Anyone can start a rescue, but many burn out and are not around in a year's time. To build a successful, long-term rescue effort, clearly defined and realistic goals must be set. You must continually refer to your goals as you go about rescue activities. Your goals will define how your rescue will operate. You may want to consider partnering or volunteering with an established rescue before branching out on your own. You can visit our list of pit bull friendly organizations to locate one in your area.
In the beginning, rescuers should stick to smaller, manageable tasks. Understanding that you can't save them all is important. One breed, in a small geographic area, would be a good start. As people get to know you and you have a few placements under your belt, you might consider revisiting your goals and expanding them as necessary. It is important to set limits and stick to them because you can become quickly overwhelmed which leads to burn out. It is important for purebred rescuers to know and understand their breed so that responsible placements are made. PBRC's breed information page is a good place to begin your breed research. We cannot emphasize enough, the importance of breed education and understanding. Irresponsible placements hurt us all, especially the dogs.
Issues to Consider When Setting Goals for Your Rescue:
Financing: Dog rescue is expensive. Adoption fees are a small source of income, but in most cases, the rescue will spend more on the dog than the adoption fee will cover. Expenses include advertising, shelter fees, veterinary bills, food, board, collars and leashes, toys, flea/tick and heartworm prevention, microchips, and grooming. Fundraising is an important and necessary source of income. How will you raise funds?
Legal issues and Licensing: Does your state have licensing for rescues? If so, contact your local animal welfare agencies and ask how to get your license. You also may want to consider incorporating. It can be expensive, depending on which state you live in, but a "not for profit" organization is important for fund-raising and tax purposes. You can do it yourself or contact an attorney.
Volunteers: You may want to consider recruiting others to help. They can help with expenses, fundraising and decision-making. Finding people that share your passion for your breed is not always easy, but local breed, obedience or all breed clubs may be good starting points.
Intake: Who will be responsible for accepting dogs? What criteria will you follow to screen dogs? Will you temperament test? Will you accept owner relinquished dogs or only shelter dogs?
Since you are on this page, we can assume you are interested in the bully breeds. What will those include for you? American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, will you include Bull Terriers if you get calls or American Bulldogs? Olde English Bulldogs? Catahoula Bulldogs?
Will you take only purebreds or will you accept any dog which closely resembles your breed? If you accept mixed breeds, how mixed? Some pit bull or mostly pit bull?
Do you want to cover one town, one county, one state or more? Remember, start small!
Housing: Where will the dogs stay once in rescue? Will they be boarded at a kennel or fostered in volunteer's homes? Pit Bulls should not share kennel space with other dogs.
Care Guidelines: What will be the minimum standard of care for your rescue? Rescues should be completely vetted including spay/neuter (at any age) but will there be additional training? Will dogs be crate-trained? Housebroken? Will they have any level of obedience? Click here for training information.
Advertising: How will you get the word out about your rescue? There are many places online to advertise, including www.1-800-save-a-pet.com and www.petfinder.com. Check out our Links page for more rescue resources. When the dog has been spayed or neutered and is current on all shots, he can be listed on the PBRC site. You will need to fill in the listing form.
Screening: You will need to develop a process for screening applicants and determine who will be qualified to adopt from you. Here is a page with recommendations specifically for caretakers that are fostering and placing Pit Bulls, and here are some tips on screening potential homes. Rescuers also need to be aware of breed specific legislation (BSL) that may affect new homes. Always conduct a home visit and be sure to check references.
Contracts: You will want to have solid "transfer of ownership" agreements for dogs coming into rescue and adoption contracts for dogs going to new homes.
Follow-Up: How will you follow up on each rescue that you place? Will you be available to help the new owners with issues and problems that may arise during the adjustment period?
Returns: As a rescuer, you are responsible for the lives of the dogs that you place. There may come a time when an owner is no longer be able or willing to care for the dog adopted from you. How will you handle returns, whether they're due to people issues or behavioral reasons? If a pit bull shows inappropriate aggression, how comfortable are you with euthanasia?
Pit Bull rescue is challenging and not for the faint of heart. You will witness extreme cases of abuse and neglect more often than in any other kind of dog rescue. But these dogs have a strong will to survive and most will put their pasts behind them once in loving homes.
Pit Bull rescue is frustrating. The breed is misunderstood and maligned. Insurance companies are canceling policies and breed specific legislation is cropping up all over the place. Finding responsible adopters can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Pit Bull rescue is rewarding. When you take in a dog that has never been given a chance to be loved as a companion and put him in a home where he is a cherished family member, his smile will stay with you forever.