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Rescue and rehab: where do we draw the line?

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Many rescued animals are found with medical issues; issues ranging from something as minor as intestinal parasites all the way to terminal illness. While some problems can be an easy fix and relatively inexpensive, others can mean extensive, long term care and may run into thousands of dollars.

While many rescue folks may contend that every animal deserves nothing less than the absolute best medical attention, no matter what the cost or the animal’s long term prognosis, others choose to draw the line and opt to save more animals rather than using their scarce resources on a select few.

Consider the following:

A six year old Husky is found in a ditch after being hit by a car. The dog’s back is broken, spleen ruptured, kidneys are badly bruised and it has multiple lacerations. The veterinarian quotes surgeries and post operative care at $4,500.00 with no guarantee that the dog will ever walk again. Aside from the inability to walk the dog will certainly suffer long term damages that will mean a lifetime of ongoing medical care.

A nine year old, female Poodle is rescued from a breeder with an enlarged heart, swelling, has extensive dental issues causing sepsis, and is both blind and deaf. Estimated initial medical care: $2,700.00.

Both of these dogs received the extensive medical care required to spare their lives.

The Husky has since racked up an additional $3,500.00 in veterinarian expenses in just a few short months due to several failed attempts to repair his hind quarters. Still unable to walk on his own, a cart was purchased for $550.00 to accommodate his back legs that never recovered from injuries. He’s spent months in therapy at the cost of $1,600.00; therapy that is ongoing for an indefinite amount of time. And due to his need for extensive care, no adopter has stepped up to give him his forever home although many have come to meet him. He will likely live out his days in care of the rescue that prolonged his life.

The Poodle received her initial care and moved into a foster home. She later required an additional $1,300.00 worth of medical attention. Foster caregivers report that she was listless from the beginning, didn’t eat well, and did little more than walk far enough to go outside to potty only to return to her kennel to sleep her days away. She died of a massive heart attack seven weeks after going into foster care.

$10,150.00 spend on the Husky who may never find a forever home due to the extensive care he requires, and $4,000.00 spent on an exhausted Poodle who literally had the life bred out of her.

Money to save both of these dogs came from donations made by sympathetic supporters of animals and the rescues who saved them. But how many other animals could have been saved for the same dollar amount? 10? 20? 100?

Was being rescued and treated worth it for either of these dogs? Both who suffered immeasurably before and after rescue and treatment; one left handicapped and one who died regardless of the efforts to save her life?

Who is better off? The Poodle who is finally at rest after a lifetime of use, abuse, and neglect, or the Husky who lives, but has little quality of life due to his immobility and no true home to call his own? Or simply the rescuers who can say, “We tried”?

Where exactly do we draw the line?

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