.
What is the plan for the animal?
Do they have a dog walker that will come in?
Do their children come home at 2:30 from school?
Do they take their pets to work?
Is the dog an older dog that can manage being alone?

Please rescues, it is 2011. It isn’t the life of when we were young, and moms were often home all day and dads went to work. Times have changed. If you are looking for people that are home all day, take their pets on vacation with them, and have yards and have disposable incomes then YOU are responsible for a good number of animals that are dying in shelters every day.

Be proud of a less aggressive adoption policy.
Be proud of adopting to people and TALKING to people when there are “flags’ on their application.
MEET people before judging them from their paperwork.
TRUST people.
Truly – really – honestly – think about it. Do you really believes that 60% of the people coming to you to adopt an animal are vicious animal killers that you must protect your animals from?
They aren’t. Yet in many rescues up to 60% of applicants are rejected.
Probably 99.9% of time these are great people, struggling to get by and just want a pet to share their lives with.
Trust the public to care for the animal and then YOU can go and save another one.

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