By Dr. Sandra Neumann
Over the past few years the Saskatchewan SPCA has been approached by several rescue groups as well as SPCAs asking us to develop a program to ensure a minimum standard for rescue organizations in the province. Having been responsible for the enforcement of the Animal Protection Act for Saskatchewan until spring 2015, our Animal Protection Officers have also encountered their share of so-called rescues that provided insufficient care.
Rescue organizations come in many forms. They range from those operating a shelter to those working solely within a framework of foster homes. What unites them all is their desire to help homeless animals.
The concern is the existence of organizations calling themselves rescue groups without even providing a minimum of care for the animals they are taking in, thereby misleading the public and giving legitimate groups a bad name.
Right now anyone can stack a hundred cats in crates in a garage, or keep thirty-five dogs in a basement and call themselves a rescue group. In reality, these are hoarders valuing quantity of life over quality of life and showing total disregard to animal welfare.
Members of the public supporting these organizations believe they are dealing with a legitimate rescue group when in reality they are dealing with hoarders who neglect their animals’ needs to fulfil their own.
Therefore it is imperative to develop a system to ensure that rescue groups adhere to a minimum standard of care to ensure the welfare of animals they took responsibility for.
Ensuring the humane treatment of animals has been the Saskatchewan SPCA’s mission since 1928 so this is certainly a worthwhile undertaking for us. At the last animal welfare conference, Executive Director Frances Wach announced that we are now prepared to embark on this major project.
Right now we are in the process of researching existing programs in North America and worldwide to gain a better understanding of how such a program can be structured and developed to work best for our province.
The intent of such a program is to:
Acknowledge rescue groups that provide proper care to their animals.
Provide guidelines to ensure that such care is consistent and follows the most current standards.
Provide a code of ethics and best practice resources for rescue organizations.
Encourage more collaboration and improve the cooperation between rescues.
Assure the public, including adoption event hosts, businesses, donors, adopters and potential volunteers that certified rescue organizations operate according to the standards set by the certification program.
Assure donors and animal welfare funders of the organizations’ credibility.
Improve the welfare of animals.
Who benefits from such a program?
Having certified rescue organizations is a win-win-win situation. The group wins, the public wins, and the animals win.
For the rescue group, it’s a great way to let everyone know it strives to provide the best possible care for the animals it has taken responsibility for.
A certification program protects members of the public from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous hoarders by providing them with a useful tool to be able to recognize a legitimate and reputable rescue group.
And it benefits the animals.
Everyone wanting animals treated with respect and dignity should be embracing and supporting such an initiative.
This is a huge project that requires input from many stakeholders. We look forward to putting a program in place that will ensure all rescued animals in Saskatchewan are treated humanely.