A frank conversation about animal rescue and the ‘elephant in the room’

Posted November 6, 2017 by Denise Lane Painter

I think it’s time to have a frank conversation about rescue and the ‘elephant in the room’ – when a rescue doesn’t do things the way YOU think they should be done.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Every time I see a report of a rescuer being busted, everyone makes the same comments – see which one you are guilty of:

“OMG! What a POS! Hope he/she burns! Here’s his/her picture – where he/she works – his/her mother’s picture – picture of his/her kids and spouse and pets – here’s her phone number – let her know she’s a scumbag! You would think someone would have figured it out by now if it was that bad. Why didn’t local officials do something before it got so bad?
Why didn’t she just stop taking animals in? What crazy person does this?”

In the meantime, the rescuer has their pictures splashed all over social media and the local news, the rescuer and their family are getting death threats, the animals they love and devote their life to are being thrown into cages and hauled off to Animal Control, which in many places is an automatic death sentence, rumors are spread like wildfire and another life is ruined.

Let’s examine the life of that rescuer in the week leading up to that bust:

The rescuer has said over and over again that they are full, yet their fellow rescuers (the same ones that later will be reviling them) keep tagging them in high-need post and photos. The rescuer has said over and over again that they can’t take any more in, yet A/C keeps calling them with litters of puppies and kittens and the vague threat that if the rescuer can’t take them, they “might” have to be put down. Assholes who find out where the rescuer lives keep dumping animals there.

The rescuer, despite their best efforts, keeps getting further and further behind in cleaning cages or holding areas, feeding, watering, and medicating. The rescuer puts off sleep which leads to higher stress and health issues of their own, yet they can’t stop to care for themselves because they have so many animals to take care of, and despite begging people to stop, it doesn’t.

THEN, the rescuer asks for help from friends, and one of the friends, instead of volunteering to help, calls animal control.

I’m as guilty as the next rescuer, I’ve made the comments and wondered the wonders, but down deep, I know why. The honest reality of it is, the mindset of a rescuer is one of a fixer. We are hard-wired to fix a problem in front of us and we see it as a sign of weakness if we have to ask for help. We are afraid that others will see us as weak and attempt to exploit that. We love animals and we would do anything for them, even if it means we sacrifice our own lives.

And, we are afraid of that perp walk and our lives and the lives of our families destroyed. We know that those in rescue can be the most judgemental of all, and have experienced it. I know I have, there are plenty of people around who like to say my name who have no first-hand knowledge of what does or does not go on in my rescue.

I type all of this because another rescuer, (No, I won’t name them), whose rescue I have seen and felt that she did as good a job as she was able, has been busted.

Luckily for her and her family, A/C didn’t make a big deal of the raid so she doesn’t have to go through having the local news station’s trucks in her yard, but the rest of it has already started. Her granddaughter had to stay home from school today because they got death threats over the weekend. They’ve already had to change their cell phone numbers because of people calling at 3:00 a.m. She and her daughter have mothballed their social media accounts. They’ve endured people they don’t know stomping through their home for 48 hours and searching it everywhere, poking into the most intimate details of their lives.

NO dead animals were found, no severely unhealthy animals were found, no abuses. A lot of dirty cages but not severely so. She did have some cats with upper respiratories but she was treating them. Now they will probably be put down.

She is fighting it, attempting to either get her rescues back or get them distributed to other rescues. She reached out to me to ask me to write an affidavit on how I found conditions at her rescue last time I transported there, and I will be happy to do so. She’s a mess, and rightfully so. Rescuers who have worked with her for over a decade are now trashing her openly on social media. She feels she has not a single friend locally.

She was even afraid to reach out to me, and I’m 500 miles away, but she needs people who have seen her rescue to back her up so she did it anyway. I’m glad she did.

Remember the comment “Why didn’t she ask for help?” Well, she did. She asked for volunteers for a clean-up day at her home/rescue, she went out and bought over $200 of cleaning supplies, plus paint and things like wire brushes. She got three people to volunteer, and she thought they had a good day. They even talked about doing it again the next Saturday, which would have been this past one.

Then, late last week, she was raided by A/C – the same A/C who called her at least once a week over the last year to take a special needs animal or litters of kittens and puppies. They told her that they had a complaint from someone who had been in the residence and had seen the problems.

No charges have been filed. I want to make that crystal clear. A/C came out and decided she had “too many animals” and took most of them away, but did not file any charges against her. Her sorrow and pain are in knowing that some, if not all of the animals that were taken will most likely not make it back out of the shelter again.

In some cases these animals had been with her for three years or more, they were more like family pets than just rescue animals. Her heart is broken, her daughter and granddaughter’s hearts are broken, and they’re enduring death threats to boot. All because she asked for help in getting the place cleaned up.

In addition, she had to miss a weekend at PetSmart, where she could have hopefully adopted out a few dogs and cats. She says that now she’ll probably never go back to PetSmart again.

I don’t know what the answer is, except we as a rescue community need to stop being hypocritical of other rescues and start working to help each other rather than tearing each other down. I’ve been as guilty as the next person of it, and I’ll be the first to admit I can hold a grudge, but my goal in the future is to help, not harm.

We also need to stop piling on each other. If someone says publicly they are full, honor that! Don’t tag them, not even for sharing! Our rescue drive is so strong that we will sacrifice ourselves even when we know we shouldn’t. If someone says they need help and you can help, do it! But don’t go in with a judgment attitude, and when you’re done, if you feel something needs to be addressed, then say so, but don’t take it upon yourself to tear down another rescue without giving them the opportunity to fix things themselves, unless an animal is in immediate danger.

That’s it, that’s all I have to say, except to quote David Loop, be kind to one another, especially rescuers. Reach out a helping hand to them, and mean it. Imagine what your life would be like if A/C raided you this morning, whether you had done anything wrong or not.

Imagine your phone blowing up so badly with phone calls and text messages full of vile filth and threats that you can’t even make a phone call on it, and you have to go out and buy a burner phone. Imagine having to tell your five-year-old granddaughter that she can’t go to kindergarten this morning because mean people she doesn’t even know are threatening to kill her.

No, the rescuer didn’t tell her granddaughter that, just told her that they needed her to stay home for a few days, but she’s scared and upset too, after having A/C and police in her home most of the last few days. I do, however, know the emotional scarring they all are enduring because, in a very, very small way, I have been there.


Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

2 thoughts on “A frank conversation about animal rescue and the ‘elephant in the room’”

  1. https://www.habitatforhorses.org/the-henneke-body-condition-scoring-system/

    This is used in horse rescue and it pairs nicely with most local laws regarding livestock and their living conditions.
    It’s time to see something like this in play for rescues and shelters.
    Anyone claiming to be a rescue should be required to be inspected and permitted for x number of animals based on the size of their home and facility. Livestock is usually not head counted if it’s still wet, I.E. nursing and that would cover mother cats with kits.
    there is too much passion involved in many of these cases. While someone will argue animals will end up in kill shelters that’s often what happens when a bad rescue is shut down anyway and at some point you have to protect the quality of life for the cats already in the rescue. State and local TNR programs would help to further reduce feral cat populations.

  2. Don’t get me started — take it one step farther & consider her treatment by the justice system, where “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t seem to apply. Just using the term “hoarder”, even when evidence is lacking, seems to tilt the case. Many rescuers don’t know that they don’t have to surrender their animals — they should at least make their accusers jump through the hoops provided by the 4th & 5th Amendments. Animal rescue law is growing but many rescuers don’t know their rights.
    Rescuers do need to cooperate and give each other the benefit of the doubt if possible. We need to think of rescue as a profession — traditionally the defining feature of a profession is that it is self-regulating. If rescues don’t learn to do this in a responsible way, governmental agencies will step in more and more. Readers are probably aware of legislative efforts in several states to regulate rescues. As I said, don’t get me started …


Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo