The past week has been pretty typical in the world of rescue. We’ve been bombarded with all of the regular pleas for help in regard to dogs who need rescue, whether they are in a shelter, a stray, or an owner surrender. For some reason, however, lately we’ve had more people ask what we would need financially in order to help a dog. They were genuine questions in the hope of being able to offer some sort of assistance to a dog in need, which I sincerely appreciated. However, when I read the questions I found myself staring at them and thinking “Gosh…where do I start?”
The repeated question made me realize how the general public lacks in knowledge in regard to the general operation and financial aspect of rescuing animals, simply because they are not actively involved and aren’t able to see the daily activity. It would be like me asking “How do I fix my car?” It’s a disadvantage to those who genuinely want to help.
I think it’s a natural, common assumption that we take animals in, do their shots and a spay or neuter, and it’s all done. Shortly thereafter, we find the dog a home and it’s all good, so we move on to taking in another. Oooh, how I wish it were that easy.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Let me explain.
Routine Care and Then Some.
When we take a dog into rescue one of two things happens. 1) We pull it from the shelter and pay an adoption fee. 2) We take in an owner surrender (rare in our case). Once the dog is in our care we have to make sure the dog is fully medically prepared to come into the foster home. At the very minimum this includes vaccines, a fecal, a heartworm test, and the spay/neuter. Outside of that, if there are any additional health issues such as heartworms, other parasites, ear infections, skin issues, kennel cough, some sort of injury, etc., we have to immediately initiate treatment, as well. Sometimes the vaccines, heartworm test and spay/neuter are included in a shelter fee, or perhaps some of them are completed and others not. Regardless, we have to make sure it’s all taken care of so that the dog can come into the foster home without risk to the other dogs (sometimes hospitalization or boarding is also necessary prior to entering the foster home). We also have to purchase heartworm preventative, dewormer, and flea and tick preventative for the dog, and any medications that are needed for other ailments.
Almost always the dog needs multiple treatments. Coming from shelters they often have kennel cough, perhaps their skin is bad or they have an eye or ear infection, and 99% of the time they have parasites. These things all require medication and many require various tests to determine exactly what you’re treating. If the dog has heartworms you have to put the dog through heartworm treatment and antibiotics, which is extremely expensive. If they are injured, then it may require surgery or hospitalization or both. Of course, you have to feed the dog, as well.
Remember…you have to do this medical care with all of the dogs that come into rescue. From there on out you have to continue to feed them, make sure they have heartworm preventative and flea/tick preventative monthly, treat any additional illness they might have with doctor visits and antibiotics, re-vaccinate any that have been in rescue longer than a year (and we have some in rescue 3-4yrs), provide any additional medication or treatments they need, and so on and so forth. If anything else is necessary for general operation and it’s not donated, you have to purchase those things, too.
To help comprehend the cost of these things, stop and think about how much is spent on one of your dogs, then add three more illnesses/treatments/trauma to it. Then think of how much it might cost for one unexpected illness that requires daily medication for the dog’s life, even if it’s just MSM & Glucosamine. Now, multiply that by…let’s say 15. Starting to get an idea of how things build up?
Proper medical care is a must in our rescue. It’s something that is very important to me and something I will not slack on. These guys deserve to be treated with respect and should never suffer, so I will do all in my power to make sure they don’t. Outside of my opinion, the fact is that it’s the responsible thing to do, and I will continue to do so as long as this rescue stays afloat (Let me insert that I owe a great deal to my veterinarian for allowing me to do this when times are tough).
Yet What Happens if the Money Isn’t There?
The fundraising we do and the pleas for donations are because of this care. Nobody gets paid a salary (it’s all volunteer work), and nobody benefits from the monetary support. The money that comes into rescue goes directly to caring for the animals.
Grants for animal care are not in abundance, and the few that are out there have to be divvied up between many rescues and shelters who need financial support. In addition, you can’t receive the same grants year after year because the groups who offer these grants try to help many, many deserving animal care services. There is no government support, and public donations are never consistent because sadly, too many people don’t view animal charities as “important enough.” Yes, there are amazing people who give – I’m not implying that those people aren’t out there…they exist, and they are cherished. My point is that in comparison to other types of charities, animals fall toward the bottom of the totem pole. As a result, money is not in abundance, and it affects the animals, whether you have 5 or 100.
This does not mean there aren’t other important charities – there are many. I don’t want to degrade their need for help.
So when you see our pleas for help, or any charity for that matter, please understand that our need for this money is sincere, and we ask for help because we want to do things properly. I do not want to ever take advantage of our following or make you feel that we are constantly begging for money, especially for the wrong reasons. This is something I feel strongly about (and probably one reason I’m so bad at fundraising 😉 ). However, we don’t have a consistent income, average only about $12,000 per year, so when things happen we end up begging.
I want these animals to be well cared for while in our program. I want to do right by these dogs (and one cat)…but it’s frightening sometimes because at times I don’t know how much longer we can survive.
Yet I refuse to give up. *stomps foot and sticks out chest
Public Participation and its Importance
In addition to finances, there is also a need for physical bodies to help with administrative responsibilities and activities. Part of fundraising and promoting adoptions is marketing and participating in events. When the volunteer numbers are low, we are unable to attend or hold these events because there are not enough people to assist or help establish them.
Foster homes also play a large role in the number of animals that can be saved. If there is nobody to house a dog, there is nowhere for the dog to go for safety and the dog is euthanized. Group efforts make a huge impact on what a rescue can accomplish. Anyone who volunteers at any time is, in my book. valuable, appreciated, and kind-hearted (and if there’s ever anyone out there who I’ve inadvertently not thanked or let know my appreciation in any way, please accept my apology, for you ARE, without doubt, a jewel).
So, Again, How Much Do You(We) Need?
What we need is monetary contributions, food donations, good fundraising ideas, and people to help with the fundraising, events and fostering. If you’re a grant writer, we could use you, as well.
My real dream, though? A one of a kind facility. For that I need lots of money, good connections, employees, volunteers, and some super good bargains. 😉
Know that I’m not asking everyone to pull out their checkbooks and write us a big fat bonus – that’s not my intention. I’m not trying to boast a “woe is k9.5” blog post. Instead, I hope I’ve helped explain how our rescue functions so that you can feel good for any support you give to k9.5. Also, that in order for any type of charity to survive (especially for the smaller ones), public participation, contributions, and fundraising are necessary. Remember…just because a charity *seems* to be doing okay doesn’t mean that the organization doesn’t need assistance, volunteers, etc.
So ask whatever charity you want to help to explain their needs, learn about their efforts and daily activity, decide what area you feel strongly about and choose that for participation. In doing so, you will feel more comfortable with your assistance, you’ll enjoy helping, and you’ll benefit the charity. If you ask, yet feel it’s not your cup of tea, then try another charity. There are probably at least 50 of them in your home town that need your help.
If we happen to be one that you’d like to work with, then by all means let us know. We’ll be happy to welcome you into our crazy world of fluffy butts, seasoned canines, and those special dogs that we humans tend to call handicap (while the dogs “hmph” in our face and call us fools for thinking so).