I want to start this post by saying I support all shelters and rescue groups. Every organization has a role to play in the battle against pet overpopulation, and every single animal adopted deserves that second (or third chance). Every animal adopted is better than an animal purchased from a breeder or a puppy mill or a cattery. Lately however, my thoughts have been turning to the roles of large shelters and humane societies verses smaller, grass roots organizations and even county animal control organizations. I am frustrated with how these organizations are at odds with each other. Of course, it is the nature of the beast that shelters and rescues compete with each other for adoptions, volunteers and donations. However it seems to me that members of the public tend to overlook smaller groups when considering where to adopt, volunteer or donate.
This all started last week when I was at Tree House Humane Society’s Black Cat Ball. I got my start at Tree House, most of my animal training came from Tree House. I love Tree House and hope one day to make my way back there. During the Black Cat Ball they revealed plans for their new shelter. It is going to be a state of the art facility, with all the amenities a shelter could want. It will be simply amazing and will certainly allow them to increase their live saving services to more cats throughout the city. It is the latest of state of the art facilities for housing rescued cats in Chicago and will be a huge benefit to the city and our cats. While I was standing there listening to the plans, and wishing I was still part of this amazing organization my thoughts turned to Chicago Cat Rescue, the small organization I volunteer with.
Chicago Cat Rescue is grass roots to the core. Most of the work gets done by two people, with assistance from a handful of dedicated volunteers. Money is quite tight (as it is with all rescue organizations. However, smaller organizations generally have less sources of income and less funding than larger organizations). We have no building, instead we rely on foster homes to care for our cats until they get adopted. I know several other small rescue groups in the city who are in similar situations–dependent on foster homes and trying to build up a reputation through word of mouth. Many organizations start out like this, with a handful of dedicated volunteers, and slowly grow to larger organizations. And the rescue world needs both types.
Larger organizations are wonderful because of the number of animals they are able to help. Simply because of their size and their reach they are able to house and care for more cats (and dogs) than smaller organizations can. Larger organizations also have the ability to be influencers. You need to be around for a while, build up a name and a brand before you can become an influencer. Here’s the rub though, groups can’t become influencers, they can’t build themselves up, without support, volunteer hours and adoptions. There are hundreds of small rescue groups around the country working hard to save the lives of overlooked animals. These are the groups that pull from high kill facilities and transfer to areas where the animals are more likely to get adopted. They pull the old, sick, injured or black animals and give these souls a second chance. They give the cats and dogs the love and nurturing the animals deserve. These are the groups out there doing all the field work, facing people and animals day in and day out. Of course, I am not saying that large organizations do not give the animals in their care love and nurturing. Especially when you consider many of the national organizations the larger local organizations seem grass roots. When you work with a larger organization though, you have more resources to fall back on. Smaller groups have less and thus must be even more resourceful than the larger organizations.
Smaller groups can’t become larger groups, or even self-sustaining smaller groups, without the support of the average person. Adoptions, donations, volunteer hours–all of these matter to every single animal shelter or rescue out there. They are even more essential to small groups (and to animal control centers). Everyone wants to volunteer or adopt from the large, well known n0-kill shelters. Understandably so, these organizations wouldn’t have gotten where they are if they weren’t doing something right. However, next time you adopt consider adopting from a small grass roots organization. Consider adopting from your animal control, those are the animals in most desperate need of placement. Animals at no-kill shelters are lucky, they will stay there till they are adopted. Animals at your local animal control center generally only have a few days to find an adoptive home or a no-kill rescue group to pull them.
This past weekend one of the larger and more well known organizations in Chicago had an adoption event at the store where I work. They adopted every single animal they brought, with the exception of one large dog. I have been to two adoption events with Chicago Cat Rescue, we have not had a single adoption as a result of such events. I know many other small organizations in the city who have had similar “adoptionless” events as one group refers to them. I find this extremely frustrating. Of course, I am so happy for every single animal adopted last weekend. Every animal adopted means two lives were saved (the animal who was adopted and the new animal who will take the adopted one’s place in the shelter).
My point in writing this is simply to encourage everyone to take a second look at where you adopt from. Don’t automatically rule out your local animal control or small rescue group. I know Chicago is lucky enough to have dozens of rescue groups for cats and dogs. Not all towns or cities are this lucky. It takes all of these organizations to make a difference in the lives of animals. All the rescue organizations need to work together to educated, adopt and ultimately save lives.
When you consider donating money, look to your local animal rescue organization instead of the ASPCA, American Humane Society or even PETA because these groups are, for the most part, not the ones out there rescuing animals from dire situations and getting them adopted. These large, national groups have in ways gotten too big for their britches I think. (Check out this blog post by Nathan J. Winograd to see what I mean.)
So please, when you are considering what organization to support– whether it be through volunteering, fostering, donating or adopting–please look at the foster organizations, the breed specific rescue organizations, the local animal control facility. Volunteering might be a little more work at all of these organizations, but you will be making an even bigger difference with your volunteer hours! Fostering is a lot of work but it too is extremely rewarding when you come home to sweet furry faces whose lives you know you saved. Adoption might not be as easy as walking in to a building and meeting the pet of your dreams, but you might just find your new friend waiting there. We all need to work together to save the animals we love and make this a No Kill Nation, like I know we can!