Wednesday, September 14, 2011

that is quite a bit of money..thought you were into rescue?

A couple of days ago I received an email inquiring about Penny - a beagle that I helped rescue from Laurens, SC. This was the email:

"Hi! How old is Penny?  We are beagle lovers on Long Island, love her pic."

I wrote back thanking her for writing and telling her a bit more about Penny and attached the application. I then got  the following response - this is the entire email verbatim:

"that is quite a bit of money..thought you were into rescue?"

NOW, I realize brevity is the soul of... something, but really? Seriously?

You know what - I have had people write back that they can't afford the fee - fine - I get it - not sure how they will afford the first $250 vet visit, but whatever. As long as they don't make snotty comments, that's fine, forget about it and move on. But this really got me going - again - I AM on my last frayed nerve here. So this is what I wrote back - not brief...

Hi Rochelle:

Yes, I am into rescue - which is a major strain on both my wallet and my sanity.  After the adoption fee, I generally lose an average of $200 per dog. Please remember that I am one person, not an institution.  I do ALL the work myself - which has turned into a full time unpaid job. I actually haven't had time to even look for work since the management of all the rescue related things takes all day and night every day. I try to blog about it and find I don't even have time to sit down and blog because of one crisis after another. Far from getting paid for this full time work, I am PAYING to do it. Here is a breakdown of the average expenses to rescue a healthy, socialized and adoptable dog (which many are not - more on that later). These costs are average PER DOG:

$100-140 - Basic vetting for healthy dogs, depending on the vet I can get into (some vets give a better break than others). I get the dogs all necessary vetting including spay/neuter, rabies, dhlpp, bordatella, fecal exam (they ALL have worms), dewormer (panacur or drontal), frontline dose, heartguard dose, heartworm test (heartworm is rampant in the south and must be treated and they must be negative to be able to get heartguard up here).

$168 - Boarding - min 2 weeks before transport and often times can be 3-4 weeks or until I find a home for the dogs. I live in a one bedroom apartment and while I often foster 2-3 dogs at a time, I cannot possibly foster them all for as long as it takes to find them a home. Boarding costs average $8 a night but sometimes I have gotten stuck paying $15/night per dog because the cheaper vets and boarding places fill up. So boarding averages $168 per dog for 3 weeks but again, this is often much more for longer times or for more expensive boarders.

$135 - Transport from NC/SC to NY - Because I rescue from extremely high kill rural shelters in NC and SC, I have to obviously get them transported north. I have searched high and low and not been able to get transport cheaper than 100/dog. Most of the time, I have to pay the professional transporters their flat rate which is $135 per dog. They also are dog lovers who are very dedicated to rescue and do NOT make money doing this. If you can imagine what it takes to drive 14 hours each way and have sometimes 7-10 dogs in crates and have to stop and walk them, clean them, feed them, etc and also obviously cover the cost of gas and the wear and tear on the vehicles. I often have to drive 2-3 hours to meet these transports because they are driving dogs all up the east coast. I have driven out to Scranton at midnight to meet a transport that was on it's way to Syracuse. I have driven up to Newburgh to pick up a dog from a transporter that was heading further North. None of them want to come into the city, so no matter what, I am driving to get them. I have never totaled up the amount I have spent on gas but frankly, it's quite a bit. And I can honestly tell you - it is definitely not my first choice of how to spend an entire Sat night or Sunday afternoon to be driving 2-3 hours each way to some random place to get dogs. I am not counting my own transport costs but just to pay the transporter is 135 per dog.

Extra vetting - Penny is a good example here although her extra vetting has been pretty minimal. I have had dogs that required 500-700 of extra vetting before being healthy and ready for an adoption; Like the beagle I rescued who had been bred so many times she had hernias and had to have surgery for that and THEN had so much bloody diarrhea and vomiting and persistent parasites (after being dewormed twice) and had to be hydrated and on several medications that even after the initial major expense of surgery I had another $520 in vet visits - this is AFTER she had traveled up.

Anyway: Penny tested very weak positive for heartworm. I have had several dogs this summer that tested light positive. Because heartworm is so prevalent down there, if it is light positive they often do 'slow kill' which is just keeping the dog on heartguard (as you would for any dog) and giving the dog antibiotics and within a year or so the adult worms die and the heartguard prevents the babies from growing. While I think this is a fine way to treat a heartworm positive dog - and MUCH cheaper, I also know that people up here don't really understand heartworm and the vets will not do slow kill. The vets up here won't even allow you to buy heartguard without a negative test result. The vets up here also charge 600-800 to treat heartworm so it is very important to make sure the dogs are negative before they travel because once they are up here the adopters can get very screwed by heartworm positive tests. I am very diligent about this because before I started rescuing I heard horror stories of people adopting from the south straight from the shelter and getting socked with up to 900 vet bills for heartworm treatments because the vets up here freak out and see it as a chance to charge a lot of money.

SO - with Penny, like the other dogs, I have had to pay for the 'fast kill' which takes a month and consists of several shots. I get a better deal down there with the rescue vet I use and it costs $150 (for a beagle, larger dogs cost more because they charge by weight). ALSO this means that the dog being treated will have to board an additional month because they have to wait until they can get their last shot before transport. I am not often blessed with foster homes that will keep the dog for free - so guess what - that means another $8/ night in boarding - for an ADDITIONAL MONTH. = 240. I was very lucky to have a foster for Penny who didn't charge for boarding and this helped A LOT, but this is the only time this has happened.

Just an example of the kind of issues I have to deal with - I had a beagle who was boarded for 5-6 weeks. I had called the vet no less than 4 times when she was being spayed to make sure they did the heartworm test. They forgot. The woman who was taking care of her lived 45 min away and worked full time and didn't have time to get her back for the test. I had a home for her ready to go and was getting her health certificate and remembered she had never had her heartworm test. Well, of course she came out weak positive. SO - now she had to get another spot in boarding for another month and of course the cost of treatment itself is $150. So, now I am looking at an additional $390 just because the vet is so busy down there with SO many rescue dogs they made a simple mistake and forgot to heartworm test her. Had they just tested her when she was first in for the spay, I could have transported her when I had planned to because she was already down there for 6 weeks and could have been undergoing treatment and been done and ready to go to her new home. Instead her adopters had to wait another month and of course *I* am footing the bill - not the adopters. So that was $390 on TOP of the OVER $400 I had already spent on her between basic vetting, boarding and transport. 

I am not even going to include here the breakdown of the THOUSANDS I have charged to my credit cards for food, treats, toys, crates (average cost of 60-70 a piece), leashes (that always get chewed and need to be replaced), collars, harnesses, ADOPT ME vests, and other stuff necessary to properly rescue and rehome the dogs.

I am ONE person.  I do all of this myself. I spend many many hours on this to the point where I literally don't have time to do basic stuff for myself that I need to do. I do not have an institution to help raise money for this. My "foundation" is my maxed out credit cards and I just literally had to get another credit card to pay for these heartworm treatments. I am basically subsidizing other people's adoptions and frankly, I cannot afford it.

Why do I do it? Because if not for me every single one of the dogs that I have rescued would be dead in a landfill. That is the bottom line. Penny was pulled by a friend who lives in SC and has been tirelessly working to save the dogs in rural shelters. Penny came from Laurens, SC where the animal control officer literally said to my friend 'we are a kill shelter not a save shelter' and they do NOTHING to try to get the dogs out or adopted. I have seen pictures of dogs that I desperately wanted to save but didn't have the money, space or ability to do it myself and the next day they were killed. Their faces haunt me and I cry often about the ones I have tried to help but didn't have the resources to do it.

ANY small rescue that you will meet will have an adoption fee - usually between 250-450 per dog. Small rescues do not have financial support from big donors or development staff to raise money.

If you are worried about money - the best deal around is to go to NYCACC (the city pound) and adopt from them. They desperately need to adopt dogs out and often get beagles. They also have CITY MONEY to help cover their costs - so they are able to get the dogs spayed/neutered and get them their shots cheaply so they can then charge a smaller adoption fee. I adopted by beagle from the Harlem ACC 5 years ago and she is a wonderful dog. You can also go to North Shore Animal League which is a much larger organization (again, I am ONE person), and they raise a ton of money and have many people working and volunteering for them - so again, they are able to charge a lower fee.

I personally feel passionately about rescuing from these rural southern pounds myself because frankly there are very few of us who even KNOW about these hellholes. I can't even use the word shelter since they aren't (they are warehouses where they kill dogs using inhumane methods such as heartstick and gas chambers often twice a week) and without the FEW of us who care and work hard to make a difference these dogs ALL end up in landfills by the thousands.

I realize this is a long explanation, but I have spent my very limited time writing this because I think it is important for people who have no idea not only the time but the money that goes into rescuing each dog to understand why we have to charge a fee and what is covered (and not even begins to be covered) by that fee. I hope that once people are more educated about these issues they will understand how rescues work and why fees are what they are.

Hopefully now that you are aware of all that goes into rescue - all the work and money for each single dog - you can spread the word to your friends and family and support small rescues.


  1. Hey,

    I just found you through FIPS and love what you're doing! I foster for the Boston Terrier Rescue of North Texas and definitely share some of your stories about long travel and dealing with angst over seeing dogs I wanted to save killed, just like that. I just posted a blog linking to you at (yes, brooklynne spelled incorrectly -- it's my name!). I blog about rescuing as well and have been chronicling the month and a half long recovery of an 8 month old rescue named Pepper, who had mites and a bacterial infection. Good to meet someone in the blogosphere who also works with rescues!

  2. this is linda....the beagle chaser!!!!
    omg gave 'em hell!!!!! i so understand, i got lucky in that baron, bella, and now barney were all free..... but i've spent close to $1800 in just the first 3-4 months on vet bills, heartworm treatment(!) meds, and all the driving back and forth....drove 80 miles to get baron, 120 to get bella, then 100 back home....not to mention the necessities like a crate....yup....$60... food, bowls, treats.... normal dog vet is 30 miles away, i'm lucky in that he charges by the family, not the when we go, all of two, and my brothers two, go!!! his low cost offsets the 60 mile round trip!!! my heart goes out to have a heart of gold....God will have a special place for you sara!!!!!!!!