“Until animals can talk and vote,” Gulfport’s Get Rescue volunteer Lynda Shehan says, “we have to speak out.” Ms. Shehan adopts older chihuahuas like this one.
Every year, Gulfport’s Get Rescued matches people with pets in downtown Gulfport. Lynda Shehan, who has volunteered with Gulfport’s Get Rescued since its inception nine years ago, has years of experience working with rescues.
Gulfport’s Get Rescued vets participating rescues carefully and gives any complaints intense focus, she says, but more than finding a quality rescue goes into matching a pet with a new home, Ms. Shehan says. If you’re considering adopting a rescued dog or cat (or if you want to support one with money, time, or donations) she has some advice to help you make the best decisions for you and your future family member.
1. Study the breed you want
“People don’t study the breed,” Ms. Shehan says. “They don’t realize it’s a commitment.” For example, if you don’t want to exercise a dog, a high-energy dog like a Weimaraner could end right back at the shelter after a few weeks.
2. Consider age
Ms. Shehan adopts older dogs because she can’t bear the thought of them dying in a shelter or foster home. She suggests that older people looking for love seek out older dogs.
“They should never outlive us,” she says, holding one such rescue in her arms. The tiny dog doesn’t have all its teeth and its slender tongue slips out of her mouth as she dozes in her human’s arms.
“I find the most important thing in anybody’s life is that you have somebody who loves you in the end,” she says. When her aging chihuahuas reach the end of their lives, she holds them. “I look them right in the eyes.”
3. Get curious
If you see someone walking a dog you like, ask them about the dog, then ask where they found the dog, Ms. Shehan suggests. She’s also a huge proponent of asking friends and acquaintances about their experiences with rescues. She suggests checking with the SPCA and the Humane Society of the United States as well.
4. Use Petfinder
Petfinder.com can point you toward a breed-specific rescue in the area and often has animals available for adoption listed – with photos – on its site. Once you find a rescue through Petfinder, click on over to that rescue’s web site and send them an e-mail.
5. Investigate the rescue
According to Ms. Shehan, it should take you between two and three months to research breeds, make sure your whole family will welcome a pet, get a training plan in place for a puppy or special needs dog, and let the rescue investigate you. In that time, you should check out the rescue to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate organization, she says.
“There are some bad rescues,” she admits. Make sure the rescue can provide you with proof of a heartworm test, proof of whatever shots the veterinarian suggests, and an animal that is spayed or neutered. Vouchers to go and get the animal spayed or neutered yourself, she says, are not acceptable.
Next, visit the rescue site where your prospective pet lives. Don’t be shy about asking to see proof of the rescue’s 501c3.
“There is nothing wrong with crates but a crate is not a 24 hour living facility,” Ms. Shehan says. “It’s a facility, when there is no supervision, to keep them safe. You have to see a couple dogs walking around.” It’s also crucial, she adds, that you can observe the pet you want to adopt interacting with other rescue dogs.
6. Plan for your dog’s future
It’s a harsh reality, Ms. Shehan admits, that sometimes we die before our pets. Don’t assume your kids or loved one will love your pet as much as you do, she says, and ask them if they would care for the dog or cat should your pet outlive you. This may, she says, be easier if you set up a small trust that makes provisions for the animal’s care. Many dogs, she says, get dropped at the pound or a rescue as an afterthought after grown kids have emptied the house and realize they have to do something with their parent’s beloved pet.
How to help a rescue
There’s no crime in knowing your limit with pets, Ms. Shehan says. If you can’t take another pet, she says local rescues can still use your help. Here’s her short list of how to help make a rescued animal’s life better:
- Adopt a rescue and set up a recurring donation through your bank account. “Even five dollars a month helps,” Ms. Shehan says.
- Pick up an extra bag of dog or cat food at the store and give it to the rescue. Many will even pick up such donations if you call and tell them you have food.
- Instead of food, consider buying litter for your favorite rescue. Ms. Shehan says Save Our Strays will come pick up litter.
- If you find dog sweaters, toys, catnip, or any pet items on sale, buy them and give them to a local rescue.
- If you need to find a worthwhile rescue, contact Gulfport’s Get Rescued for suggestions. Any rescue that participates in the annual Gulfport Merchant’s Association event must show proof of nonprofit status. Those rescues, who receive all of the day’s proceeds, undergo the scrutiny of volunteers like Ms. Shehan.
This year’s Gulfport’s Get Rescued takes place on February 23.