Be the Scissors! (Cutting the Red Tape in Rescue)

This morning, I saw the most adorable little dog’s photo on Facebook. It was posted by a dog rescue group, and was asking for ‘approved fosters’ to contact them about going to go and get this little guy out of the pound. Many people responded, some saying they could go get him right away. Their response?  “Are you an approved foster?”

This little dog was in a kill shelter with a deadline. When repeatedly asked by many people which shelter the dog was in, the question was completely ignored. Did I mention he was in a KILL shelter with a DEADLINE?

We know animal rescues are wonderful, vital and amazing organizations. Shiloh’s Dog Boutique was created largely in part to help animal rescues, after all. I am not writing this to wag my finger at any specific group, because that’s not how we choose to behave as a company. Rather, the goal of my post inspired by that most disappointing Facebook conversation was to point out some ways in which rescues can actually do more harm than good for the animals they want to help.

In the above example, why couldn’t they just tell everyone where the dog was? Surely, if someone wants to go and adopt directly from the shelter, there is nothing wrong with that. I suspect the reason is that this particular rescue wanted to be in control of this particular dog. Maybe out of worry that he wouldn’t find a good, proper home if adopted by someone they didn’t personally deem worthy of adopting him?

Not the best reason, to be sure. Surely, a person who fell in love with the dog’s photo on Facebook and offered him a home would be much better than simply leaving a dog there, in high danger of being killed, because you chose instead to be a control freak bureaucracy rather than a rescue that day.

As someone who volunteered in dog rescue for a long time, I made observations over the years. Often, it was an unintentional oversight or other miscommunication, but other times, it was a bit less excusable.

I remember being asked to drive about sixty miles away to ‘check the temperament’ of a dog in a certain shelter. I had been there many times, and knew the rescue coordinator who worked in the shelter. She saw these dogs the moment they were brought in, and was part of their care until the moment they were adopted or destroyed. No one knew those dogs better than her, and I should point out that I am not an animal behaviorist or other trained expert. I was simply a volunteer.

I asked the rescue why the coordinator, who knew the dog and spent all day interacting with them in the shelter couldn’t be asked to report on the temperament before anyone made the trip. “Oh, no..we want one of OUR people to do it.” they said.

Pardon my French, but what kind of bullshit is that?

It’s not that I was lazy, you see..I just didn’t want to skip work that day and drive all the way out there and back for a ‘maybe’. What I hoped they would do is dial the coordinator, then trust her judgment when she said yes, the dog was a good candidate for adoption, or no, he was not. They knew her too, you see. She was our main contact and resource at the shelter. So, why the red tape? Why build another brick wall between that dog and a home?

Let’s just get to the point. Why make that dog more likely to die than to live because you’re choosing to behave in such a selfish, inconsiderate way toward your volunteers, the shelter’s staff, and that poor dog, too?

Here is how it should have gone:

“Hi, Rachel. We’ve spoken to the rescue coordinator, and dog A5551212 has a good temperament. Would you please go and pick him up for us today?”

“Oh, great! So, you’re definitely taking him, then? Of course I’ll go!”

Here is how it worked instead:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t really afford to lose most of my day at work if you’re not sure you can take him. If you’d just be willing to let the coordinator tell you about his temperament, I will call my boss and tell him I won’t be in. Please let me know.”

Never heard about that dog again. I wish I could say they probably found someone else to make the drive, but I don’t think that’s likely. So now, as a volunteer, I got to feel bad and guilty, too. It would not have been the first time they’d sent me to check in on a dog only to find he or she could not be adopted for some reason. Either they were already claimed by an owner or another rescue, or they were aggressive or feral or whatever.

So, we can start the list with those two things.

1. Taking the time to post a dog’s photo on social networks, but refusing to tell anyone where he/she is.

2. Not valuing your volunteers’ time and efforts, thereby creating more problems, not less, and quite possibly causing those volunteers to seek out different foundations to work for.

3.  Applications and house checks are important. There is no denying this. However, if you allow that process to drag on and on, fail to respond to applicants, or can’t get the house check scheduled soon, you do run a high risk that the dog will no longer have a home. Instead, the person will become frustrated and find another rescue, or simply hit the pound to adopt one themselves.

4. Please always remember that people can adopt from the pound, which is something you should encourage at all times, and never impede by violating #1 on this list.  The goal is saving animals, not just the ones you can take credit for. Keep in mind that it is not supposed to be about you, but about the dogs and cats in need of homes.

5. Strive for an organized operation. Lost paperwork, missed phone calls, a lack of communication with shelter staff or volunteers, poor communication of your needs and expectations where events, adoptions or fosters are concerned all make a nice recipe for disaster.

The shelter system is already full of red tape. Be the scissors, not the dispenser!



The dog in this photo is my Oliver. I adopted him directly from an animal shelter afer I applied to adopt from a rescue, and ran into some of the issues I outlined above.

Just wanted to clarify as some have e mailed to ask where they could find the adorable dog in my photo.

He’s not for adoption. = )



Rachel Chappell

Owner of Shiloh’s Dog Boutique


Rescue Spotlight-Happy Mutts

Shiloh’s Dog Boutique pledges a  percentage of all proceeds to animal rescues and other animal-related non profits, and we’ve recently decided to start offering coupon codes to rescues which will generate donations specific to a given organization.

Based in Southern California ourselves, we were very happy to come across an organization called Happy Mutts, a rescue group who serves an area the animals are especially in need. The High Desert. Made up of many smaller towns, people and animals alike often find themselves in a remote place, rather cut off from resources which would be more readily available in larger cities. When you add the extreme heat and fairly drastic cold to the scenario, you end up with a crisis on your hands. One of our own dogs was rescued and adopted from Barstow (Loki, for those of you who have followed our blog) so this situation tugs at our heart in a very personal way, too.


We invited Dawn Baker, of Happy Mutts to do a Q&A with us so that we could properly introduce you to their organization.  Here is what Dawn had to say.

Shiloh’s: “Tell us a bit about your organization. When was it founded? Who is the head of your organization, and what inspired you to create your animal rescue?”

Dawn Baker:  ” Founded September 2013 officially; however, Happy Mutts was formed, due to someone taking over the founders original organzation and did not like the direction the old organization was headed.  The main person is Tessa Anderson; however, we do not believe in heads we are a group of independent rescuers who are just trying to make a difference by taking it to the next level and getting an official 501c3 started to better support our rescue habits and efforts.”

Shiloh’s: I understand you’re located in the desert areas of CA, where pets are especially vulnerable. Tell us a bit about the situations unique to your location and how it impacts the number of animals dumped in shelters and their chances of adoption.

Dawn Baker: “This rescue is one of the only rescues in the High Desert that takes all breeds, i.e. large, small, cats, Pit Bulls, you name it, we handle it.  We make every effort to save as many animals as we can, whether that be owner surrender, pulling from shelters, picking up from being abandoned, trying to help owners keep their pets by covering vet bills, fixing fences, we are working hard to eliminate the homeless pet population in the High Desert.”

Shiloh’s: “What conditions do you feel are unique in your area?”

Dawn Baker: “Lack of exposure, economically poor area, lack of support of the homeless pet population in the immediate area, more backyard breeders and people trying to get rid of animals than keep them.

The issues seem to be greater ,(and I am stating this as an observation and being involved with the rescue effort in this area since 2007), we moved here in 2000 from San Diego that has no kill shelters where people seem to get involved.  Fundraisers in San Diego bring in 100’s of thousands of dollars.  As a volunteer with several rescues including Happy Mutts I just had a fundraiser that brought in $16.30, horrific!  Might be 2 shots.”

Shiloh’s: “What is the shelter system like where you work?”

Dawn Baker: ” Those range from horrible to good.  We have 3 main shelters in our immediate area.  Victor Valley Animal Protective League, Hesperia Animal Control and Apple Valley Animal Services.”

Shiloh’s: “How do you feel your organization is helping to reach out to pets and pet owners in the areas you serve?”

Dawn Baker: “We attempt to keep the pet in their home as best we can, if that means helping the owner to cover vetting, fixing a fence, providing training, we reach out by walking the walk, not just talking the talk.  Our efforts speak louder then any words.”

Shiloh’s: “We all love to hear about the successful rescues. Are there any dogs that especially stand out in your mind that you’d like to share a story about?”

Dawn Baker: “So many to select…not sure which one would be the best to provide.  I will ask everyone to vote and provide the best story.  So stay tuned for this response.”

Shiloh’s: “Going forward, what are your goals for your rescue organization?”

Dawn Baker: “Our goal is to get enough outside funding to cut our private costs in half and double our ability to save more lives.”

Shiloh’s: “Do you feature any adoptable pets online or hold adoption events that are open to the public? If so, when and where are these held?”

Dawn Baker: “Since we are just getting started our website is still under construction, and we are still waiting for approval from adoption websites.  We do have adoption events weekly at the PetSmart in Apple Valley on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm.

Shiloh’s: “Do you have a web site where people can learn more about the work you do, and donate to your rescue?”

Dawn Baker: Website still under construction =

Facebook has more details on the daily events that are happening with Happy Mutts =

Dawn Baker: “Any recommendations or suggestions for improving a starter 501c3 rescue would be MOST appreciated.  We are ALWAYS in need of funds, suppliers, volunteers, fosters and adopters! ”

Shiloh’s is very happy to meet Happy Mutts, and we really admire their approach. They don’t just work to save animals, they also work with pet owners who are in need of assistance, and with their community as a whole to help ensure that dogs are not abandoned in the first place. Their pro-active efforts toward information, education and resources are invaluable, and the High Desert is blessed to have such friends among them.

To support Happy Mutts, visit their Facebook page and give them a like! If you’d like to donate money or items, visit their web site and say hello!

The coupon code for this organization is “happymutts”. If you’re planning to do any shopping for your dog, you can enter that code on our site,

and instantly receive 10% off your purchase. In addition, Shiloh’s pledges a proceed of all purchases made using this code to Happy Mutts as a donation to the amazing work they do.

Rachel Chappell,

Owner of Shiloh’s Dog Boutique

“Where Fashion Meets Compassion”

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