By Jackie Kellum
Street dog Vs. Dog in Crisis. The August article briefly described what a street dog looks like. A Dog in Crisis looks different. This dog mostly likely is new to living on the street, or has been injured or ill and not doing well trying to survive in this inhospitable environment. It probably does not have an owner that is in the area and does not belong to a neighborhood dog family/pack. The dog is not skilled in finding available food. It can be seen nervously darting in and out of traffic. It may be so emaciated that it’s ribs and backbone are showing, or may actually be injured. This type of dog may have skin sores and lesions, limping and clearly in pain. Some dogs may show signs of disease, such as wheezing, open wounds, bleeding, infected eyes, etc. Occasionally this dog may be so badly matted that its ability to move, see, or go potty is hindered. Another type of ‘crisis dog’ can be a very young puppy that is by itself.
The next part is crucial – what to do? IF you take on the responsibility for the care of a dog in crisis, in what should be referred to as “Rescue Care” [ not foster care – that’s a totally different item ] there needs to be a well thought out plan establishing health goals and the ultimate “destination” of that dog. After a thorough search for a possible owner proves unsuccessful, determine your involvement. This may sound cruel, and the intention is not to discourage people from getting involved, but once you cross that threshold of involvement, you are making a total commitment for this animal. When a person takes it upon themselves to rescue an animal from its ‘environment, that person is assuming total responsibility for the total care [ and cost ] of that animal during “rescue care” time. This rescue care must include a plan from the onset that addresses finding a home for that animal by the end of rescue care. If the rescuer at the beginning knows he/she is not going to keep the animal, or changes his/her mind weeks later about not keeping the animal , they cannot assume that the Vet caring for the animal has room and is able to take over housing this animal until a home is found.
Likewise, it cannot be assumed by the ‘rescuer’ that at the very end of the rescue care time, the animal can be just “dropped off” at a shelter without having had an already previously established agreement with the shelter to accept the animal. Frequently shelters are at full capacity and may not have a vacancy. They may also have circumstances/restrictions regarding what age or type of dog, etc., that the shelter cannot / will not accept.
Rescue Care is not Foster Care. Foster Care is a very short term situation where the animal is brought up to health standards to be adopted into a permanent home. The key point is that there is an already established relationship between the shelter and the person who will be providing temporary care for this particular animal. This care normally is for a few days, possibly a couple of weeks, very rarely more than that. There should be an established verbal or written agreement regarding what each party [foster parent & shelter] is responsible for. Items should include costs, length of time, Vet use, treatments, seeking a home for this animal, and return of this animal to the shelter. Shelters always need Foster Parents.