By: Staff  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

The subject of developing good working relationships between animal shelters and breed rescue groups is close to my heart and what I’m asked to speak or write about most often. The last time I addressed this topic, I was pleased to report that both groups had made great strides in this area. Some recent events, though, have brought home to me that we still have some distance to go toward getting both sides on the same page and in some respects, we may be farther apart than ever.

I’m not sure who coined the term “rescue” to describe private pet placement services but the word was already in use long before I became involved in 1985. Since then, “rescue” has become generically synonymous with any non-shelter-connected individual or group that provides assistance to unwanted or abandoned animals. “Chow Rescue”, “Dalmatian Rescue”, “Reptile Rescue”, “Four Paws Rescue”, “Rottweiler Rescue”, etc. are short, catchy, easy to remember titles that summarize what these groups do. They seem logical and well-suited to their purpose.

It was pointed out to us early on that many shelters resented the word “rescue” when used in the context of “I rescued this dog from an animal shelter.” They felt it put shelters in a negative light and implied that rescue services were superior to shelters in their care and treatment of animals. This was a legitimate complaint and sensitive rescuers immediately changed their wording to more accurate phrases like “I retrieved this dog from an animal shelter” or “the shelter released this dog to our group.”

You would assume that would settle the issue, however, over the last two years, the Humane Society of the United States has declared that the term “rescue” is offensive to shelters in general and recommends that all rescue groups change their titles to “animal placement services” if they are serious about working cooperatively with shelters. Since prior to this, the HSUS discouraged shelters from working with rescues at all or at best, only as a last resort, I suppose we could consider this a sign of progress but this latest position has angered many rescuers and I believe, rightly so. After all, rescue services accept animals from a variety of sources, not just shelters, and a great many of them are literally rescued from abusive situations or the street. Unfortunately, some shelters have embraced the HSUS position and pointedly avoid the term “rescue” in their communications with us.

Is this such a big deal, really? As someone who’s always preached that rescues should bend over backward to accomodate shelters, my first reaction was “call us whatever you want, it doesn’t matter”. But after listening to other rescuers, I realized that it does matter — a lot. It’s important to us.

“Rescue” is our identity, it is who we are and what we do. It has, from the beginning, defined the entire grassroots movement of individual animal lovers taking direct action to solve the problems of unwanted pets and help shelters lower euthanasia rates — what shelters have been begging people to do for decades. Why is the word politically incorrect all of a sudden?

Working together successfully toward common goals and especially, working together in a way that maximizes each other’s full potential, requires mutual respect. Understanding what the word “rescue” means to us and accepting it as our chosen title is a token of respect that we would greatly appreciate.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Vicki DeGruy |
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