Why rescue? Two words, but such a long, long answer. For the animal lover, the answer is quick and simple – because it is right, and fair. However, the answer is a long one which embraces the whole process of animal rescue. By choosing to re-home a pet, you are doing far more than you possibly realise.
The animals and pets which find themselves in the care of a rescue centre (if they are lucky) are not just kittens cast aside in January alongside other unwanted festive gifts. Others represent a larger, legal battle and a shift of attitude towards how animals are treated. For some, the sanctuary and kindness offered by the rescue centre is alien to them. Even those whose size could overpower us or those with teeth and an inclination to attack are without defence against us humans and the power we assert over them. By giving a home to a pet from a rescue centre you are doing more than giving your love; you are supporting their work, affirming to them that they are doing a good job and sending a message to everyone around you. If you re-home, others will also. Giving a home to an animal who needs your love and the security of your home is a powerful statement about how society regards its animals. By proudly saying ‘mine is a rescue dog’ you are illustrating a rescue success. You become a brilliant advert.
Not all animals available for re-homing are welfare cases, with prosecutions connected to them and disgusting treatment behind them. Not all abuse is intentional. It can be unwitting, unintentional and as much about human health - mental and physical - as animal health. Others may be pining for an owner who has died, and they are all alone in the world. So take only your open mind and your big heart when you go to a rescue centre (and your purse for a donation!).
Rescue homes are usually registered charities, and rely on volunteers for a lot of their work. Apart from the obvious feeding, exercising and picking up poo which is entailed with looking after numerous animals, a lot of effort goes into rehabilitation. The charity you approach will obviously check you are suitable but you will be able to fully understand the personality of your new pet to be sure they are right for you. Your pet may also have lived in a foster home, so you will be able to ask lots of questions about how it will behave when it lives with you. Plus you will have proper veterinary advice and history.
You don’t get this when you answer a grainy advert in the newspaper or ring somebody up who has advertised their pet on Facebook! Always be careful when you buy a pet privately that you are not feeding any illegal, immoral or unjust activity. You can avoid all this by going to the charities, so eventually the market for the unscrupulous breeders will dry up. If you cannot find a particular breed via the rescue charities perhaps go to a reputable source, such as the Kennel Club, for advice as not all breeders are dishonest.
Many rescue centres specialise in one type of animal – cat, dog, horse, reptile, rabbit etc. Some will even specify breed, such as Labradors or Shetland ponies. All this expert advice, plus specialist advice, on tap for you.
Many charities re-home, but some choose not to re-home, leaving the animal permanently within their care. If you don’t want to re-home a pet, you can choose to support their work in other ways, helping the animals you cannot give a home to. Others rescue and rehabilitate wild animals, such as hedgehogs or birds, before returning them to their natural habitat. Some charities dedicate themselves to saving ill-treated zoo or circus animals or those kept poorly for what they can give (such as bile from bears).For many of us, the work of these rescue centres is too harrowing, too hard to comprehend. But by choosing your next cat from a rescue centre, you are sending out a message that rescuing animals, any animals and all animals, is fair and right and you care. Eventually, those willfully causing neglect and suffering will be uncomfortable with their actions.
If you are still not sure about giving a home to an animal in a rescue centre, don’t allow yourself to think ‘somebody will want it’. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Some charities have absolutely no choice but to put healthy animals to sleep as there is nowhere for them, but this is a last resort. We can only dream of a time when demand for pets is higher than demand for rescue. It may happen one day – with your help.