How Do You Decide What Rescue to Help?

Everyone knows the number one cardinal rule of blogging: Never, ever, blog about your job. From Dooce to Shea Allen, we know that people get fired for inappropriate social media use all the time. You just don’t do it. But it isn’t something that is always simple to avoid, especially when your job and your blogging niche intersect. Especially when you work in animal welfare and maintain a website about your dog.

Now that I have moved cities, changed professions, and am no longer all affiliated with my former employment, I feel a bit more freedom to talk about the things that get me riled as well as support the organizations that deserve celebration. There are still many subjects into which I will not delve for the sake of confidentiality but it turns out there are some pluses to leaving a job you loved. There is a freedom now that I didn’t have before. I can say exactly what I think of rodeos, for instance, and rant as much as I please about hunting practices or rescue groups who give legitimate organizations a bad name. It is liberating.

And daunting.

I have a responsibility to make sure my opinions are well-formed. Having worked for an organization that was often the victim of unwarranted social media attacks by individuals who didn’t know the full story, I never want to say anything that might cause unjust accusation. I don’t want to be one of those bloggers who vents first and regrets later. Thus, I still need to practice caution. As much as I may want to spout off about Big Oil or the ill dog a co-worker of a friend recently adopted from a so-called rescue, I need to hold myself back. Take it slow.

One thing I definitely need to do? Is get into fostering again. Now that we are settled into a normal routine, I think we are ready to start helping the animals in our new community. After spending the last two and a half years immersed in the morass of animal welfare, it’s hard not to miss it. I don’t know if I will ever throw myself back into that world as earnestly as I used to – I am not sure it was healthy, given my latent dog obsession – yet I do feel the need to dig back in at the ground level. Fostering is a great way to be involved with fuzzy animals without becoming ensnared int the politics.

Because, as anyone who has worked in animal welfare knows, there are always politics.

How to begin?

I will be honest. We had an appointment for a home inspection with the foster coordinator of the Edmonton Humane Society this week. With all the chaos of Shiva’s surgery, I couldn’t very well subject her to the stress of the cone and a stranger being in her home. So I cancelled. As much as I was looking forward to it, I don’t feel that sad about it. Don’t get me wrong, the EHS is a terrific organization. But I am not convinced they need my help. Their facility is gorgeous and they have a waiting list of volunteers. Perhaps they don’t really need one more. Maybe my time would be better spent elsewhere.

How does one decide? I know all the things to look for, charitable registration, references, veterinary partners… How does one confidently choose an organization with whom to volunteer? I am looking for a group that is legitimate but that maybe doesn’t have a whole lot of resources. Am I being too picky?

How did you choose?

10 thoughts on “How Do You Decide What Rescue to Help?

  1. Wonderful article! I don’t qualify for fostering because I am a confirmed renter. I am a confirmed renter because it is the only way I can stop myself from having a house full of animals. Instead, I chose to blog about rescues, volunteers, and fosters and promoting pet events in my very large area of Tampa Bay. I have been doing this for over a year now.
    If I could get into fostering, I would definitely choose an organization with all the credentials, but one that does not have an actual location. Animals are kept in the homes of foster parents. I think these are the most dedicated volunteers of all and they always have more animals than they have homes for. They have meet and greets at various pet supply stores and they show their adoptable pets at big and small pet events. One organization can have displays going on at at multiple locations every weekend – and they always show up. They are some of the most delightfully positive people I have ever met.


  2. I picked a rescue that was big enough to be stable (a lot of the very small ones implode when the founder(s) run out of money in their personal bank accounts and/or get enmeshed in the ever-present drama of the rescue scene) and small enough to still feel like it actually needed my help (the very big municipal shelters and their partner rescue programs have TONS of volunteers, which is great, but also makes me feel like I can make a bigger impact elsewhere).

    I picked one that, while it didn’t do everything right — and does a lot of things that aggravate me — did enough right that I felt okay working with them. I picked one whose weaknesses (occasionally inadequate health screening, for one) were things that I could easily dodge in the dogs that I personally chose to foster.

    And I picked one that handled the kind of animals I was interested in helping. I can’t foster cats (husband’s allergic) and don’t particularly enjoy working with certain types of dogs (for example, I am totally burned out on behavioral rehab), so I went with a rescue that mostly dealt with affectionate, “easy” family-pet dogs.


  3. I don’t think charitable registration etc matters much. I think you should go with your heart also. The rescue I got involved with is small but growing. Small is good because it only took me a short period of time to get to know the ropes. It helps that I wanted to foster Greyhounds and there are only 3 options here. I went for the oldest non-industry funded group. They have just got a committee and are working on the registration bit. They are also raising some serious funds lately which will help to save more dogs. They are big enough that the dogs actually get adopted. A really small rescue might struggle and you might end up with your foster for a year!


  4. I’m not in a position to even contemplate fostering. But if I were, I suppose I would research and find a place that really really needs help. I’m sure they all need help somehow, but there has to be more need in certain places.


  5. I think you need to follow your heart here, and not be so strict with yourself in choosing. Just the fact that you are volunteering ANYWHERE is more than most people do. Also, make sure you get along well with your fellow volunteers…because working with people you don’t like (even if it is volunteer work) is sure to burn you out just as fast as the politics.


  6. Mel wrote a terrific post a while back on how to decide what rescue organizations to support. I’ve searched and searched and been unable to find it. But if you find it, could you please send me the link. I need to bookmark it so I can recommend it to my friends asking the same questions you are.

    Whatever you decide, I can’t wait to read all about your future fostering adventures.


  7. I think you bring up a lot of great points. I have been dealing with a similar struggle for a while. Although I am not currently looking to foster, I do want to help in the ways that I can. As a pet blogger, I have come into a lot of food, treats, and other items that a shelter dog could definitely benefit from and often find myself in situations where I could gain even more. However, when I have reached out to countless shelters I don’t get a single response whether I contact via phone, email, or other social networking sites. And the one time I did get a response, I was told they didn’t need my donations. It is very discouraging as I don’t know where to look now. I also cannot fathom why I can’t seem to make a donation when I am trying so hard and so many dogs need help. Why is it that so many dogs are homeless, but shelters don’t seem to be looking for help? Or am I going about this all wrong and offering the wrong kind of help?


  8. Good question! I tried for a long time to find a place where I felt comfortable volunteering. At some, I got the impression that I wasn’t needed, or they weren’t very welcoming. Honestly, I kind of fell into the current place – I decided to offer my services to take photos, and of all the places I emailed, only one responded. So, I gave it a shot. Then, I decided to try some other opportunities there (as they had a few photographers already but always need dog walkers), and it just grew from there. I didn’t really plan to end up doing what I do (some adoption/fundraising events, some social media, etc.) – but I subscribed to the volunteer newsletter and found myself volunteering for various things that they needed. I think it’s hard to find that right fit, but eventually it happens…


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