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Rescue responsibility to volunteers?

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  • Rescue responsibility to volunteers?

    Two stories I've read recently got me thinking about the rescue movement and the way it's become both extremely important to people who love animals, and extremely scattershot when it comes to taking responsibility for the message it gives those people.

    1) An early 20's woman in Georgia was mauled to death by one or more of the 6 dogs she was keeping - one was her own pit bull, two were Presa Canarios. She was described as a huge animal lover who was committed to rescue.

    2) A lab in NJ jumped his fence and vanished; it eventually came out that a neighbor had seen the dog roaming around her yard, took him in and then passed him on to another family in PA, then concealed her actions from the real owners (whose search for the dog was very public and impossible to miss). That woman too was in her early 20's and very into rescue. She claims that when she saw the stray lab in her yard, she assumed that the dog had been dumped by someone who knew she was a rescue person.

    The lab story had a gruesome ending, and the details made it clear that the neighbor is a vile person, while the GA woman is apparently just the victim of poor judgement. But there were obvious similarities, particularly in the way both women identified as rescue people. The GA woman worked at a shelter, and the NJ woman was trying to work as a dog trainer, so they appear to have had some interaction with the wider world of dogs and rescue. But despite being semi-professionally involved in the dog world, neither seems to have known better than to overload herself with challenging dogs, or assume that a stray is a dump that can ethically be shipped out of state.

    Which I guess gets to my question - do rescues have a responsibility to their volunteers? I mean, ideally to educate them but at the very least to steer them away from outright insanity like stealing dogs and assuming you can handle two Presas as a casual owner with limited experience and a houseful of other dogs.

  • #2
    Those associated with Rebecca Carey know more details about the situation and I don't think anyone in the community felt that she was irresponsible.

    I think this post is in exceptionally poor taste. Why try to tarnish the reputation of a wonderful woman by holding her up as an example of a "casual" woman "overloading" herself?

    If you want to speak in hypotheticals fine, but to casually throw around the tragic death of a young woman is appalling.

    Comment


    • #3
      Vacation1,

      I'd say that the rescue *does* have that responsibility, provided they (the rescue) are in fact educated enough themselves to know what are reasonable expectations/behaviors. This can be a tall order, I've sadly discovered.

      Oh -- and I wasn't addressing the situation mentioned above. I had heard about it, but wasn't clued in on the details.
      Last edited by libgrrl; Aug. 21, 2012, 11:04 PM. Reason: more info

      Comment


      • #4
        I interview potential volunteers (fosters and transporters) for a collie rescue. We try to place easy dogs with a new foster, unless they have some really extensive obedience training experience. Every once in a while, we do get one who just doesn't work out, but with collies, aggression is not usually a problem...it's actually very unusual. Herding and barking is more of a problem, and we do discuss, at length, how the potential volunteer will handle discipline.

        I have no experience with the bully breeds, so I can't speak for how one of their rescues handles their volunteers.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by vacation1 View Post
          Which I guess gets to my question - do rescues have a responsibility to their volunteers? I mean, ideally to educate them but at the very least to steer them away from outright insanity like stealing dogs and assuming you can handle two Presas as a casual owner with limited experience and a houseful of other dogs.
          Of course a formal rescue organization needs to be screening, educating, and guiding their volunteers. This is doubly true for foster homes and anyone else responsible for one of the Rescue's animals in any way.

          I cannot comment on the two examples you gave because I don't know the full stories.

          One big problem I've found in managing volunteers through the charity work I've done: people aren't always honest. They say they want to volunteer. They'll sit through the educational information and sign the rules of conduct forms. Later you start to suspect their reasons for volunteering are NOT about helping the animals in the rescue. The Rescue has an obligation to narrow that person's access to things or to discourage (or even fire) them, if there is a safety, legal, or ethical issue. However, a person with their own agenda can get into a lot of trouble before the organization they volunteer for realizes it. If you're going to blame anyone, blame human nature. Blame our culture that seems to encourage immediate gratification and does not shame harmful selfish behavior.

          As far as horse rescues, in my personal experience working with my local Rescue org: fosters are carefully screened and I'd say 9 times out of 10 it's decided the caller wouldn't be a good fit. I have to listen carefully to find out their expectations. I also need to find out their experience level, and I want to see them work with a horse before I take their world for it they're "experienced" or "have owned horses their whole life". It all comes down to safety and responsibility. I don't want anyone hurt. I recognize that a lawsuit can be devastating for a charity, even with good insurance. I am aware how damaging a bad volunteer's actions can be to the org's reputation. I fear not only for peoples' safety on that location, I also fear for the horse: once he's hurt someone, no matter how it wasn't his fault, he may be seen as "dangerous". Once any horse gets that "dangerous" label applied to him, he's going to die of old age in the shelter because nobody will touch him. I recognize that some shelter simply kill the "difficult" horses (one horse shelter in CA has a kill rate of 30-50% each month), rather than risk putting a horse who isn't well trained into a foster or adoptive home. Even the best intentioned people can get terribly hurt with a horse if they're not handling them in an intelligent, safe, effective way.
          Veterinarians for Equine Welfare

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          • #6
            the original post also assumes that these two people were not independent rescues but associated with an organization.

            If they were associated with an organization, then yes, they do have a responsibility to screen their foster homes.

            there is nothing that can be done if they individuals were independent fosters.

            Comment


            • #7
              I foster for a rescue up here and you have to go through extensive screening before being allowed to foster. Then they try to match what you want (i.e. what will best suit your household) to what they feel would work for you. So no newbie foster parent is going to get a sick dog, an aggressive dog, or anything like that. I take puppies because my dog does best with them (and I'd end up adopting the seniors myself!) but my first pup was an older, shy one who was being returned to the rescue because his first adopters were morons (my words). My second pup was 8 weeks and healthy. The one I have now was only 6 weeks and not very healthy. Two of her littermates actually died and I had to do an emergency run to the vet with her the first week I had her. A less experienced foster home might have missed the warning signs.

              So, here at least, the rescues try to screen their foster homes. Not to mention that any dog taken by an individual foster would be put under the rescue organization's 'umbrella', which means the dog would be taken to the vet, checked for health and microchip/tattoo before being adopted out. There's no chance of a dog being taken away and adopted to a random family without going through the rescue organization, not just the foster family. I have NO right to adopt out the dog to anyone, without the adopter going through the proper channels.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post
                Those associated with Rebecca Carey know more details about the situation and I don't think anyone in the community felt that she was irresponsible. I think this post is in exceptionally poor taste. Why try to tarnish the reputation of a wonderful woman by holding her up as an example of a "casual" woman "overloading" herself? If you want to speak in hypotheticals fine, but to casually throw around the tragic death of a young woman is appalling.
                It must be painful to anyone familiar with the victim in that case to have her tragedy discussed frankly and perhaps inaccurately. However, the information available to those outside the situation creates an impression which led me to wonder about the responsibilities of rescue, both indivdual organizations and the community as a whole. It may have been jarring to the personally affected, as it was focused more on "what went wrong" than on grieving the loss, but it was not intended as a slander on the dead.

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                • #9
                  I think the question you presented was a good one and something that needs to be discussed. I still feel like it was in poor taste to pull up specific cases with limited and conflicting information and use that as the foundation for the discussion.

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