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By Published On: May 25th, 2011

small dog in a cageRecently I ruffled some feathers on an online forum. It was not my intention and I usually try to stay out of most of the networking site forums because they are often too upsetting, but something moved me and I posted a comment. The original posting was about a 15 year old girl who had started a rescue group. It was an upbeat, ‘isn’t this heart-warming’ post and I could not shake the not so heart warming reaction I was having. Had I realized that the girl was a member of the forum and would read my comment I probably would not have written a thing, but that’s history now.

I tried, apparently without success, to express my unease with celebrating an animal rescue headed by a 15 year old, while supporting her intentions and motivations. I strayed from the ‘You go girl!’ response and the hits started coming. I was the grumpy lady who needed to worry more about people who weren’t doing something to help homeless animals, and not about the ones who were. I was wrong to assume that a 15 year old would not have the skills or abilities to do a good job rescuing animals. I was the naysayer trying to squash the hopes and dreams of a motivated, caring, young human. I felt like Scrooge in December.

I gave it a couple more shots at trying to explain myself, and then excused myself from the room, but I was surprised. The forum was specifically about animal rescue and I found it difficult to imagine that no one else shared my concern that good intentioned as anyone may be, animal rescue is a complicated and challenging task, and as bright and conscientious as this young woman might be, at 15 how much could or should we expect from her?

I am not naive, nor so far removed from reality that I expect animal behaviorists and professional trainers to be starting animal rescues in droves, but I do believe that animals deserve that level of skill and expertise when it comes to determining their future. Their lives depend on it. The belief that all they need is ‘time and love’ is so far off the mark for many of them that I cringe when I hear someone involved in rescue say it. That sentiment is naive and removed from reality.

The attitude of many seems to be that not only can anyone who grew up with a dog and having watched a few seasons of the The Dog Whisperer be a dog trainer, anyone can start an animal rescue. Even barring the hoarders and dog traffickers involved in rescue, there is no shortage of well intentioned people who cause extreme suffering to the animals in their care. The fact that it’s unintentional is beside the point. The impact of a ‘bad’ placement extends beyond the immediate dog and family. I have lost count of the people who have told me they will never adopt a dog again because of bad experiences with dogs who needed more than time and love.

At this point the best I can do is wish this young woman good luck in her endeavor, the dogs are going to need at least that, and more.

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