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Pet Rescue

NAIA Shelter Project Resources - Pet Rescue

Pet rescue and rehabilitation groups have existed in some form for decades, only the name is new. In more recent times, at least since the mid 1980's, the number of pet rescues has mushroomed; and they have modernized, developed the ability to promote their activities and achieved a much higher profile in society.

Some rescuers operate on their own, working directly with shelters without the benefit of larger associations.  Many are conducted through the structure of AKC national breed clubs or through other breed registries. Still others are set up for all-breeds and for mixes.

Some rescues tackle specific challenges like saving the least adoptable dogs, perhaps breeds or types that the public perceives to be dangerous. Likewise, in addition to traditional breed and mixed-breed rescues for cats, there are local and national cat organizations  that focus on helping stray cats in their habitat through trap, vaccinate, neuter and release programs.

Internet rescue
The Internet has revolutionized rescue, enabling rescuers to bring together homeless pets and adopters as never before. Today, the giant rescue website, Petfinder is one of the biggest pet sellers on the Internet connecting shelters and rescuers with potential adopters coast to coast and achieving remarkable success.  But as helpful as they are, many Internet rescue sites suffer from the same malady as breeder websites: adopters can’t see the pets they are selecting or the conditions under which they are kept. To its credit the Petfinder site promotes consumer education before adoption and offers a list of questions for potential adopters to ask.

Humane relocation
Shelter populations have fallen steeply during the last 3 decades in most parts of the US as Americans have mastered the lessons of responsible pet ownership, confining their pets, neutering them, socializing and training them, and providing proper veterinary care and vaccinations for them. These practices and many others are responsible for the strong decline in shelter intakes and euthanasia rates for dogs and non-feral cats.

The downward trend in shelter intakes and euthanasias exists in virtually all regions of the US; however, some areas of the country are ahead of others in reaching a balance between supply and demand for pets.  Shelter populations reflect this dynamic. While some regions still euthanize surplus shelter dogs and most have an overabundance of feral cats, the most advanced communities no longer have to euthanize healthy, adoptable dogs. Some communities have a greater demand for dogs than supply. Shelters in some parts of the country have empty kennel runs.

As far as dogs are concerned, what was once called a pet overpopulation problem has become a pet distribution problem. Some parts of the country have an under supply while others have a surplus. To prevent healthy, adoptable dogs from being euthanized in areas of surplus, rescue groups have developed transportation systems to move them to areas of greater demand.  This practice is called humane relocation and enables the rescue/shelter community to save more adoptable animals than ever before.

NAIA supports domestic humane relocation programs as long as:
1) only dogs from within the United States are involved;
2) good records, including permanent dog identification are used so that a given dog can be tracked throughout the system;
3) proper veterinary practices are followed, including examination, vaccinations and treatments for parasites;
4) the participating shelters put their resources into reducing the number of unwanted animals at the source, e.g., funding spay/neuter programs, and assuring that dogs from outside the continental US do not become part of the dogs being relocated;
5) humane handling methods are used; and
6) participating parties, including adopters, are made aware of the practice, i.e., where their pet came from.

International Rescue or International Humane Relocation
There are also shelters, sanctuaries and rescue organizations that import homeless dogs from outside the US. These pets, nearly always dogs, may have been victims of disasters, such as earthquakes, fires or cruelty.  Some rescuers import stray dogs from developing countries, often rescuing them from the streets.

NAIA opposes international rescue and relocation programs because:
1) fatal zoonotic diseases and parasites that have been controlled in the US for decades are still prevalent in many developing countries;
2) feral dogs often have behavior problems and/or fail to bond;
3) foreign imports displace dogs in US shelters that could be relocated; and
4) for all of the reasons listed above they are poorer choices for American pet owners than American-born dogs available through adoption or sale.

Note: From its founding NAIA has championed rescue efforts, hosting national conferences for rescue, working with rescuers, helping to develop ethical guidelines   and publishing articles by respected rescuers.

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