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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free to Good Home...

In animal rescue, we run into problems. Financial problems? We got those. Staffing problems? We got those. Volunteer problems? We got those. Shortage of homes problems? We got those. Overabundance of animals problems? We got those. Up to your knees in poop problems? We got those. People unwilling to give their "Free to Good Home" animal to a rescue problem? We got those!

When rescue people see ads for animals "Free to a Good Home", most rescues jump on them if they have room in their program. "Free to Good Home" pets are rarely given ONLY to good homes. If you walk in for a pup, you walk away with a pup, no reference checks, no applications, nothing. The owners are often just eager to get rid of the pesky buggars. No matter how cute they are, an entire litter of puppies or kittens can cause a lot of mess that needs constant cleaning. The owners just want to get rid of the issue, get rid of the mess, and clean for the last time.

I was working at another veterinary hospital, and we had a client that owned a commercial breeding facility. He is a very nice guy and we get along just fine despite my general concern for the quality of animal care in these commercial breeding facilities. He always got his animals checked out by a veterinarian, so I give him credit for that. He was biding his time in the waiting room looking at the bulletin board that has many flyers on it. He picked one off the board, and made a phone call. When I called him into the room for his appointment, he handed me the flyer and he said, "You can throw this one away. They are gone". I looked at the flyer and it said, "Two 3 month old schnauzer puppies Free to Good Home". If they had still been available, they would be in his care, and I don't care how wonderful his facility might be, the quality of life for those Free to Good Home pups would not be the same as being a house pet...sleeping on the bed at night, running to the door when you hear your owner's car return from work, chewing on slippers, etc.

Today I took in 4 adorable mix breed puppies from a rescue group. The rescue group had called the gentleman that was advertising 14 mixed breed puppies that were six weeks old Free to a Good Home. Yes, I did say 14! What a mess they must make! When they told the gentleman they were a rescue group and would make sure the puppies were vetted and cared for in experienced foster homes until a forever home was found, the gentleman said "No".

I do not understand why anyone would say no to that! Here is a group willing to take away your problem, all 14 of them in one big swoop. That rescue group is willing to pay a veterinarian for all the veterinary care including vaccines, deworming, flea protection, spay/neuter when they are old enough, microchipping, boarding expenses, any other necessary medical expenses, provide transportation from his front door to the pups' new foster homes, provide foster care for these puppies with a real family, not kept in a kennel like most shelters, and review applications thoroughly including home visits to prospective families for all 14 puppies. This is not an easy or inexpensive task, yet they were willing to do it for the sake of the puppies. They were willing to do it to ensure that the homes these puppies go to have had a veterinary reference checked. They are willing to do it to ensure that the adopting family does not live in a building that does not allow pets (yes, you would be amazed how many times this knocks out our potential adopters!). They are willing to do it to ensure that these puppies go to a home that understands what a puppy needs now, what a dog needs in the years to come, and what a senior dog will require in 10 years.

Financial gain? Does this gentleman think this group will run off and make a bunch of money on HIS puppies? This rescue group's adoption fee for puppies is $275. Go to your phone and call your veterinarian. Get an estimate for an office visit and exam, distemper combo vaccine with parvo and corona, kennel cough vaccine, rabies, fecal exam and deworming, monthly heartworm pill, monthly flea and tick treatment, pedicure, spay or neuter, and a microchip. I will bet you would lose money on that deal! Keep in mind that this rescue group is paying for boarding until transport is found to get these four puppies to their new foster homes. If these puppies are in foster care for more than three weeks, it means more vaccines, more deworming, more flea control, more heartworm pills, more medical expenses... Do you get my point?

These are mixed breed puppies, cute as they are (and they are cute) there is no "market" waiting for these puppies. People will say, "I have always wanted a...(enter breed name here)." This phrase rarely ends in "large mixed breed dog". In this economy, there is no guarantee that with large mixed breed dogs, even if they are cute little puppies now, that a qualified adopter will be found quickly. It is the sad truth.

But the gentleman said, "No". So where do we go from here. Another volunteer called the gentleman back, and said she was looking for some farm dogs for herself and for her sister. Voila, four out of fourteen puppies safe and sound...

Most of the other ten puppies will likely go to good homes, be well cared for, go to the vet, and get spayed/neutered. Because they are mixed breed dogs, they will not likely end up in a professional breeding facility. Some may end up tied to a tree in the back yard for their lifetime due to the lack of screening for "Good Homes". Some might end up pregnant or causing pregnancies because their unscreened owner neglected to spay/neuter a dog that was free anyway. So here we would have a puppy that was irresponsibly bred, that could have gone to rescue, but is now part of the pet overpopulation problem and producing more unwanted litters because one man could not see the benefit of sending a large unwanted litter of puppies into rescue.

There are those that judge us for the deceptive nature of a rescue mission such as this. I don't like that it occasionally has to be done this way. Most times we get an immediate "Yes" when we call. Sometimes we can convince the hesitant person that we are the best place for the animal. Sometimes, we cannot change whatever negative perception of rescue is clouding this person's mind. I am thoroughly confused by the fact that a person can be willing to give an animal away to anyone, but that same person is not willing to give the same free animal to anyone associated with a "rescue". This particular rescue group does not have any significant financial gain in the adoption of the pups. The adoption market is poor right now, new forever homes are hard to find in an economy where animals are constantly being relinquished due to job loss, housing changes, even marital changes.

As long as these four dogs are alive, if ever the new family is unable to care for them, these four puppies will be welcomed back into this rescue to be rehomed. They will be welcomed back whether they are four months old, four years old, or fourteen years old. Life situations may change for their owners, but these puppies have a type of life insurance policy that has been given to them by this rescue group and its team of volunteers, including transportation volunteers, foster home volunteers, volunteers that run the computer/communications, read applications, do home visits, recieve and return phone calls, open mail, pay bills, keep track of volunteer hours, monitor transports to make sure everyone meets on time and at the right place, fundraising volunteers, etc.

Who could say no to that?


ameow2002 said...

It is the sad truth and i have dealt with it here as well. The word 'rescue' has somehow gotten a bad rap. Maybe because of the not so legitimate ones that crop up from time to time and are nothing more than hoarders hiding behind a fancy website and pretty words? In the best of times, financially, a rescue will be lucky to survive and is never a money making venture...but a calling from the heart! Once again, well written and thought provoking!!!

Anonymous said...

Love this post Lisa! It is the sad truth. At least this post is getting noticed! Someone (i assume who reads your blog) made a post about it in the Des Moines Craigslist this morning!! Of course, the way I read it, it looks like they too are bashing the rescue that saved these 4 puppies. I completely stand behind these rescues that do anything they have to do to save these pups from the "bad" people who otherwise would end up with them.

Immydog said...

Found this interesting piece on Craig's List this morning and wanted to share it...
"Date: 2009-11-16, 7:38AM CST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]


If you are giving away puppies free to good homes BEWARE.... I just happened to come across a blog written by a VET rescue that stated that they actually lie to get the free puppies to take to their shelters. The gentleman was approached by the rescue to get his free puppies and he said no, so they called him back pretending to be good homes so they could take 4 of his pups. ANY rescue that is willing to out and out lie about who they are makes me wonder what else they lie about. NOT MAking money on these puppies???? IF they really were doing rescue only for the love of helping then they would offer free spay and neuter programs to people and watch how that would help the pet over-population, after all she is a vet, right...If they want to be trusted they had better be trustworthy... "

I wonder if the person who wrote this actually READ the blog??? Free spay and neuter programs? That would be awesome and if I win a huge lottery tomorrow, that may happen. But as it stands, it actually costs us money to do the surgeries. If you love what you do, then go tell your boss that you are now going to work for free. Whether you love it or not, people need money to survive, yes, even veterinarians. I give rescues discounts to help them be able to get more animals done. But I cannot do it for free any more than you can.

Anonymous said...

You say the rescue group has to pay for boarding and then you say it's volunteers. Which is it?
Do you even know what you're doing? You're a Vet. If you don't like to be up to your knees in poop, then you're in the wrong business.

Kent said...

I still would have a hard time trying to give a rescue $275 for a dog. I have adopted dogs from four different rescue organizations -- most recently 1 week ago, and never have paid over $100 for any of the dogs. The last one was a purebred American Eskimo from Chariton. Jefferson and Fort Dodge are some of the other shelters, so perhaps this rescue league expenses are out of line with other rescue or humane societies.

For the cost of spay/neuter, I would recommend they shop around for vets. Higher cost does not necessarily equal better service and appreciate the ones I have. I have no problem paying for service, but if you are out of line with others, there has to be a better way.

To the post, I have no idea about the gentlemen at question or his ability to gauge the worth of those wanting his pups, but to assume the rescue is always going to be better than a private owner is problematic. But then again, he apparently was duped the liars from the rescue organization.

Immydog said...

To Anonymous from Nov 16, the rescue group pays for boarding until a volunteer foster home is found. I re-read the line about poop in my blog and I never stated that we didn't like it so you may be interpretting a bit there... but as dedicated as my staff and I are, we don't like it but are dedicated to the animals who create it.

To Kent,
I appreciate your well thought words. And rescue groups and shelters vary greatly by their adoption fees in the same ways that veterinarians vary in their pricing. If you go to a breed rescue, they will likely be higher priced than the local shelter, but the outcome is that you still saved a life.
I too question the gentlemen's ability to gauge the worth of those wanting his pups, but I also stated that "Most of the other ten puppies will likely go to good homes, be well cared for, go to the vet, and get spayed/neutered." So I never stated going to a rescue is a better place than to an owner. I am simply stating that the four pups that went to THIS particular rescue have a new life insurance policy that this gentleman cannot and will not offer to the new owner's of these pups...but hopefully none of them will ever need to use it.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to read the comments and then to read the interpretations. It seems as if it does not matter what one posts, that the words will indeed be put to the side of the vet and rescue. I am not affiliated with a vet or rescue or animal activist, I am just a pet owner. I guess this is a forum for the vet to try to convince people to pay for the continued attempts to make money from "free" puppies. I personally believe the vets charge way to much money for the routine care of animals and this vet may have found a way to keep the practice open. The thing is, anything in extreme is unhealthy and this battle seems to go on and on and on with twists of words and people trying to convince others to their side. Rescue in theory is a terrific idea, but in practice it needs to be done with the animal first and the money last. A true rescue would be donation only for what the person who is getting the animal can pay or wants to pay and the rest afforded on volunteerism. The people who make profit and call it a rescue are a bit skewed in their view of what a true rescue is.

Anonymous said...

I would say they have financial gain. Like you've said before, everyone has to make money in a business. Don't tell me the exam, spay or neuter, and office call cost much when you're the owner and the VET doing the work for them. You could wave the office call, exam and only charge cost for the meds needed for surgery. The whole sale price of vaccinations is what? About $3 each. Microchips $10 each. They don't seem to have much money invested in these "free" puppies they turn around and sell for $275, unless you are over charging because it is about the money and not the dogs.

ameow2002 said...

To all of you anonymous posters who are too afraid to come clean. How in the world do you think a legitimate rescue makes ANY profit on ANY animal? I am not a vet so don't do any of my own vet work. Yes, sometimes we do get a discount but it isn't enough to make up for a spay/neuter, all vaccines, heartworm testing, FeLV/FIV testing for cats, micro-chipping, flea and parasite prevention, dentals, treating any injuries or illnesses, heartworm treatment runs into the 100's of dollars and we have treated many, fixing torn ACLs, luxating patellas, ringworm treatment, fixing broken bones, amputations, paying sanctuary costs for special needs animals who need a safe place to go, not to mention food and care for an animal that we may have for months while we search for a suitable home. No one here gets ANY salary or compensation. We are lucky to get a $50.00 adoption fee for a cat and $150.00 for a dog. You do the math hunny but don't EVER accuse my rescue of doing this for anything other than the love of animals!