Never Say “No” – How Public Attitudes Set Rescues Up for Failure

Another rescue closed. Same old story.
Cats, this time.
No adopters. Too many piled up (quite literally).

Not vetted, poor health, lives lost.

Rescue turned Hoarding / neglect case. Abuse, really.

And who is to blame?

This society as we’ve made it. We blame no one or we blame wantonly.
Somehow many of those actually to blame seem to escape, at any rate.

Sure, a rescue director shouldn’t give in, take too many, fail to say no, but that isn’t the only place we need to place blame.

When a rescue closes, just who is actually hurt? Further, just who is at fault?
Let me assure you, it is not only the animals on the property that end up suffering.

The animals that would have been saved in the future are let down, the ones
that will now go without aid because the rescue didn’t stay their well-intended course.

Other rescues are harmed in a two-fold fashion.

They have to scramble to play “clean up.”
Worse, they have to survive the public backlash, the suspicion and the donation damage that reverberates when the public loses confidence in an animal organization.
But wait, there is so much we could discuss on this episode of “Rescues Gone Wild,” and I am getting off this installation’s intended course.
Who, beyond the rescue that crashed and burned, is to blame when this happens?
I have something of an original thought to offer. . .
The Public.
Who is the public in question here? Obviously, if you have never offered a comment to an animal rescuer or volunteer, you are not on trial here, but if you have. . .
Perhaps you are.
Most people who start or take over an animal rescue are those of emotion and compassion, and this isn’t always a good thing, I hate to say. They usually have more of both than the everyday sort, and that is what steers them in the rescue field and often onto a course of disaster.
They do not just love animals, they are dedicated to animal welfare, and they can be a strange lot of people.
I have rarely watched a rescue begin that was not born of good intention. Few survive. Fewer still seem to survive without going down in flames.
How does this thing born with such noble goals continue to end so horrifically over and over?
A rescuer wants to save animals in need, in pain, those abandoned and those unloved.
We always fight for space, adopters and donations. We work without pay, long hours and with little thanks, and yet, in the days of email and social media, when we sit down to manage a group facebook page, petfinder or email account, instead of opening up Happy Tails stories, Adoptive inquires and Donation notices, we open up an endless supply of desperate pleas for help or aggressive admonishments.
The pleas for help rarely limited to owners asking to surrender. The bulk of these emails are from well-meaning public followers who have found another animal that needs rescue, usually on the tail of a post the rescue has made about being at maximum capacity, needing placements or donations.
What we see daily are postings and emails asking for action on a multitude of cases, we find instances where we are begged for help to fund the animals we have when donations are stale, while we have to fight to come up with another way to say, “No,” to another email asking for rescue. So we are going against the very nature that led us to rescue in the first place. . . because we try to keep the big, long term picture in front of us instead of the single, sad animal in need of that hour.
Further, when we say no, many times we are met with hateful, cruel responses like:
“I thought your group cared, but I see that you do not.”
“You call yourself a rescue?”
“But Why won’t you Help?”
“What is One More?”
“I’ll just take him to the kill buyer (or auction or trader) then.”
“He is going to the pound if you will not take him.”
Oh, and to be clear, these are the more friendly responses.

The Public forgets that behind that facebook page are human volunteers working and trying, folks who have feelings, folks who are Trying to say “No” when we are full, our funding is low or adoptions are stagnant, while feeling accountable to a public that demands we NEVER say “No.”
Sometimes new volunteers even come in with this public mentality, and the long time rescuer fights the same battle, the defense of saying “No” to those too new to know better, to understand consequences.
I had no idea when I started into this work, 50% of my time interacting with the public would be encountering situations with animals in need I could not help while telling the concerned individual, “No.” Had I known, I still would not have realized how deeply each decline I make to come to the aid of the animal would discourage and hurt me.
The moral of this?
Please think before you post to a group that you know is at capacity, in need of donations or adopters with:
“You MUST save him!”
“Please Help”
“Why Can’t You Help?”
If you are sure an animal MUST be saved, step up, act, be the rescuer that animal needs. It will not likely be easy, but remember, we all started somewhere, and if you care, maybe you can find a way just like those of us actively working daily have found a way.
When a rescue goes under, it is never a case that only harms that organization and the animals within at that time.
When a rescue goes under, there is rarely only a single person to blame. I hold the directors and volunteers very responsible; they often commit crimes. Someone on the working side forgot how to say “No” and stick to it when they were at their limit. I am sad that someone’s heart could not understand saying “No” really means, “No, I care so MUCH I refuse to let This Rescue Fail by taking in One too many.”

That is something we can change.

Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, INC

2 thoughts on “Never Say “No” – How Public Attitudes Set Rescues Up for Failure

  1. This is a great article . Our rescue group constantly has to say no to the countless pleas for help . If your group doesn’t stay healthy then you will help none .

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