Ten best practices for rescuing
Adapted from The Dog Saving Network

The term rescatista means one who rescues dogs and fosters them in their own home.

Getting a rescued dog out of their current situation is top of mind for people who rescue, however if rescuing this one dog puts your other rescues at risk, don’t do it. Bringing sick animals into your home should only be done if it does not jeopardize the health of other animals or children in your care. Extra care should be taken with animals that show aggression, always take necessary safety precautions when handling a sick or aggressive animal.

Rescatistas who fill an in-take form to have their dog accepted into our program are asked a number of questions such as where the dog is kept, how many and what type of other animals are in the home, are there children in the home, etc. One important distinction with our program is that all the rescued dogs live with the rescatista in their home and are not confined in a kennel or boarding facility. Dogs kept in kennels for long periods of time do not receive the training, attention and love that they need to be ready for adoption.

This is why we always ask our rescatistas where the dog is kept, with how many other animals and of what type, whether it interacts with children in the home, etc.

To be effective, it is important to set realistic limits and avoid becoming overwhelmed. This is true both as a rescatista and as an organization. Resources are scarce and must be used wisely to ensure that dogs who are rescued have the best chance at adoption. Focus on the ones we have saved and know that we are making a difference in the lives of those dogs. We can’t save them all!

As an organization, we have limited funding and we budget accordingly. The cost per dog is calculated to cover food, medicine and medical care. As a result, there is a limit of 50 dogs in our system at any given time.

As a rescatista, the dog rescued may be on a waiting list for several weeks. In the meantime, it is your responsibility to cover the costs of food, vaccines and any other medical costs that may be incurred. Rescuing more than you can fund puts all your rescues at risk.

Well-meaning people often rescue a dog, before they think about what they will do with it.  The dog can go from a bad situation to something worse. Street dogs need to be quarantined for 2 weeks minimum to ensure they are free of diseases before they are introduced to other dogs.  Your rescue plan needs to include adequate care including confinement, feeding, watering, protection, shelter, transportation, treatment, grooming, and the provision of timely veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering or impairment of health.

Rescue involves detecting and treating transmittable diseases and parasites as soon as possible. Many dogs rescued are in dire need of medical attention. Many have ticks, fleas and or mange. These parasites can cause long term medical issues if not treated in a timely matter. Once the parasites have been eradicated then prevention is key to keeping a dog healthy.

When dogs are accepted into our adoption program they are thoroughly examined, tested and treated including vaccinations.  Spay/neuter surgery is scheduled when appropriate. Spaying/neutering provides both physical and mental benefits. Animals that are not spayed/ neutered can develop negative behavioral habits that become harder to reverse as time passes. In addition, it helps to prevent the spread of transmissible venereal tumor (TVT) common in our area.

If adoption is our goal, and it is, then families who are looking to adopt a dog deserve to know everything about the dog so they can make an informed decision. Our clinic records all known procedures, dates for all treatments given and due dates for future care such as deworming and vaccinations. Behavior characteristics of the dog are recorded as well as changes that evolve with training and improved health. We keep detailed records on the type of home the dogs is in, how many other dogs and of what type, whether fostered with cats or small children and other details that help to place the dog in a home where it will be loved for the rest of its life.

There are more stray and abandoned animals in La Paz and the surrounding area than any one organization can handle. The cost and effort to save dogs with severe health or behavioral issues quickly drains funds and overwhelms volunteers. A dog that is aggressive with other animals or humans is not adoptable. Free weekly training classes are available but rescatistas need to work with their dogs daily to get them prepared for adoption. Dogs showing no improvement are removed from the program. Our capacity is 50 dogs, our limited funds must be allocated to dogs that can be quickly adopted. This sounds harsh, but it is the reality of so many dogs in La Paz.

Rescuing dogs is a very high stress endeavor.  Caring for them is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. It is important not to underestimate the amount of care and the level of commitment that is necessary to save lives. The emotional and psychological aspect of rescuing and outreach work should not be overlooked by well-meaning people in the community who ask us to take on more than we can. As frustrating as it is to see so many dogs in need, asking the few in La Paz who rescue, foster and volunteer to do more is misplaced. The answer is not for the few to do more — it is for more to get involved and share the load.

We are committed to finding a “Forever Home” for each of the dogs in our program. This entails doing a thorough Adoption Application and interview with potential adopters. We share all medical and behavioral aspects of the dog with adopters so we can find a family that loves the whole dog – the good and the bad and is willing to put in the work that owning a dog requires. We won’t adopt dogs out unless we are certain the adoption will succeed. A failed adoption is far more draining emotionally and on funds than if we take the appropriate actions initially to ensure it’s the right home.

The rescatistas trust through experience, that the families their dogs go to are the best homes that they could hope for and that their fur-babies will be well loved and well cared for.