“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly.” — Proverb
In my last Doobert Caretaker blog, I asked the question about what’s next in animal rescue. In this blog I want to explore some ideas, possibilities and concepts and solicit your thoughts and recommendations. Remember, WE are the industry. WE are the ones that need to make change happens. It all starts with US.
Animal welfare organizations (both rescue groups and shelter organizations) have been created over the years, to provide care for animals while their forever homes were identified. Throughout the years they have continued to evolve and now provide a wealth of other services including low cost spay/neuter, education and training, community outreach, and other new programs like re-homing where they help locate a new forever home for animals in need. Assume for a minute that rescues and shelters no longer were balancing out supply and demand and they did not have an overpopulation problem to deal with. How can these organizations evolve to continue to enhance animal welfare, even if they are not the place to acquire a new family member? Here are some ideas to spark conversation.
- Trusted animal retailers – The general public has come to trust their local rescue and shelter organizations as the ones that are very knowledgeable about the negative side of animal welfare including people or groups that operate puppy mills, or are known animal abusers or hoarders. The majority of people looking to adopt want to make sure they are not contributing to the problem and thus seek out advice of trusted professionals in animal welfare to ensure they are only dealing with reputable organizations. Therefore, the most natural role that rescues and shelters could evolve into, (although probably the most controversial one as well), would be to become the trusted retailers for reputable breeders in their community. Now before you start firing off hate mail to me, think through concept with the assumption that there is no more overpopulation of animals. Rescue & shelter organizations have already established their reputations as advocates for animals, and their brand and name are known in their community. By default, they would be seen as trusted advocates for animals and would be motivated to only work with reputable breeders in order to maintain their own organization. As the trusted animal advocates, they could serve as a retail store for multiple reputable breeders to provide another outlet to pair animals with their forever families, thus instituting some additional governance into the animal adoption process. After all, just because there is not an overabundance of animals, does not mean there is no demand for animals. In my opinion, it is better to have a reputable, experienced brand involved in the adoption process, than to let the general public fend for themselves to find reputable breeders.
- Animal trustees – Have you considered what happens to your pets if you were to die unexpectedly? What if your surviving relatives do not want them or cannot care for them? Trustees for children are often defined in the legal system specifically for this type of scenario, so why not for animals who many of us see as our children anyway? Animal shelters and rescue groups could serve as designated trustees for animals and be legally appointed through the estate planning processes. These trustees would have the best interest of the animal in mind, and would be empowered to determine what is best in the interest of the animals, using the documented desires from the owner as their guide. They would be responsible for determining who (if anyone) could adopt the animal, and provide health care power of attorney decisions or end of life decisions as needed. These organizations would be recognized for their knowledge and experience with animals and could further grow the governance around this important process.