NETWORKING IS ABSOLUTELY VITAL. Networking with local shelters, with other local rescues (dog rescues included), with local transporters, with local veterinarians, with transport volunteers...networking with as many people as possible. This network should be established BEFORE a new rescue begins to take in cats. Rescue is a
community which does share information about the activities of its members, and if you are an unknown with no reputation your rescue
will not flourish and you won't be effective at saving purebred cats.
When starting your rescue program, have all your contacts in place before taking that first cat. The person in your group that is in charge of this phase needs to be someone who can clearly evaluate the skills of others and deal diplomatically with vets and shelter personnel. One once contact person should be
your point of contact, especially initially.
Ideally this is someone who is readily accessible,
at the very least by phone, during the day. The coordinator needs to be
knowledgeable about cat care and welfare. This person also must be patient,
diplomatic, and have good phone skills. They will be the one the
general public as well as the shelters will contact when a possible
purebred cat needs placement. If you are rescuing from other states, it is helpful if this person has unlimited long distance calling costing
a flat rate.
This person is the one who will be the shelter's primary contact. They may pick
the cats up and take them to your vets. The liaison needs to be able to
identify all purebred cats and be willing to often make a difficult
decision regarding cats that do not meet your group's criteria for
rescue. They also has to be diplomatic when dealing with shelter personnel.
You may need a transport coordinator to arrange for long distance transports using transport volunteers. It is strongly advised that this person have a cell phone and unlimited long distance calling.
Their primary function is to plan transport runs and write up a "Run Sheet
You may require a network of caring individuals who are willing to foster the cat until a
permanent home can be found. It is important that you carefully screen such volunteers. educate them in
your policies and procedures, monitor the foster stay, and provide mentoring, support, and acknowledgement of their efforts.
homes allow for assessment of the cat in home situation and increase your ability to get more cats to safety.
When you have done your basic planning, you will need to approach local shelters. When making your initial contact, don't expect to be welcomed with open arms. Most shelter personnel are
overworked and have to deal daily with situations that are probably your worst nightmare. Many have been indoctrinated to believe
that breeders are the cause of all their problems. Usually diplomacy and
patience will win the most hardened case over. Here are three steps that
will make the first contact go smoothly:
Identify who at the
shelter is in charge.
Make an appointment to stop by and meet the key person. Do not discuss your program on the telephone unless you know who the point of contact is. You could waste time talking to the wrong person.
At the first meeting
remain open-minded, ask don't tell, discuss your program's criteria for
cats that are candidates for rescue.
Assure your shelter contact that all cats
will be altered and placed as pets. Discuss the possibility of the shelter
waiving adoption fees, but don't push it. Shelters have tight budgets too! Ask if the shelter does FIV/FELV testing,
vaccinations, and spay/neuter. Ask if the shelter is able to spay/neuter the cats before you take them
at your expense if they don't spay/neuter routinely - not only does it resolve some of their fears, but it
generally also costs less.
Once you have set up the connection, impress
on your group members that good shelter relations are critical to your
mission. Most shelters will work with your time schedule. Do not hesitate
to ask if, for instance, they can hold a cat over the weekend until you
can pick up. There may be times when your program is saturated, and you
will have to tell the shelter that you are unable to take more cats at
this time. Never tell the shelter that you will pick a cat up and simply
not arrive, and never fail to follow up with any required paperwork.
Make yourself visible. Plan to walk through
the cat room at the shelter periodically (every other week is ideal) to
check for any purebreds that might have "slipped through the cracks." Be
sure shelter personnel know you are there and still interested.
Occasionally personnel changes occur and new employees might not be aware
of your program, or know to call on you.
Ignore the occasional naysayer - the only thing important is rescuing the cats. Stay focused
on the cats. Do not get into discussions of whether Purebred Rescue is "elitist"or argue about animal rights.
Your focus MUST remain on the cats and getting them safe.
The vets you use are one
of the most important elements of a successful rescue program. He MUST know what your groups procedures,
expectations and objectives are, and that all rescue cats are to be readied for placement in pet homes.
more than one veterinarian before making a decision. Here are a few suggestions:
Safety in numbers - If
possible, line up more than one vet to work with. That will give you
options in advance rather than waiting until you are dealing with a
rescue cat and your veterinarian is unavailable or has changed their fee structure.
Early Spay/Neuter - It is imperative that you find a veterinarian who will do spay/neuter of any kittens before placement, so inquire whether the vet is experienced at early spay/neuter. In case the veterinarians in your area are reticent or inexperienced in early spay/neuter, you may want to bring a copy of the guidelines for
early spay/neuter in the cat and related references
that are provided provided by Dr. Susan Little, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Feline Practice) on her website.
First Meeting -
Meet with the veterinarian well in advance of bringing in your first rescue cat.
Explain what your group's procedures and objectives are, assuring them that all the cats will be rescue cats
who will be placed in pet homes.
Fees - Ask for a written schedule of fees ahead of time. Don't hesitate to
ask for a price break. Don't hesitate to inform your veterinarian if your group obtains a 501(c)3 charity status.
The Heartbreakers - Make it very clear that there is a limit to the amount of
resources your group has allocated for this program and relatively few
resources for aggressive purebreds. Reality may necessitate the euthanasia
of some critically ill or aggressive cats who cannot be
rehabilitated. If unwilling to work with you, find another veterinarian.
New Clients -
Assure the veterinarian that you will recommend their services to the adopters. If there is potential
for new clients, they may be more amicable to
discounting fees to your group.
Pay your bills on time - The main reason vets do not want to work with rescues is that a lot of them are not responsible and do not pay immediately.. or at all. Business is business and vets need to be treated as the professionals that they are. New rescues especially need to be VERY SENSITIVE to this and first and foremost need to assure the vet that ALL BILLS
WILL BE PAID PROMPTLY. If a credit card can be put on file as collateral, the more the better.
IF YOUR RESCUE CANNOT PAY EVERY VET BILL PROMPTLY, YOU SHOULD NOT BE RESCUING.