Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rescue Gone Wrong-When "Wanting to Help" isn't Enough.

Note from Rebekah-while I own/care for rescued animals, I am not a rescuer.  I have offered my time, property and donations to true rescuers, should the need ever arise.

The world of animal rescue is filled with drama, from all angles.  It has often been said that "You can't save them all" and unfortunately this is true.  Good intentions mean nothing if one doesn't have resources or heart to finish what they start.

Photo courtesy of dgoomany.

The following situations did take place.  Names have been changed. I was not personally involved, however, with one of the animals, I did assist in tracking down the lineage, offered my personal experience in dealing with an animal with behavioral issues, and made suggestions as far as vet care, which was never sought.

A Tale of Two Magnolias

Two young female dogs, of the same controversial breed, showed up in need of "rescue" at the same time, on a newly created Facebook rescue group.  The group was created by a person with zero experience in rescue of these animals, and with only a few months experience in owning one (a recently acquired pup).  Ironically, they shared the same name.  We will call them both Magnolia, or Maggie for short.

Maggie 1 showed up in the south.  A person with experience made the trip to evaluate her, and took her in, having plenty of room for her.  More often than not, dogs of this particular breed need a safe, secure place outdoors as well as indoors.  They took this girl in, and quarantined her from other dogs, because they did not know if she had any contagious diseases, or behavioral issues.

Maggie 2 appeared up north.  Her owner was desperately trying to find a new home for her, to avoid euthanasia.  This individual was actually Maggie 2's second owner, having came into possession of her while she was pregnant.  She sold these puppies for some cash.  The story goes that Maggie 2 bit someone, killed the landlord's cat, and was an escape artist; the landlord said she had to go.  Someone a few states away with a seemingly kind heart agreed to take her.  Neither individual had money to transport this animal, so donations were collected on the Facebook group to pay for gas. The person surrendering her drove her several hundred miles to meet the "rescuer".  Once home, Maggie 2 was not separated from other dogs, even though experienced rescuers had suggested this was not a good idea, but seemed to get along 'ok' with the dogs and cats belonging to the person that took her in.

Misappropriated Money

The person who created the Facebook "rescue group" decided that they were also going to be in charge of collecting donations to fund both of these situations.  None of the individuals involved in these scenarios are associated with a not for profit rescue or organization.  

The person who obtained Maggie 1 had a friend in another state who wanted to help with her care.  They sent a LARGE donation via paypal to the person collecting donations, and made it explicitly clear that this money was to go to Maggie 1.  The person who rescued Maggie 1 was not soliciting donations for her care, but was willing to accept money from a friend.

A large amount of that donation was suddenly "unaccounted for."  As it turns out, it went to fill the tank of the group's creator to transport Maggie 1 to a new "sanctuary" in yet another state, who also didn't have the funds to transport - a transport and placement that was arranged before Maggie 1 was even assessed by the person who picked her up.  Upon pickup and further ongoing evaluation, Maggie 1 was determined to be a pet quality animal.

The person who had Maggie 2 was in need of donations.  They made it clear that they had limited (no) funds.  People were criticizing them for jumping into this without having the physical or financial means to carry through.  They began stating that they were only fostering Maggie 2 temporarily.  This put some experienced, seasoned rescuers in an uproar.  They made comments stating that when one rescues a dog in a scenario such as described, they had better be prepared to care for the dog for the rest of it's life, in the event that a suitable adopter cannot be found.  The person with Maggie 2 (somewhat understandably) became defensive, and shut down, refusing to take advice from the seasoned rescuers.

Eventually, another friend of these people donated $100 to have Maggie 2 vetted and spayed.  The money was returned to that donator once Maggie 2's "rescuer" decided against vetting and spaying her.  The remainder of the large donation has yet to be sent to either the donator or the rescuer of Maggie 1.

True Colors 

Some say it can take a few weeks for a dog to become comfortable in new surroundings.  I believe this to be true.  Maggie 2 eventually killed a cat belonging to her "rescuer", and lunged/attacked the person and/or an acquaintance of theirs.  Unfortunately, it was discoverd that Maggie 2 came from a breeder whose animals are known to have some severe personality issues.

This person had been searching for a home for Maggie 2 (but had never gotten her spayed, let alone seen by a vet) and called the potential adopters to come get her.  Apparently she displayed some sort of aggression toward the potential adopters, and was returned.

I did not witness any of Maggie 2's behaviors, so I cannot comment on the true severity of them. 

Experienced folks offered advice, even before the "rescue" of Maggie 2 transpired.  Maggie 2 had NOT been checked out by a vet in the entire time she was living with this person, and illegally crossed state lines without a health certificate.  They suggested having a vet check her out.  Some suggested euthanasia.  Behavioral suggestions were offered.  All seemingly went unheeded.

Meanwhile, Maggie 1 had been checked by a vet, spayed, and was living the good life while the responsible person searched for her forever home. 

W. T. F.?

The person with Maggie 2 refused to listen to any advice, and became very cryptic about her whereabouts and situation.  Some people came to her defense, stating no one else stepped up to help, which was true. 

The truth came to light.  They had taken Maggie 2 to Animal Control, and turned her in as a stray who showed up and killed their cat.

Guess what?  Maggie 2 escaped from Animal Control, and appeared in a Craigslist ad by a person who said the animal "wandered up to her house and did anyone know whose dog this was?"  The lady several states away who initially surrendered her learned of this, and evidently showed up, claiming Maggie 2 was hers.  Animal Control was being bombarded by calls from enthusiasts of this particular breed.  People questioned the "rescuer" via breed specific Facebook groups, and the only answers anyone received where "You should have PM'd me."

In the end, Maggie 2 was euthanized by Animal Control.  She was probably pitiful, probably scared, and definitely alone.

What Should Have Been Done Differently?

So many things went wrong with this.  I was angry, speechless and sad when I learned of the outcomes. There were too many people involved in this. This is a classic case of rescue gone wrong, and, in all honesty, was never even really a rescue, in the case of Maggie 2.  Ego and heart trumped over logic and planning in this situation.

For starters, it is my personal opinion that those who do individual rescue (not affiliated with a shelter or group) should not solicit donations.  If someone wants to donate to them, that is great.  If one is going to do individual rescue, as in these situations, they need to have the financial resources necessary to provide all care to the animals they rescue.  They should also have the ability to keep the "rescued" animal separate from their personal animals.  In addition, they should have some experience in evaluating animals.

I feel that any individual or group solicits or receives donations should be transparent, and also be held accountable.

The person who made the large donation should have sent it directly to the person in possession of Maggie 1.

Maggie 2 should have been IMMEDIATELY vetted.  Having a "rescue" for over a month without having it assessed by a vet is not good animal husbandry, in my opinion.  Exposing one's personal animals to potential contagious diseases is dangerous.  Not only that, I would not take an animal from a "rescuer" that had not been vetted, nor would I ever adopt an animal out that was still intact.

A qualified behaviorist or vet should have seen Maggie 2, to determine if her issues could be worked with, or if there was an underlying medical cause for them.

Perhaps the kindest thing that could have been done is to have had Maggie 2 humanely euthanized by a vet, if her problems could not be fixed.  Lying and dumping her at Animal Control is not how you "rescue" an animal.

Unfortunately, I do not think this is an isolated event, or specific to one particular breed or group of people.

As a side note, Maggie 1 remains healthy, loved, and well-cared for, and a forever home has been found.

Big hearts alone do not save animals.  Experience, logic, and planning are needed when doing any rescue--be it an organization or an individual.  If a person or organization cannot commit themselves to take care of an animal for the life of that animal, they should not get involved.  A person with little or no experience in rescue should not be creating rescue groups on Facebook, nor should they be coordinating rescues or transports.

Sadly, one Magnolia is no longer blooming, but another will continue to blossom in her forever home.  


  1. It definitely takes more than a big heart to rescue animals - of any breed.

  2. Very well written. We have a small group of people in my area that have taken it upon themselves to "save" as many craigslist animals as possible. All to often these animals are simply shuffled between people who really have no understanding of animal care or behavior. They collect money via facebook and then there are always cries about where the money has gone. I know they simply want to help but it takes a lot of time, money and knowledge to run a successful rescue. Too many dogs end up like Maggie 2 and it breaks my heart.

  3. Motives may be pure, but a rescue must have a sound business plan or it can often do more harm than goodl

  4. Well written...one Magnolia is no longer blooming. So sad. You know what they say about good intentions.

    Personally, I want to foster SO bad...but I am not able to do so now -- I need some training/experience and the room to do it right. It's a dream and will happen some day -- but rushing headlong into it today in the name of "helping" wouldn't be the right thing to do...for those I'm trying to help, for my own, and for me. The difference, perhaps, between egoism and altruism? Meanwhile, there's lots to be done -- sharing, cross-posting, volunteering, donating/contributing, pledging (and following through!!), and much more!

  5. tragic, horribly tragic for Maggie 2. =(

  6. So very true and well written. It's why I am not involved in rescue. The purebred dog world can be ugly and mean, but not in the way "rescues" like poor Maggie are. :(

  7. I vaguely knew about the situation with these two Magnolias, in the beginning. I'm heartbroken to hear how this situation turned out for Magnolia two.

  8. Well written we with solid observations. Only thing I'd change is the donations should go to a vet directly, even for Maggie 1, or run through a reputable nonprofit willing to work with the individual rescuer and be accountable. Then it could have covered vetting, transport, crates, whatever is needed.

  9. Well written we with solid observations. Only thing I'd change is the donations should go to a vet directly, even for Maggie 1, or run through a reputable nonprofit willing to work with the individual rescuer and be accountable. Then it could have covered vetting, transport, crates, whatever is needed.

  10. I think you said it all when you said hearts alone to not save animals. I think the whole situation probably made things worse not better for Mag2. A very sad outcome that could easily been avoided. People who want to rescue and have no experience should consider working with an established group first. As for monies they should always go to the vet as too many of these scams are around.
    Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  11. Many of us talk about preferring (non-human) animals to people. And yet we can't help animals if we don't have the ability to work collaboratively with people.

    Experienced rescuers need compassion and communication skills to reach people with good intentions who get in over their head. And people who just want to save animals need to be open to advice from those with experience.

    Your very sad story makes me more conscious of how much more I need to work on compassion for other people. Because compassion for (non-human) animals is not enough.

  12. Oh my dog....that is so horrible. I am happy to hear that mag 1 has found a furever home though. People have a very bad tendency to jump into things they cannot handle, and then they do not take advice when given.
    Sadly situations like this happen all to often, your absolutely right.
    Well written post btw.
    Thanks you for sharing their story.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  13. This speaks to so many things beyond rescuing animals. Big hearts require brains. How very, very sad.

  14. As someone who crossposts I wish you had named the facebook page and those involved. It would free up our time to help those who need it and are legit. There is no shame in posting specifics as long as its true (and I dont doubt you) Great post. Good intentions dont equate with good care and it is easy to get overwhelmed.

  15. I could not agree with you more. It is an appalling situation. I've started to become quite leery of donations, except if it for a longterm buddy.

    I am happy for Maggie 1.

  16. Ugh. I'm glad Maggie 1's story was happy. Poor Maggie 2. There are so many folks soliciting for various things now. Unless I know the person (via blogging or IRL) or unless it's a legit charity organization, I am very leery. Sadly, intentions alone aren't enough to help.

  17. Wow, I honestly don't know what to say. I've heard of pretty shady "rescues" before but this one seems to take the cake. I do feel for 2's rescuer since I'm sure they tried to do it for the right reason. Sadly I think they just didn't realize how big a commitment rescuing this dog was and obviously didn't handle the situation correctly. In the end it's the dog that paid the price, like usual.

  18. Honestly, I was just pissed. Forgive me for my bad choice of words. It's true, compassion alone cannot rid the world of homeless animals. Rescuers need to know their limitations.

    Jeez, it's like breeders breeding for the wrong reasons. I can't believe that some people are willing to take advantage of other people's generosity. My heart goes to Maggie 2 for ending up with this so-called rescuer.


Thanks for the howls!!