When Forever Doesn’t Last: The Heartbreaking Reality Of Pet Rescue

pet rescueStefani Fortney usually writes posts about dog training or pet grooming. Today, I’m taking a detour down a different path. For years, I’ve been involved with pet rescues who, for a variety of reasons, have been surrendered or abandoned by their owners. It’s disturbingly common. I feel like you should know what it’s like to be involved with pet rescue.

Reasons for giving up a pet to a shelter or rescue

“We just don’t have the time for her anymore.”

“He got bigger than we thought he would.”

“She won’t stop chewing/scratching up the couch.”

“He won’t stay in the yard.”

“She keeps using the bathroom in the house.”

“I got a divorce.”

“We’re moving and can take him with us.”

“I can’t afford to take her to the vet.”

“He nipped/scratched/knocked down my child.”

“She’s just too much dog for me.”

“I didn’t realize a pet would be this much work.” 

I’ve heard every one of those reasons for giving up a pet to a shelter or rescue. Most of them, I’ve heard more than once. The people who say these things believe that they’re perfectly rational excuses for surrendering their pet. After trying to give the owner solutions to their problem that won’t involve their pet being given up, I have the owner sign a surrender form, I take the leash or carrier, and that person’s responsibility is transferred to me.

What’s involved with pet rescue?

Honestly, though, more often, I get a call about a stray or abandoned animal whose owners didn’t even care enough to find a safe way to surrender them. I have to decide at that point if an animal is potentially “adoptable,” if there’s a place it can be housed until an adopter is found, how it’s medical needs will be paid for, and if the risk is worth the effort.  Rescuers have to weigh these facts every time, make these hard decisions, and take on someone else’s responsibility.

Animals who are seriously sick, injured, or behaviorally unstable are almost always euthanized immediately. As an independent rescuer in a small town with limited resources, I don’t have the ability, money, space, or time to rehabilitate the hardest cases. I know that there will be another abandoned pet coming in soon who will need my help. I can’t stretch myself too thin. I can’t ask too much of the incredible people who donate their time, space, services, and supplies. So—there are those pets who are humanely euthanized. I give them all the comfort I can until it’s time for their death. I stay with them as they’re injected with an overdose of anesthesia, lose consciousness, and their heart stops beating. I talk to them in soothing tones. I stroke them gently. I apologize, and I cry. Then I get ready to receive another call for help. It’s never very long before another stray shows up.

When a pet is found abandoned or surrendered, I immediately have to evaluate its physical, emotional, and behavioral state. If it passes those tests, I have to find a foster home, figure out how it’s medical needs will be funded, and begin publicizing it on social media. My friends and family think I’m insane and annoying. I’m often offered great advice from twenty people when what I need is one person who is willing to foster. Even though I work in a pet hospital, I don’t have unlimited resources. If the clinic took in every animal in need, we’d be broke and out of business. Even though I’m passionate about pet rescue, I can’t take every pet in need home. I have five dogs and one cat. I don’t have the facilities to house any more animals. I want to do more . . . and I’m constantly reminded that I’m doing what I can, already.

After saying all this, I have a secret to tell you. Pet rescue is one of the most rewarding, satisfying things I can imagine doing. Seeing a scared, confused pet gain confidence in a foster home is incredible. Being there when the connection with their new, permanent person is made—it’s amazing.

So, I’m going to ask you to do something for me.

Make a lifelong commitment to your pets.

Consider fostering or adopting a rescue.

Donate to your local, reputable rescue organization.

Educate your pet and yourself.

Spay or neuter your pet.

Spread the word about responsible pet ownership and the needs of pets in rescue.

Give encouragement and emotional support to pet rescuers.

For more information on becoming a foster, adopter, or financial supporter for pets in the Guthrie/Logan County OK area, please contact Stefani Fortney at ponybat@yahoo.com

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