I don’t write about all the rescues I am involved with. Sometimes, this is because there are so many, I just pick the one that meant the most or underlines a point I’m trying to get across. Other times, it is because there are aspects of the rescue which could be construed as morally dubious and I don’t want to broadcast anything that could get anyone into trouble at a later date. I don’t have a great deal of contact with official rescue organisations because most of the time, we don’t need them – we can rescue and re-home within our own circle. Also, sometimes they may not approve of our methods.
To me, the choice is fairly clear cut. Is the animal in danger? Yes. Is it being maltreated, abused or so poorly looked after that its welfare and health are compromised? Yes. Can we rectify these things with a bit of education? No. At this point, I move onto a second stage of checks and then make a decision as to whether I remove the animal or not.
Some people do respond to a bit of advice, given carefully. Most people do not respond well to threats of the “look, you need to look after your pet or I will call the RSPCA” kind. Part of this is human nature and part of this also is down to the fact that the RSPCA can appear powerless or unwilling to act unless the cruelty is so extreme it will end up in a courtroom. Even when this is the case, in two cases where I have notified the RSPCA, they have done nothing positive. In a case I have mentioned before, when I took the cats to a vet to save their lives and the vet called the RSPCA, they returned the cats to the owner, with all my rescue paraphernalia.
So, I am well aware that I can’t rely on them to conduct a rescue. I also can’t rely on a threat working. In fact, in intentionally abusive cases, it may make the abuse worse.
The RPSCA and other rescue organisations have to work within the law, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome and often comes too late for the animal. I am not going to be able to take someone to court for cruelty. And in some cases, sticking to the law means an animal will suffer and die.
Recently, I called a rescue organisation in (not one I’ve mentioned here) to help with a possible neglect case. The animal did have a home. The owner had changed the environment so much it did not want to be at home and was instead in a location some distance away, living a very precarious life. The owner did not want to give it up, even though she was told by several people (not just us) that she was putting her allegedly beloved pet in danger. The rescue organisation was powerless to help as the owner needed to make up her mind as to whether she wanted to do the best thing for the animal. It wasn’t a clear cut case of abuse or neglect. She did nothing. And I sat and watched it as it remained in danger, day after day. I spoke to people who also watched the animal and tried to care for it. They were also very worried and asked if I could rescue it.
This was a classic situation where I’d gone through my usual checks and got Yes, Yes and No. I am aware of the danger of rescuing becoming an obsession, where you turn into the type of person who believes that only you know what is best for the animal and end up perpetuating another form of abuse on it. So unless it is an immediate “oh my gods, I need to pick that animal up now” kind of situation, I have a second stage.
This is to talk to someone and get (a) an unbiased opinion and (b) another rescuer’s opinion. I did this. After some argument, (a) solicited “I agree that you need to do something as you’ve exhausted all the other options but you’re going to get into trouble one day”. (b), after no argument at all, solicited a “why haven’t you done it already”.
So I did.
However, when I next needed to ring the rescue organisation, it took me some time to gather the courage to place the call. I knew the person I spoke with would ask me about the situation and what had happened. I didn’t want them to think I was a loon as I would need them in the future. They asked whether I had seen the animal. I said I had. They asked how it was. I said “fine”. They expressed surprise. And then I “said, oh bugger, I’m going to tell you what I did”. The response was something I had not expected at all. “Oh thank God”, was the answer. “I am so pleased. I told them I thought you were going to and I am so relieved”.
Occasionally, there are calls that make your day. That was one of them.
And I am aware that, as animal care has worsened over the past few years in my area, that my boundaries are becoming less and less defined. It worries me. I do believe that as long as I stick with my checks, I am unlikely to slip into true nutter mode, or do something which I consider to be morally reprehensible.
I am still not sure how far I would go, given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances. I saw an idiot tonight outside the supermarket with a dog. The dog was not on a lead. The owner bade the dog sit outside on the step and went inside. The owner was well-dressed. The dog had a big collar studded with bling. Just no lead. The owner was putting the dog in danger of theft and giving it freedom to run into a busy road and get hurt. The thought occurred to me that I should just call it over and walk off with it. Especially when I saw that it had recently had puppies and was probably yet another breeding machine for a human who can’t even be bothered to put his dog on a lead to keep her safe. I didn’t and I am still not sure why.