Most shelters and breed rescues are genuine and desperately need your support but check before you donate. Some actually scavenge newspaper ads for dogs to sell!
FOSTER HOME SECRET
Caring for too many animals can be difficult and those who foster or do rescue are especially vulnerable to the numbers problem.
Most of us have a more than normal amount of animals but there is a segment among us to whom this is a serious problem. A desire to save the animals can become an out of control compulsion resulting in shocking “numbers” and conditions. These people have gone over the line. They are no longer fanciers, breeders, or rescuers, they are hoarders. I’ve written about this before but to most dog owners, it is at best a shadowy problem. Maybe it is time we get serious about this situation.
Most of us have seen them at shows, at Humane Society meetings, or in our neighborhood. They are the kind souls, mostly older women, who will foster the sick, the healthy, the old, the orphaned or unwanted dogs and cats. They mean well because fostering or rescue usually starts with community need. Often the rescue people are unwashed, uncombed, and odiferous. The one other thing they have in common is that they are overwhelmed.
They are trying to do good but in the process, they are hoarding and actually causing animals to live in bad conditions. They are also alienating family and friends. They further remove themselves from society by refusing anyone access to their homes because “company” would see there is something amiss.
Sooner or later someone will call Animal Control. Then the slide really picks up speed. This gentle soul will often be taken to court, the animals almost always taken away and other penalties imposed. This is devastating to the foster or rescue person. To even think of those beloved animals being taken away and killed or adopted out to someone who doesn’t understand them is painful to say the least. People who devote their lives to rescuing animals have been pushed into suicide or deep depression.
Animal Control may have saved the animals but what about the owner? And what about the owner’s family? This is a problem that has far reaching effects.
I’ve seen people like this too often. We helped a woman, a top breeder, move many dogs from her horrible house to a friend’s home. I had gone there to help a friend who had no idea what was in store. On the way to the breeder’s home I warned my friend that it would be bad and that our purpose was to help, not to judge. The woman, whom I’ll call Sally, was embarrassed but simply couldn’t keep up any longer. Sally’s health had deteriorated, partly due to the living conditions in her house. The ammonia odor was eye-watering and every flat surface was covered with feces. We moved her and then started restoration on the house. It took many thousands of dollars to make it livable again.
In many cases this fault lies directly at the feet of the Animal Shelter, Humane Society, or the rescue group. They want foster homes so they give big-hearted people too many animals, too fast, not checking on the animals’ welfare and/or adoption status. The foster homes are given no instruction in how to properly care for tens of animals. It isn’t just like one animal 10 times, it requires management.
Imagine if you will a family who loves dogs. They have a few and are willing to foster a few more. They aren’t wealthy people but can surely care of an extra dog or two. The rescues don’t pay for the upkeep of these animals, so soon the financial strain begins to show. The few have now grown to 5 or 10 and still the family is paying all the bills and doing all the work.
The wife is worn down by the work caring for not only her dogs, but these many rescues. The husband is getting very cranky about the financial outlay and the fact that the house is always full of dogs and the cleaning is being neglected. The wife is getting praise from the shelter for being such a good foster parent to these dogs; the husband just wants his life and wife back. Before long the marriage is in trouble. The fault lies directly with the rescue society who has effectively ruined this woman’s house, her marriage, and her finances.
Of course the foster parent should be responsible for her own actions, but unfortunately she is often not rational. She sees only all those dogs or cats or birds that have been saved. In her mind, she is a self-sacrificing heroine, and she is constantly rewarded by the love she receives from her animals. But is it worth it?
Why not negotiate a flat fee with a veterinarian for foster animal care? Why not negotiate with dog and cat food companies for wholesale prices on foster care food? It would be great advertising for them.
Rescues are needed but, like the foster animals, they need management. Many of the rescue group heads know little more than the people they get to foster the animals. They are often volunteers who want to set hours for shelter visits that are convenient for them and the shelter staff. They start from a good heart but get on the bandwagon of save them all and damn the people.
In most communities a more effective adoption program is needed. Be open when people can get to the shelter, evenings and weekends. Have free training programs. Have behavior counselors available to help people who are contemplating surrendering their dog to the shelter. Often all it takes is practical advice and a helping hand in order to prevent another rescue case.
And lastly, why not utilize some of the overstressed foster parents as adoption counselors? Who knows more about coping with animals? And who most of all, needs to engage in worthwhile human social contact?