Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RESCUING the Rescuer

Recent events by yet another Iowa Animal Welfare organization is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who rescue properly and in compliance with state laws.

While hoarding can be the results of mental illness, most of us are not trained psychologists, therefore, reaction to animal neglect and abuse is often direct, especially when the abuse, neglect or cruelty costs an animal it's life.

Recently posted on our facebook page was a "note" entitled Rescuing the Rescuer. 

We are reposting that here for our non-facebook followers and supporters. PLEASE, if you recognize any of these signs in a family member, friend, co-worker contact authorities immediately. Lives could be saved from one simple anonymous action.

A dog is found along the roadside. A kitten is pulled out of a sewer. A beloved companion can no longer be cared for and is turned into a shelter. It only gets a certain number of days to find a new home before it is euthanized.

This happens everyday inside the world of the animal welfare industry. And somewhere each day someone is moved by a situation just like this and steps forward to save a life. Maybe they volunteer to provide socialization, maybe for transport, maybe even provide a temporary home until a permanent one can be found. Whatever touched their heart or reached into their soul that day has drawn them into the world of animal welfare. Most people have no idea what lies behind the facade of rescuing an animal.

An Animal Rescuer is a person who rescues something from harm or danger. Their mission should be to save the life. Unfotunately sometimes that missiion stops after removing the animal from it's current situation and placing it into another. Whether that situation will save it's life or not, will depend on the experience and the ethics of that rescuer.

More and more, individuals are calling themselves "animal rescuers". And more and more of these individuals are finding themselves on the other side of the law. Good hearted, well intended animal lovers who set out to help animals are now in positions of being charged with neglect and abuse, even cruelty. These actions come in many forms, and aren't always about "beaten", "starved" or "abandoned" animals, but sometimes about animals in the homes of professed rescuers who have become or are becoming emotionally unbalanced to the degree that bad judgment overshadows good. And because these people are our friends, our neighbors, our peers, we become blind to the signs and symptoms of what is known as a Rescue Hoarder. The term "hoarder" can be deceptive. Most media coverage shows "hoarders" as people living in deplorable conditions, sickly or dead animals, and lot's of em. But that's just ONE phase of hoarding. There are signs of mental instability long before a hoarder ever gets to the above description.

Rescuing an animal is much more than getting it out of a "bad" situation and into a better one. It requires the person to be knowledgable about animal behavior, have some education on veterinary care; to be able to provide for the animal physically, mentally and financially, and to take full responsibility for its care and welfare until it is placed in the hands of a permanent caretaker or euthanized. It also means that the rescuer has to be aware of their own limitations and experience working with animals so they do not take on more than they can properly care for.

A good rescuer will also comply by state laws. They will know and understand the laws of their state, and work within the system to protect the welfare of the animal even if they don't agree with them. They will conduct themselves in a professional manner, and they will understand and be able to recognize an animal's health and mental needs. They will be able to provide at all times quality mental health care; food, water, housing, medical care, proper housing segregation and they will understand the behavior of the species.

Sometimes a rescuer will become so emotionally involved they become delusional about their own actions. Signs of a rescue hoarder can be blatant or very subtle. The actions of a rescuer hoarder can detoriate over a long period of time causing a change in not only behavior but often times their personality. Subtle signs of a rescue hoarder can be:
  • an increase in intake/outflow of the rescued animals viewing them as numbers rather than lives.
  • increased injuries or death to the animals in the rescuers care
  • denial of responsiblity for those injuries or death that happen in the rescuers care
  • misconceptions about animal animal behavior
  • deterioation of the animal's physical condition
  • an inability to accept responsibility of their own actions that caused  injury or death to the animal
  • deterioration of the rescuer and/or animals living conditions
  • inability to let go of the animal either through adoptions or euthanasia
  • becoming withdrawn from activities remaining inside the house or; becomimg increasingly vocal about injuries or deaths that happen in their care, (both are extreme signs of a rescue hoarder)
More often than not a rescuer hoarder will become so emotionally attached to the animals, feeling an overwhelming responsibility to save lives that they can no longer differentiate between a happy and healthy animal versus one who is in pain and/or suffering.

So who rescues the rescuer?

YOU do.

It is our responsibility as individuals to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves. Whether the person is a friend, a family member, a co-worker or a neighbor, if you recognize any of the above signs or symptoms with someone you know who has animals or rescues animals, you need to take action!

The first step is to contact an authority. You will be asked numerous questions, but in most cases you can remain anonymous. Your concerns will prompt an investigation which will then determine if the person is in compliance with state laws or not, and whether or not they should remain as a rescuer. This does not mean your friend or family member will be hauled off to jail. But it does mean they will receive the proper help they need and the animals will not die because you, as an observer or participant chose to do nothing.

Whether it's a friend or family member, it's better to intervene in the early stages of hoarding to prevent prosecution for neglect, cruelty and abuse later on. Good hearts and well intentions do not necessarily mean that one is qualified to be in animal rescue. And every state requires a license of some sort to act as a rescuer, which also provides inspections to make certain that animals are being properly cared for at all times!

If you know of someone, or see the above signs and symptoms in someone you know, please take action immediately, before it's too late, for both the animal and the human!

To express concern or file a complaint visit or call:
Iowa Department of Agricultural and Land Stewardship

Not sure if what you are seeing IS a problem? Contact RVAS and we can help you determine that, and what your next steps should be...all to save lives!

UPDATE: Story City Cat Massacre

There is an update on the Story County Cat Hoarding situation that took place last year. Many readers may remember the debachle that took place on this so-called rescue of an estimated 50+ some cats handled by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. (Follow the original investigation here...)

They continue to remove themselves from any involvement professing they were only there to "assist" but as we stated one year ago, our investigation with local authorities clearly prove that they were called upon, and accepted, to lead the rescue efforts.

Recap: Family members turned to local authorities for assistance with a relative who had acquired a large number of cats. Living conditions were less than favorable and law enforcement contacted the county shelter for assistance. They declined to lead the efforts because they recognized their facility was not equipped to handle hoarding cases, whereas, a large number of animals may come in at one time, needing immediate veterinary care. Funding can be an issue, proper care and housing. (Note: We support and appreciate those organizations that recognize their own limitations). The county shelter did offer to house a few and offered any other assistance the lead rescue would need. A local veterinarian was called upon to coordinate medical care needs and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa was contacted to lead the rescue efforts.

Outcome: Since no final numbers have ever been provided by either the vet or rescue "in charge" of the organizations, facts we do have are that all but 12 cats were euthanized deemed "unhealthy" by the so-called "experts". Those twelve were taken by Dr. Lisa Deppe, DVM of Jewell Animal Hospital who also operates as a state licensed animal shelter. Those so called "unhealthy" felines were all saved, and while a couple did receive surgery (one had it's eye removed), the majority of them had upper respiratory infection (URI), which is very common in felines, especially those who reside outside. This infection is treatable by antibiotics and is not a "life-threatening" illness. They have since then found new homes and all are living happily ever after.

Dr. Deppe's dedication to animals goes above and beyond veterinary care. She was contacted by the ARL of Iowa to assist with the rescue efforts. She single-handedly lined up shelters and rescues "ready to receive". As a licensed veterinarian she was more than capable of determining whether a life could be treated and saved, and if not, she was equally qualified to offer them a humane ending. She was refused by her peers to offer any medical or rescue assistance whatsoever and stood by helplessly watching cat after cat be slated as "unsavable". She quickly recognized that the situation was not a 'rescue' at all, but in fact a removal project. This created quite a stir among those in the industry dedicated to saving lives, whereas, Dr. Deppe boldly stood up and expressed her disappointment in those "alleged" leaders of the animal welfare system who she had entrusted and respected. She stated her viewpoint in her Veterinary Rescuer blog whereas, animal advocates began asking a lot of questions. Dr. Deppe's bold decision to speak out had its repercussions, too. A scathing letter from a friend of the vet caused Dr. Deppe to publicly apologize for mentioning the vet's name in her blog. She never meant to throw any peer under the bus, but was appalled by the behavior and condescending manner in which these peers treated her the day of the rescue. A peace-seeking vet with an extraordinary heart for the welfare of animals, Dr. Deppe's dedication to animals continues to this day...helping rescues and individuals save lives despite those who disagree.  Although animal advocates stepped forth to support Dr. Deppe's courage of going against the norm of what lives "can and should" be saved, there is still that haunting image of the faces she watched sitting in a cage not knowing this was the last time they would ever see the light of day.

To this day, no one has been able to get an exact NUMBER of cats that were rescued, euthanized and/or rescued by either the Story City Chief of Police, the veterinarian placed in charge of medical care, or the ARL of Iowa. ARL's claim of rescuing 12 cats is under suspicion by those involved. We know 12 cats were released to Dr. Deppe who have been treated and are now living in wonderful homes. The media posted that the ARL saved 12 cats, but the ARL has not produced any further information on those twelve lives, (adopted or euthanized) nor would they answer any of the numerous telephone calls they received discussing the twelve's whereabouts. To this date, no one has stepped forward and professed they have "adopted" these so-called felines either.

Several people contacted RVAS and those other rescues who were waiting to receive these precious lives stating conflicting information that the ARL had given them via their inquiries. One caller said the ARL said they didn't have any cats from the Story City situation...another caller said the ARL is not disclosing any information at this time. Needless to say, many are skeptic that the ARL did anything other than stand by and watch numerous cats killed...doing nothing.

UPDATE: A Realtor contacted RVAS. Hired to sell the house, upon arrival to the property, they noticed the door slightly ajar. Posted on the door was the note "cat left inside". Apparently the "removal" team didn't complete their task leaving one cat to fend for itself. It's one year later. They remembered the story that was posted regarding this situation and contacted RVAS for assistance. We knew exactly who to call!

Dr. Deppe immediately stepped up, set a trap, and Mr. Kitty was neutered, vaccinated and relocated to a safe haven, where he would be able to live out the remainder of his kitty life. Feral by all definition, Mr. Kitty was taken to an acreage where the family members were trained in feral cat relocation. If not done properly, cats relocated can stray or be run out by a colony resident feline and left to fend for itself.

Alley Cat Allies, a national organization dedicated to education and awareness of the growing feral cat population in our country has set forth an excellent guideline to follow for the relocation and care of feral cats. Even more so, they help feline lovers identify a "true" feral, from a scared stray, and how to properly care for cat colonies. This is far more humane than a massive massacre of innocent lives who fall victim in the human hands of individual mental illness or non-compliant traditional animal welfare organizations.

Kudos to everyone who diligently worked to save the lives they were able to save despite resistance from those who profess to be animal welfare organizations. And a special thanks to the Realtor, who requested to remain anonymous, for her love for animals went above her daily work...and helped save a life...properly!

In short, not ALL animal welfare organizations support "animal welfare". On the other hand, places like RVAS, Jewell Animal Hospital, H.E.A.R.T., Agape Fosters, Animal Resource Foundation, Iowa Humane Alliance, just to name a few, are animal welfare organizations dedicated to saving lives through education, awareness, proper adoption screening, quality veterinary care, networking and advocate programs such as spay/neuter, FIV & Heartworm rescuing, educational classes and much, much more. These are all state-licensed organizations operating in compliance, networking together, to bring a sense of community to the animal welfare industry that is apparently missing in our state, as evident by the actions of those in charge of the Story City Hoarding Case.

Help save lives. Support those who support animal welfare!