Responsible animal rescue: Code of Ethics

The purpose of this document is to help rescues with guidelines to run their rescues responsibly & ethically for the benefit of the animals in their care.

1. All cats, dogs & male rabbits are spayed / neutered before adoption.

2. Potential adopters are screened through applications & home visits. If they are renting, the landlord is also contacted to insure the pet is allowed (we recommend getting the approval in writing.)

3. Adopters sign a contract insuring the pet will be properly taken care of & never abused or used for illegal purposes.

4. Rescues need to know their financial & emotional limits so they do not take on more than they can handle. It is unethical to take on an animal you do not have the funds to provide proper veterinary care, even in the case of an emergency. Reputable rescues should have a reserve fund &/or a relationship with a veterinarian that will allow them to hold a balance for an emergency situation. Balances should be paid off in a timely matter, so that the rescue does not lose their relationship with their veterinarian.

5. A rescue license should be used for the rescue listed on the license only. In most states, including GA, it is illegal to allow an individual or unlicensed group to use your rescue license to pull an animal from a county shelter. The practice of allowing people to use your license defeats the purpose of a licensing system.

6. Rescues should not be run for profit. All rescues should be incorporated, & it’s ideal if they obtain nonprofit 501(c)3 status so that donations are tax deductible. It is very unethical to lie about being a 501(c)3.

7. Animals should be kept in clean, comfortable conditions with ample room to move around & access to fresh water & food.  Animals should be provided with human interaction & dogs given potty breaks. The conditions should be better than animal control which is only a temporary holding facility. It is important that animals’ emotional needs are met & that they get plenty of human interaction so that the rescue can give useful information to adopters about the animals temperament.

8. Disease outbreaks should be taken very seriously & reported to a licensed veterinarian for the proper protocol. All animals exposed or in the same home, need to be quarantined. Intake of new animals should be stopped until the outbreak is completely cleared, & the veterinarian deems it safe to bring in new animals.

9. Rescues need to know when an animal is better off being humanely euthanized. Every rescuer needs to understand we cannot save them all in order to be a responsible rescuer. No one wants to have an animal euthanized, but sometimes it has to be done. If an animal is suffering for medical reasons & cannot be treated, that animal should be humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. Unadoptable, human aggressive dogs need to be humanely euthanized, not warehoused or adopted out.

10. Rescues need to evaluate animals before taking them in to make sure they are a good candidate for adoption. Taking in unadoptable animals leads to warehousing &/or hoarding of animals, which is no life for the animals. They also need to examine the animal & take in to account any possible health issues & determine if they have appropriate funds to care for the animal. Pulling animals sight unseen is irresponsible.

11. Rescues should always be honest & upfront to adopters about an animal’s temperament, health, & if they have any issues. This will help prevent returned animals. Rescues should also be honest about common issues with certain breeds. Breed-specific rescues should provide even more honest information about their breed.  A rescue is better off talking someone out of adopting a dog rather than talking them into it in order to prevent an animal being returned.

12. A rescue should always respond to adopters if they have questions about the dog they adopted. The rescue should offer guidance & resources to help the adopter if they are having difficulties with their new pet. If the adopter no longer wants the pet, the rescue should take the pet back. If they do not have room for the pet, they need to stop taking in more animals until they can take the returned animal back.

13. Rescues should not rely on boarding to house the pets in their care. It is understandable if a rescue has to board animals every once in awhile because of unforeseen circumstances, but in the meantime, they should not be taking on anymore animals until they no longer have animals in boarding.  Even with a discount, boarding fees can add up quickly & drain a rescue’s fund. Also, animals kept in boarding for long periods of time tend to decline emotionally & develop temperament & even health issues.

14. Rescues need to keep organized records of each animal they take in. These records should include their intake paperwork, spay / neuter record, rabies certificate, vaccine history, any other medical records, adoption application & adoption contract.

15. Most rescues rely on foster homes. Foster homes should be screened through an application & a home inspection. They need to be near the rescue because it’s vital that the rescue be able to check in on them regularly. Rescues should offer full support for their foster homes, including providing all supplies, vetting & advice. Foster homes should also foster for only one rescue at a time.

16. If a rescue has to suddenly get rid of the majority of dogs in their care &/or has to reach out to the rescue community to take the dogs in their care, it is irresponsible & unethical for them to continue to take on more dogs. After they have adopted &/or transferred out all the dogs in their care, they should respectfully shut their doors.

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