You’re thinking of starting a dog rescue and you aren’t quite sure where to begin. The pitfalls are many, but your heart is in the right place. Although many successful rescues are started as a personal quest and/or on a shoestring, you want to make sure that YOUR good intentions are not going to make you wind up as a hoarder (collector) causing even more problems for the rescued dogs. Also, many established, well-organized rescue groups are experiencing financial difficulties now. Here are things to consider before you begin:
• A dog rescue should be run like a business. If you do not have business acumen, then find a friend, a trusted friend, who does.
• Do you have enough money? When starting a small business, one is frequently told to have two years of capital available to sustain oneself for at least two years. It is a general consensus that it takes at least two years before a small business makes back its original investment money. Altruism aside, your rescue operation IS a business.
• Do you know how to organize fundraisers? You are going to need many to sustain your efforts. The purpose behind PawPassion’s “Dog Rescue” subpage is to let people like you from around America and Canada see what other rescue groups are doing and to share ideas.
• You will need to have a Board of Directors if you are planning on having a 501 (c) (3) which gives you non-profit status thus allowing your supporters a tax deduction for their donations. If you are not going to apply for a 501 (c) (3) then you will have difficulty getting donations, especially in a bad economy.
• An ideal member of your Board is a financial planner. These are people who frequently assist their clients with estate planning. They can possibly steer money toward your rescue. A PR (Public Relations) person who is REALLY media-savvy and good at marketing would also be an excellent choice to have on your Board.
• Do you have a location for your facility? Make sure your location is properly zoned. Anticipate expanding the size when you view properties. It’s always a good idea to view rural properties after it rains so you can get an idea of the drainage. If it is hot in the summer, have you considered your caged housing to include an indoor/outdoor access? Factor into the expenses to include fans, heaters, and air conditioners if necessary.
• Make a list of all potential expenses for EVERYTHING you will need for your facility. Fencing, concrete slabs, proper gating. How will weather affect your rescue facility? If it gets cold at your proposed location, you will probably need a generator in case the power goes out. Veterinary expenses, food, blankets, office equipment, should also be included.
• Do you have a lot of friends and supporters who could be foster parents?
• Take a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah (on the Arizona border). It’s a great vacation area. If you can, attend their “How to Start Your Own Sanctuary” seminar.
• Visit and volunteer at local dog rescue organizations.
• Visit dog rescue websites.
© 2010, Bruce Malter, PawPassion.org
Barbara Nullet of Mureille’s Place (a senior dog sanctuary in Pennsylvania) added “It is also a good idea to see how many rescues are already servicing your area. If there are already a few, you may want to consider joining forces with them instead of starting yet another rescue. Join a board of an already existing rescue to get the inside look at what it takes to run one.”
Ashley Greenspan of Barks of Love dog rescue (Orange County, California) added: “You have to blend the tugs at your heart with some thinking and planning INCLUDING BACK UP PLANS. You can’t fill your house up with dogs without a kennel license in most areas and even then, if you get smell and noise complaints, you still aren’t handling it right. If you have a dog disease emergency or a people emergency or a physical home structure emergency …. WHERE WILL THE DOGS GO? Might seem like negative thinking but IT’S ALL FOR THE DOGS so you have to do your homework and be ready for things you never ever dreamed could happen and more and have lots of RELIABLE partners.”