Far too often, I see stories on Facebook from various rescue organizations about pet owners on the verge of having healthy pets euthanized because they no longer want them. Sometimes, the call comes to the rescue from a veterinary clinic and other times it’s an owner’s last-ditch effort to see if an organization will find room for their pets.
Recently, one of the volunteers with Natalie’s Second Chance Rescue in Lafayette, Ind., reached out to me about a troubling case that hit their organization. A pet owner had made an appointment to have not one – but all five of her pets euthanized because she could no longer afford them. The vet had agreed to put the animals down “on credit” but wasn’t willing to work in other ways with her.
“Sadly, this does happen periodically. It won't happen for awhile, then we'll get a couple of cases back-to-back,” says Jennifer Gerndt, a volunteer from the rescue. “It likely happens more often than we ever hear. Some people never even stop to think about their actions and just go straight to the vet. In this case, the woman considered her actions and thankfully came to us.”
She reached out to Natalie’s Second Chance Rescue around the holidays and the group agreed to help. The rescue took in the woman’s three dogs – transferring one to the original shelter that adopted the dog out – and has the other two in foster care. Seeds of Hope, a cat rescue, took in the woman’s two cats.
Stories like this are not unusual and many rescues and shelters work with area veterinary offices to help facilitate rescues. Gerndt says they don’t know what vet in her area was involved in this case, but its not what happens most of the time.
Working with the veterinary community
“We do have a great relationship with several vets, and we are all on the same page,” she says. “Sometimes it's difficult to discuss such sensitive issues with vets that feel they are doing right, while we feel we are also doing right. We don't always know which vets perform euthanasia on healthy animals because, as you can imagine, that information is not readily advertised. It makes reaching out difficult.”
She adds that education is also very important with prospective pet owners before they make the plunge into pet ownership. One walk through Chicago Animal Care and Control, the Animal Welfare League and you’ll see cage after cage of pets that have been given up. The one time must have item is no longer wanted for whatever reason and left to an uncertain fate at the shelter.
Before getting a pet
“People should really think things through before deciding to get a pet,” says Gerndt. “Yes, dogs are cute and funny, but if someone can't imagine being able to pay for medical care for the animal, then that person should not get a pet. There is a lot of expense, time and responsibility involved in caring for an animal properly.
“Additionally, not just anyone should get an animal, and quite honestly, it's baffling why people get animals and then treat them poorly. I have to add that the animals in the specific case we're discussing were not mistreated or abused. One of the older cats had some health issues, but has bounced back.”
There are many cases where economic hard times, an illness or death in the family put a pet’s future in jeopardy. The good news is that many rescues and communities do have resources, if people just ask. Some of the stories listed below outline some options in the Chicago-area. In most communities, you need to ask about resources or do some of your own research.
“We run a dog and cat community food bank. If someone falls on hard times, they should come get food from us,” she adds. “There are times that we provide medical assistance for animals. Our vets at Wildcat Valley Animal Clinic are serious about helping the community afford their animals and keeping the animals healthy. They charge what they have to charge; they have very reasonable rates.”
Her organization doesn’t always have space and offers to post pictures and information about the dogs on Facebook, Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet to help the family find a home. The dog will remain with his or her original family while waiting to be adopted. She adds that the organization has been working the past couple of days to save another dog is possible jeopardy.
Other area rescues face some of the same problems. As we were working on this story, Giant Paw Print Rescue in Valparaiso had a similar situation arise. They had been working with an owner to rescue that family’s dog. Unfortunately, the family had their dog put down when the rescue did react quickly enough (a vet was not involved in t his case). This particular senior dog had been with its family for nine years. (Giant Paws specializes in many of the very large breed dogs.)
This is why foster homes, volunteers, donors and responsible owners are so critical to the future of so many animals. Fostering saves lives. Natalie’s has been around about five years and usually has about 30 dogs at the shelter and 10-15 more in foster care. If you’d like to learn more about Natalie’s Second Chance Rescue, check out their website or Facebook page. They also need donations to help out with their various animals in their community.
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