*This an update to say we are putting our long-term plans on hold for a little while. We have been fortunate to learn a fair amount and meet some of the most amazing people in our early efforts but in order to push ahead with our goals we would need a more focused effort. I have formed some very strongly held views about rescue and am more convinced than ever about the need out there to help relieve animal suffering. The issue I have found though is that my effort of trying to help on a case by case basis and evaluate individual rescues has been woefully inadequate, so I do not feel comfortable implementing my original plan and accepting donations.
Since starting Mav’s Rescue Friends, I have learned about some amazing non-profits who are solely focused on making the world a better place and hope to learn more from them. One such amazing organization is called GiveWell. I think they are doing some innovative things in analyzing charities that I think someone could easily apply to animal rescue. All is not lost, however. As my thinking has evolved, I have a new plan in mind for how I want Mav’s Rescue Friends to help out animals. I am fine-tuning it and hope to be able to implement it in the future: it involves a large scale or “flagship” adoption center on the outskirts of Manhattan. Please stay tuned.
We are fortunate to have many animal focused organizations in this country working for the interests of animals, and the effort is accelerating. In the last two decades, euthanasia rates have dropped and some promising legislation has advanced. There are still millions of animals needlessly euthanized, so there is still a long way to go domestically with even greater need internationally. Although I am far from certain, I think perhaps one solution that would really help the suffering would be for a large charity and government to raise enough money to have mobile vans tour neighborhoods all over the country and offer free or low-cost spaying and neutering. By my math, a few billion dollars might be able to match the supply and demand for animals in shelters. This will save not only the dogs that will needlessly die this year for instance but also for years into the future. I think state funding or a huge charity could tackle this but it is obviously a huge sum of money. As people should have the right to leave their animals in-tact, there may even need to be a bit of a carrot approach with a gift card or something given to people who do not want to “waste” their time. Breeders will continue to breed and not all owners will agree to spaying or neutering, but given shelters will still exist this should help stabilize the number of dogs coming into shelters and allow for those animals to be adopted.
I am going to leave my original thoughts on this website in case my experience is helpful to anyone and will update it down the road when I finalize my new game plan. If you have stopped by this site, I sincerely thank you for reading and any thoughts you have shared.
We are trying to be less process oriented then we might be normally given we are at the earliest stages of figuring out how Mav’s Rescue Friends will work long term, so please forgive us while we are learning. Regardless of what we learn, Mav’s Rescue Friends’ long term goal will remain to try to figure out how to limit animal suffering and help as many animals as possible no matter what the breed, age, or special needs the animals may have.
As we want to help as many animals as possible, our natural bias is to try to come up with ideas that are scalable. The key issue we are trying to address currently is how you scale the many pet volunteers out there who work tirelessly to help animals. In learning about different organizations and researching the issues at hand, we have been extremely humbled by the amount of need out there. Beyond abused animals and families that want to take care of their pets but may not be able to, there are countless other healthy animals that are put to sleep daily at shelters. What we know thus far is that there is far more demand for help with pets with critical health issues than there is supply of it.
We have spoken with a number of people on these issues during our research, and as you might have guessed there are no silver bullets. Animal rescue can be time consuming, draining, and depressing at times but extraordinarily rewarding. Our task through Mav’s Rescue Friends is to figure out the most practical approach to helping as many animals possible per dollar of donation. We do not have any answers yet, but please check our “Think Tank” page to add your suggestions to the process. We are hoping to encourage a larger discussion over time in order to get the best outcome, so thank you for your help.
The only thing we knew when creating Mav’s Rescue Friends was that we would change our views, process, and focus as we graduated from complete ignorance to being less ignorant. We came in with very little information beyond a love for animals so as expected we have changed our views quite a bit over the past couple of years. We have recognized some flaws with our original ideas and have come up with other ideas that we may be better able to execute.
At this point, we are becoming increasingly excited about the possibility of Mav’s Rescue Friends becoming a “charity of charities” so to speak. In the year or so since starting Mav’s Rescue Friends we have noticed there is a huge opportunity to unite people and organizations who have people with lots of time, space, and energy but little access to financial support. Our morphing idea is to raise money and donations from more urban areas where space and time is scarce and reallocate it to more rural areas where volunteers, land, and love are plenty but donations are scarce.
This is a dramatically different model than we first envisioned, but we think it might just work and we plan to experiment. When we scour around online for animals in need of help, a substantial majority of the time we were finding rescue organizations looking for help rather than individuals looking for help for their pets. This model has its challenges as we have to figure out which organizations to work with, but we feel better situated to evaluate rescues and individual projects or capital needs as opposed to families that need money for acute care. We realized pretty quickly how difficult it is to screen families in need of financial support for their animals and quite frankly it is not something we wanted to do.
Over time, we envision raising money and giving directed funds to organizations on a case by case basis. We will not be raising money and passing out a certain percentage to rescues but rather responding to needs we see online or inbound requests for help. This may mean that a rescue cannot afford to spay and neuter a group of ten puppies they rescued or it may mean that a family has the room to foster two dogs from a shelter but do not have the money to get them to a veterinarian. It may mean that a rescue needs money to transport animals from one state or another to be adopted or it could mean that a rescue needs help caring for a dog with cancer. The goal would be to watch rescues online, see where there is need, and optimize our resources to help out the most animals.
Here are some recent examples we have seen that would provide good cases for Mav’s Friends:
1) There was a breeder that was being shut down and had over 100 puppies that needed to be rescued. A rescue has been trying to coordinate help as they did not have the money or space to take them. Presumably, local rescues and fosters would have been able to take all these puppies in if there were no financial burden.
2) We read an article about a couple who have saved over 15,000 dogs and are still going. They take dogs from local shelters and take them to the Humane Society where they have the space and money to take them in. Where they are in the south, there is little rescue money so the dogs are put to sleep. They put over 400k miles on their van and they needed a new van to continue their effort. Petco gave them a grant that enabled them to buy a used van with 100k miles to keep up their efforts. So, for a donation of $15-20,000 this couple can save another ten thousand dogs. That is a great return on a donation.
3) We read posts frequently where people offer to help out rescues with fostering and the posts say something to the effect of “we have space for one or two dogs right now but we do not have the money to pay for the vetting.” If there are lots of people out there who would help take dogs out of kill-shelters if only they had someone sponsoring the veterinarian services, this would be a great use of donations.
4) We see posts from time to time of not for profits who need money to afford the filing fees to make them an official 501c3. The fees are not cheap but once they qualify as a 501c3 all donations are tax exempt so their appeal to donors will increase. By donating filing fees, we could help organizations get off the ground and grow much faster. Additionally, official rescues often have much more flexibility in pulling animals from shelters and nominating themselves for grants from major corporations. Our basic thinking is that as we meet people that are extremely passionate and amazing rescuers, wouldn’t it be nice to help them set up as a 501c3. Donating money for this theoretically should have a multiplier effect as these organizations should then be able to grow and raise more money. Of course, not all will want to become official charities and not all will last but if a small fraction do then it seems like it will have been worth it.
This model is exciting to us for a variety of reasons with the primary reason being that we feel a lot of the projects we might help fund will help enable local rescues to save many more animals than we would be able to do with donations on our own. We can evaluate individual needs and give out money based on where it will have the best impact. Additionally, by donating to smaller, local rescues all of the money will generally be spent on the animals. One problem with some of the larger national charities is that a lot of the money raised goes to administrative and advertising purposes. Most local rescues pass through all the donations to the animals so the utilization of donations could be 100% or close to it theoretically. Additionally, a lot of these smaller rescues find themselves in rough patches for fundraising and a donation can help their organization continue. Finally, we think by raising awareness of the organizations we help, we will be able to detail our experiences with various rescues and give people a sense of comfort that if they want to donate directly to these organizations their money would be put to good use.
The internet will be instrumental in our ability to locate rescue groups in need. We are able to get a sense of rescues by their webpages, facebook pages, and blogs, and we can see how much time and effort they put into raising money for a project. There might be a big difference between a rescue who is posting twenty times a day on Facebook for instance and someone who doesn’t. That said, we are still trying to learn how to effectively evaluate these organizations and will undoubtedly make mistakes so if you have any ideas on this or see obvious mistakes we are making please pass along your comments.
In summary, the idea is to mobilize more of the people out there who have the time and space to rescue and foster by supporting them with help for vetting and other rescue needs. We are excited to be able to continue to meet the many great people out there in animal rescue world, learn from them, and help them out if we are able. Again, these are long term plans so we will probably continue to change our thinking but we want to keep writing down our thoughts as we develop them.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”~Agnes Sligh Turnbull