Thursday Thoughts: What Is The Definition of Rescue?

Posted on June 15, 2017

Thursday Thoughts: What Is The Definition of Rescue?

In a prior Thursday Thoughts post, I wrote about how important micro-rescuers are to the broad world of rescue, and I’ll stand by that.  There is a however to follow, though.  Yesterday I stumbled across an article that turned by stomach that someone had posted.  It was very pro-slaughter and it used an example of an organization ill-equipped to help animals masquerading as a rescue as one of the author’s justifications for why he felt horse slaughter for human consumption should be re-funded in the United States.  We vehemently disagree with this position, and all of his supportive arguments.  They are narrow minded, and disparage true statistics on the state of equine welfare in the US today.

The real data that is 100% at odds with the author’s propaganda is as follows:


  • According to numbers obtained from the California Livestock and Identification Bureau, since horse slaughter was banned in California horse theft has dropped by over 34%.
  • Americans overwhelmingly support an end to horse slaughter for human consumption (recent polls from Kentucky, Texas and Utah respectively show that 82, 72 and 69 percent of those questioned oppose the practice). A recent national poll found that almost 70 percent of Americans support a federal ban.
  • Since closure of the domestic plants in the earlier part of 2007 there has been no correlating rise in neglect and abuse cases.  Conversely, horse slaughter engenders indiscriminate breeding and neglect by providing a “dumping ground” for unscrupulous owners.  In the past ten years breeding has declined, and there has been a correlating decrease in neglect and abuse cases.
  • The horse slaughter industry specifically seeks out healthy young animals as those are the horses with the highest profit margin when sold for meat weight.  Hundreds of horse rescue organizations operate around the country, and additional facilities are being established.  However, not every horse currently going to slaughter will need to be absorbed into the rescue community. ­ Many are marketable horses who will be sold to new owners.  Sick and elderly horses should be euthanized by a licensed veterinarian.  It is not the government’s responsibility to provide for the care of horses voluntarily given up by their owners.

Horse slaughter, simply put is bad for horses and bad for our communities.  But what about the other argument this author made?  The argument that RESCUES ARE BAD.  Yes, in this one sided editorial he effectively said that rescues can’t be trusted because of one example he dug up of a poor organization, and a few dog/cat rescues that had adoption requirements that he felt were too rigorous (such as denying an adoption because the owner planned to walk his dog off leash [though he made no mention on whether that was even legal]).

I commented on the article on the page of the individual who posted it, against my better judgment, and a response was promptly written by another person.  This response was also anti-rescue, with the writer mentioning that she was a former vet tech and wanted to rescue animals from the rescues as they were not being cared for.  I can’t say I have never seen such a situation before myself.  Yes, there are bad organizations in the world of animal welfare that call themselves rescues.  There are bad people who neglect animals who call themselves rescuers.  Most hoarders suffer from mental illness and truly believe they are fulfilling a duty to rescue animals.  Does this make rescues bad?  No.  It makes people who trust a person or organization that calls themselves a rescue without doing any diligence for themselves irresponsible.

At Safe Harbor we now proudly display a badge we’ve worked hard for.  This badge, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Accredited badge means we’ve been examined thoroughly, and that homework has been done.  We are the ONLY rescue in the state with Accredited Status (Horse Haven of TN is GFAS Verified which means they have also opened up their policies for review, but to a slightly lesser level).  It took a lot of work to gain Accredited Status but from our perspective it was important as it is a way we can do our part in our communities to re-establish rescue as good term.

In the big picture though, something needs to change.  Not every good rescue and every micro rescuer will ever work towards accreditation.  Is it us as rescuers that need to figure out how to differentiate the good and the bad?  Is it the person seeking to relinquish a pet that needs to do the research?  How do we show the difference between rescue organizations who are boots on the ground caring for, retraining, vetting, evaluating and adopting out animals from those that are simply cross-posting kill buyer owned horses or flipping horses under the name of rescue?  We don’t have all of these answers, but they are questions that are facing the world of animal welfare.

What are your Thursday Thoughts?  How can the animal welfare world respond when the lines drawn around the word rescue can mean advocate, hoarder, flipper, cross-poster, kill-buyer, broker, sanctuary or community service agency?  They aren’t synonyms.  Many are in fact antonyms flying under the banner of one word.  What would you do to change this segment of the animal care world and to re-define the legitimate welfare organization from the wolf in sheep’s clothing?