How do we get the biggest bang for our buck in animal rescue?
This month at my rescue shelter in Vietnam, we have been working on trapping a family of dogs who are living safely in a thickly wooded area of an island and are totally feral. This project will have a huge impact on the dog population of the island they live on over the coming years in addition to the impact on the individuals themselves as sterilized and vaccinated free-roaming dogs. Given the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of dogs from being born over the next 5 years from these feral dogs, or any we have sterilized, frankly, the peanut gallery of dog lovers goes dead silent, however, and the funding for this project just has not even come close to our goal.
In my experience as a rescuer and fundraiser over the past decade, an image of one dog with mange goes up and the world weeps, in spite of the fact that he never would have been born had we been granted the funds we need to prevent the unchecked growth of the domestic pet population. If donors who say they “ love dogs” weren’t totally full of shit, they would heavily invest in sterilization projects to stop making more of them. But as usual, the doggie loving crowd has failed the dogs when faced with a real solution for their suffering.
For eight years I have seen this happen in our work. A single animal has a skin problem or is skeleton thin and that one image gets thousands of donations. The mobile clinics we’ve done and the ongoing sterilization work we did in our clinic that also most people did not support were completely ignored almost every time we posted about them. Getting funding for mobile clinics was like asking for funds for staff to get pedicures. Not a peep from those who send us their little praying hand emojis every day and support only the brand new gory rescues.
People ask me what I dislike most about my job and the answer is easy: I despise the futility of rescue due to the inability of those funding it to care at all about preventing an animal from ending up in rescue. Relying on the reason and intelligence of people who donate to rescues and know nothing and care nothing at all about how it actually works is asinine. The decision will always be wrong. Relying on the peanut gallery of keyboard warriors for policy decisions is pointless.
Why does this happen?
Because anyone who understands nonprofit marketing knows Rescue Gore Porn sells and prevention has no gory photos other than the bags of extracted uteruses and testicles we get from sterilization days. The only real success, the only movement forward and out of the hellfire of endless rescue cases far beyond what anyone can manage, is PREVENTING animal births, but because no one gets that endorphin kick from the savior complex of moving one single animal out of misery, it’s not sellable.
Without your Rescue Gore Porn, you won’t donate.
Without edge of absolute disaster, you won’t donate. Without crisis that nearly gets us kicked to the curb from unpaid rent with all the animals (which you don’t support beyond the day of rescue anyway…), you won’t donate. Without the horror of horrors of a dog in cage on the way to a dog meat restaurant no different from the 551 million chickens murdered every year in Vietnam to mindlessly put in your soup, you won’t donate.
Eight years of social media and donation records could prove the Rescue Gore Porn addiction if I was savvy with graphs and data, but I have no doubt other fundraising professionals can attest to this failure of rescue donors to address anything that isn’t immediate crisis with sustainable funding. Nothing will ever change because the people that dictate policy by the donations they are willing to give for one need or another is ALWAYS wrong.
We need a better educated class of donors who can look at the evidence, listen to the experts, and trust the FACTS that sterilization, vaccination, TNR, deworming, parasite management, etc., are SOLUTIONS to get behind with donor dollars that save millions more lives than any rescue facility of any size could manage.
You want more bang for your buck?
Support basic veterinary care that prevents issues that cost thousands more dollars and hundreds more man hours.