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