A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jul 8, 2014

Please Don't "Rescue" Me

Courtesy spcaLA
There seems to be an epidemic of animal hoarding cases  involving 501(c)(3) not for profit corporations who characterize themselves as “rescues” or “no kill” shelters,  but are in fact the perpetrators of animal cruelty. It is critical that animal shelters, both public and private, screen, physically inspect, and research the reputations of these “rescues” before releasing animals to them or giving them pull privileges. Animal hoarding is defined as keeping higher-than-normal numbers of animals without the ability to properly house or care for them, while at the same time denying this inability.  Part of the problem is the hoarder’s incapability to part with any animal and thus, contrary to their representations will not work to find animals in their care new homes.
Pressure by sincere citizens and out-of-state organizations with deep pockets and misguided ideology can lead well-meaning, but ill informed city and county officials to release animals to hoarders in an effort to save them all so that they may create ‘happier’ statistics. However, the reality of releasing animals to such groups is all-too-often condemning a pet to a slow, lingering death sentence. This is particularly heartbreaking as a lot of energy and care was put into these pets by the shelters to ready them for transfer to a group who promises to find them homes. Instead, the animals suffer a fate worse than death.

While “no kill” was a popular phrase 15 years ago in the animal welfare environment, spcaLA, and most other legitimate entities, do not find its use responsible. In fact, the San Francisco animal welfare community that coined the term “no kill” stopped using it as it became more associated with hoarding, statistical acrobatics and deception as it always connotes something that it is not, is fraught with an inchoate vocabulary and provides a false sense that all is well.

In its over 135 year history, spcaLA has investigated, arrested, and worked to convict countless animal hoarders and other animal abusers of felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty. It has become common place and quite daunting to see the defendants, the hoarders, self-identified as animal “rescuers,” often connected to or incorporating as a “no kill” 501(c)(3), with “pull” privileges at local animal care and control facilities or private shelters. 

spcaLA urges shelters to perform regular inspections of rescue-partner facilities and  to investigate the background of the heads of these groups.  Very often, hoarders convicted of animal cruelty will move to a different city or state, adopt a new name, create a new 501(c)(3), and begin their cruel enterprise anew.  Further, spcaLA urges donors to give locally and to do their homework before simply responding to a sad Facebook post or the very convincing pleas of a hoarder.

Make no mistake - there are responsible and heroic partners that provide a real service to overcrowded shelters and to our community who are the real rescue partner deal. For the sake of our pets - we need to ensure that we do our due diligence and only work with such groups.