The number one goal for rescue groups is finding the perfect forever home for animals in their care. But many times they need help making that happen. Here’s what’s entailed if you’re looking to adopt or foster a rescued pet.
1. "Follow your gut feeling" Michell Hoffman from the Greater Omaha Cage Bird Society suggests asking friends and family members for recommendations on rescue groups they’ve used. Even better is a good word from your vet. She says smaller groups sometimes can be more organized and passionate about their cause and have adoption and surrender guidelines. “I am a big believer in following your gut feeling. If a group is not answering or even avoiding questions about themselves or a pet you are interested in, that is usually a red flag,’’ she says. “If a group is genuine and proud of their cause, you can see and feel their passion.’’
2. Rules for adoptions. Every rescue is a little different. Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue keeps a veterinary history on each pet it rescues. The organization also wants to make sure any pet it places will live in a safe environment, so a home visit is required. That might mean checking the bottom of a fence for holes if it’s a small dog or making sure the fence is tall enough to contain a larger animal. The group also makes sure that adoptees abide by the laws of their community. “Council Bluffs doesn’t take any pit bulls,’’ says Terri Larson, president and founder of Muddy Paws. “We also make sure wherever the adopter is living, they meet the requirement of that particular apartment or complex or community.’’
3. Healthy animals. Little White Dog Rescue, like many other rescue groups, will make sure you take home a healthy pet. Each of their dogs is neutered or spayed, has dental work done and any medical issues addressed before it is put up for adoption. Muddy Paws provides free behavioral training for the life of the pet. If there are problems, the group will send out a certified trainer free of charge. Both have a 30-day trial period. If the adoption doesn’t work, the animal can be returned and the adoption fee will be refunded. Cindy Goodin, president of Little White Dog Rescue, thinks that makes its adoption fee of $500 for a puppy and less for an adult dog a great bargain. Both also ask that if things don’t work out later that the pet be returned to the rescue.
4. Not just from Nebraska. Little White Dog Rescue saves a lot of dogs from puppy mills in Missouri. But pets in need of a home can come from anywhere. Overcrowded places in the South will often send pets north to find an owner. Muddy Paws’ Larson says lots of pregnant moms are euthanized in Texas so those rescues will reach out to groups in the Midwest. Pilots for Paws is an excellent group that helps needy animals without requiring reimbursement, she says. If the need is urgent, someone from her organization might meet someone from a rescue in Texas halfway.
5. Volunteer opportunities. It takes a lot of manpower to run a rescue group, says Muddy Paws’ Larson. The organization helps all kinds of animals get adopted: dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits — you name it. “We need volunteers to foster, process applications, get vetting done, record adoptions, help with meet and greets and help with training,’’ Larson says. “We are always in desperate need.’’ Larson says they have 150 volunteers and while that might sound like plenty, it is not.
6. Be a foster. Little White Dog Rescue pays for medical needs, food and supplies for its foster pets. “We just need you to supply a home and patience,’’ Goodin says. Plus, take the dogs to vet visits and events. Any animals already in the home must be up-to-date on their shots and heartworm prevention and be spayed. Stays can vary, from a few days to several months. Foster parents will get pet-sitting help if they need to go out of town. Little White Dog Rescue has 25 to 30 active fosters and always needs more. You don’t have to be retired or home all day. “Anybody can foster,’’ Goodin says. “It’s just like having your own dog.’’ Many times, foster parents fall in love and keep a dog, especially the first time they foster. That’s OK, Goodin says. It’s all about finding that forever home.