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How to Start Your Own Dog Rescue

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

Read By: Pet Lovers
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Your heart aches for that skinny, stray dog who wanders your neighborhood. You visit the shelter and wish you could provide a home for all the pups longing for a loving family. You wonder if there is a way for you to help the many dogs in need. Perhaps you have a calling to run a rescue organization. Below are some suggestions to get you started.

Determine Your Goals

Define your rescue and set your goals. Will you rescue one particular breed? Will you rescue one group of dogs, such as hounds or Alaskan breeds? Will you rescue mixed breeds? What geographical area will you serve?

Do your research. Find out what already exists and what is needed.

Write a mission statement. Make it a couple sentences long stating what your organization is, what it does, who it serves, and where. Make the statement convincing and powerful, as it will be used in publications and advertisements. Post your mission statement somewhere where you will see it daily, stick to it, and live by it.

Build Your Rescue's Structure

Determine legalities. Will you be a non-profit organization? Though an additional cost, a lawyer is extremely helpful in building the incorporation of your organization.

You also need to determine if your rescue will stand on its own or be an extension of a current local or national organization. Being an outgrowth has the obvious advantage of support: financial, promotional, physical, and emotional. However, being part of a larger group means you need follow their guidelines. Being an individual organization gives you more freedom, but it also creates more work and gives you the challenge of building a name and reputation for your rescue.

Determine your rescue's home base. Will your dogs be housed in your home, in a shelter, or with foster families? Where will the office work be done?

Select your volunteers and board of directors. Choose people with similar goals, interests, and morals. Having partners in your mission can be helpful with your decision-making, emotional strength, financial responsibilities, and physical labor. Breed clubs, training facilities, your veterinary clinic, and other shelters are good places to find local dog lovers.

Finances and Fundraising

Develop a budget, and keep a written record of all money and donations coming in and money being spent.

How will you cover the expenses of your rescue? Will you hold fundraising events? Will you ask for financial and material donations? Will you produce a regular pet-related publication to raise funds? Developing a financial plan will be crucial to the success of your organization.

Develop Your Plan of Rescue

Lay down the rules, regulations, and procedures. Imagine the scenarios of potential rescue situations. Determine now, before the actual rescue, how the procedure will flow. Developing a plan in writing will allow your organization to run much more smoothly.

Listed below are a few topics to think about before rescuing your first dog.

  • Intake procedures
  • Guidelines regarding which dogs are rescued
  • When and why to euthanize
  • Plan for sick and injured pets
  • Visits to the site of rescue
  • Donations by those turning over pets
  • Forms signed when pets are surrendered
  • Vet checkups
  • Temperament evaluations
  • Foster homes
  • Foster expenses to be paid
  • Foster family contracts
  • Adoptive family screening
  • Adoption Contract
  • Adoption fees
  • Home visits after adoption

    The key to a successful rescue is setting strict guidelines and sticking with them. Also, do NOT allow yourself to become overwhelmed with your workload, as this will set you up for burnout. As you journey toward bringing happiness to dogs in need, follow your heart, but let common sense hold your hand.


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