What makes a good rescue?
With a plethora of people springing up and using the word 'rescue' to describe circumstances where they are moving an animal from one home to another without checks, how do you identify who you should support, who should be gently encouraged to rethink their ideas, and who should you warn people away from?
A good and ethical rescue must:
- Quarantine. If there isn't an awareness of this and a minimum time the animal is with the person, then there will be no way of controlling or even identifying any potential issues.
- Health checks. If an animal is coming in one day, and going out the next few days - this is a serious problem. There is no way this person can have an idea of what is going on with this animal, they are simply passing the problem onwards.
- Funds. Have the money available for vet bills and basic costs. If someone is crowdfunding for basic equipment or vet bills for example, this is a serious issue. They are not doing the animal any good, in fact it is a minor form of neglect in itself. A rescue crowdfunding for unexpected costs - due to the quantity of animals received, or large vet bills, or to upgrade environment (providing they are already meeting basic needs) is a different issue.
- A supporting point to the above: Does the rescue have contacts and are willing to accept help from a wider network? A critical attitude towards other rescues and the attitude of 'going it alone' would be a warning sign to me. If you can't work together, then the animal welfare will suffer. We all have room to learn and no one individual can know everything.
- Behaviour checks. Again, the animal should be with the rescue with time enough for them to have an idea of character. Watch out for common terms being reused. Are the animals all 'sweet' and 'loving'? If there aren't any fiesty characters needing work then it's likely the person is either sugarcoating or cherrypicking who they help with. Animals don't all recover from neglect and some may never trust humans again.
- Environment: Relating to the Funds point above, animals need to be kept in decent cages with enrichment. If the person is struggling to provide this, they need to slow down and rethink.
- Sanctuary. A decent rescue will have spaces allocated for the animals that are not suitable for rehoming. This may be due to age or ongoing health issues.
- Lifetime backup. A rescue will allow space for the animal to be returned should circumstances change as well as be on hand to answer questions.
- Homing checks. A good rescue will need proof of the setup and conditions the animal is being homed to, and will be asking you questions. There may be paperwork to accompany this.
- Neuter and vaccinate. Where relevant by species, this is more applicable to larger animals such as rabbits.
- Knowledge and willingness to learn. We all start somewhere. However, if the person doesn't have the answer and isn't setting off to discover it - then this is worrying. A willingness to network with rescuers is important for this.
- in tandem to this, a rodent rescue must be aware of some basic things. If they don't know about common issues such as split-caging gerbils, the dangers of free-ranging rodents outside, or health issues like diabetes in hybrid hamsters, then there is work they need to do.
Bonus points for:
- A HMRC number. This is not feasible for many sadly, due to the time commitment and paperwork involved. It's definitely a good sign where they have one.
- Do they limit numbers? A rescue without limits is one set to have falling standards in care. Unfortunately limits often get exceeded, in which case doors should be closed. Anyone that claims to not have limits isn't thinking sensibly.
- Do they accept feedback? If any dissenting opinion is removed from their public websites or social media, then this is a worrying sign.
- Where are the animals coming from? If you find them 'rescuing' from Pets at Home Adoption centre for example, that's not really what the word means. The odd example where an animal is in serious need is morally grey and should be advertised transparently. Picking up a healthy animal from a place it is already safe - is in no way rescue.
- Paying for the animals they pick up. This one is horrible and is the most likely to be broken I think. Sometimes it happens, because it is the only way to remove an animal from neglect. It isn't, however, rescue. If this is something someone repeatedly does - then they are not helping animal welfare, as they are encouraging backyard-breeders by making it easier to offload old 'stock'.
- Requesting animals. An ad on homing site is a good way to raise exposure and not a warning sign in my opinion, however, posts on social media requesting animals is a concern.
- Unclear photos. Time is an issue for many home-run rescues and a portrait photo of the pet is its best shot at finding a home but if photos never show the animal in the cage or being handled, then it could be worth requesting a photo or example of this.
- Unexplained litters. Too many 'accidental' litters whilst in rescue would be a red flag to me.
Please note, this article is written by one person and as such is subjective. Please consider this as a guideline to help you identify and consider your own ethics and what you would be happy supporting. Nothing is absolute. This article is concerned more with small, home-run individuals concentrating on rodents and small mammals rather than larger organisations although some issues will apply to both.
Christine, of Crittery Exotics
Crittery Exotics was setup in 2007 to provide a useful resource regarding common and exotic rodents and small mammals. It is run by volunteers in their spare time around work and family life.About Crittery