What ‘rescue only’ means to shelter animals
May 17, 2018
Dogs that come into shelters are tagged for "public adoption" (these are the easy, mellow Lassie dogs) and the rest (usually the majority of them) are defined as "rescue only." This mean if the shelter kill these dogs for any reason at all — space or otherwise — they do not have to count them in their euthanasia rate since they have been deemed as not suitable for public adoption. Almost all the dogs that rescues take from shelters and then adopt out are "rescue only" dogs.
It's a sleight of hand that the public never pays much attention to. All of us in rescue know exactly what it means. Dogs die because it's easier to kill them than to do the work to feed hem, house them, network them and clean up after them.
Shelters commonly schedule euthanasia for shy dogs, fearful dogs and dogs that are hungry that don't take kindly to the plastic hand test tin, which a plastic hand is used to interfere with a dog eating. (If you lived on the streets and were famished, and then had a bit of food presented to you with a plastic hand stuck in your bowl to interfere with your eating — you'd be "food aggressive" too.)
We take many food aggressive dogs and find that after the dog becomes sure that food will come on a regular basis, and they are no longer starving, the food aggression goes away.
When shelters report low or no kill euthanasia rates, they are often killing a lot of "rescue only" dogs they are not counting in the numbers they report each year. These less than perfect dogs do not deserve to die. They are not sick, not aggressive and have no bite history. They are deemed as not adoptable to the public because they are shy or fearful and because the shelters can do so.
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We are blessed here in Nevada County. Our county shelter is operated by local non-profit, Sammie's Friends and, to my knowledge, it is the only actual no-kill shelter in our state and none of the above applies to them.
So, what can be done?
The next time you go to your local shelter, count how many dogs are on the public adoption floor and how many are "rescue only." Try to convince your shelter that shy or fearful dogs deserve to find a safe, loving home and just because they are fearful doesn't mean they will bite.
Shelters need to teach their guests and visiting clients how to interact with these abandoned animals. They need to be less quick to tag a dog as unadoptable simply because it's easier to kill them than care for and find homes for them.
If we get involved in our shelters, we can make a big difference in how the animals are treated. I urge all of us who care about the animals to do just that. Get involved and speak up.
Most shelters are tax payer-supported and are "ours."
If we don't speak for the animals, who will? They can't speak and they need our voice.
Susan Wallace is the retired EO of the CA Juvenile Parole Board and is the Founder of Scooter's Pals, an all-volunteer non profit that saves hundreds of dogs (and some cats) from many northern California shelters. She can be contacted at 530-350-2099 or http://www.scooterspals.org.
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