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    The Challenges Of Responsible Animal Rescue

    A life ring, illustrating the concept of rescue.
    For a printer-friendly PDF version of this resource,
    check out “article attachments”, at the base of this page!

    This resource has been fully reviewed and updated by The Open Sanctuary Project team as of August 31, 2022.


    For compassionate, open-hearted individuals and organizations, intervening to help and rescue animals might seem like a relatively straightforward act. When one or more animals can be removed from an exploitative or dangerous situation, very typically, there may be an attitude of “save first, ask questions later” among the humans involved. This is an understandable response.

    However, after animals are removed from concerning situations, a rescuing individual or organization might ask themselves, “Now what?” If an animal is rescued before establishing a solid plan for their lifelong compassionate care, significant unexpected challenges can arise!

    This resource is not intended to dissuade anyone from helping animals in need. Rather, we hope that individuals and organizations engaged in rescue work have a full picture of what responsible rescue entails so appropriate plans can be made when animals can be assisted, and that considering questions around responsible rescue can assist organizations in developing philosophies of care that best fit their capacity and ethical views.

    A background showing designs of a fish, a chicken, a horse running, a llama, a goat face, a rabbit, a pig, a parrot, and a trio of turkey poults.
    The array of species who find themselves in need of rescue and sanctuary are vast, and so are the  diversity of needs that these species have. Responsible rescue requires a good understanding of the needs of each species you plan on rescuing, which includes access to competent vet care and knowledge of how to compassionately care for them day to day.

    The Challenges Of Rescuing Outside Of A Sanctuary Framework

    For individuals or organizations involved in the rescue of animals who do not have an ongoing relationship with existing animal sanctuaries specialized in those species’ care, it is critical that they establish a dialogue with sanctuaries before participating in rescues. There have been numerous occasions worldwide where an unspoken assumption was made that a sanctuary would definitely take in animals without prior communication. It has sometimes even been assumed that sanctuaries had a regulatory obligation to accept animals without question. Additionally, there have been situations where animals were rescued, and no one involved knew how to care for these species or had relationships with veterinarians specialized in the species. As you might imagine, these scenarios can result in less than satisfactory, sometimes even dangerous, outcomes for the rescued individual or even the rescuer. Let’s take a closer look at how these scenarios might play out.

    The Importance of Veterinary Care

    Whenever you take on the care of an animal in any context, it is critical to recognize the importance of veterinary care for the animal involved. Because animals coming from rescue situations often have unknown histories, may very well have experienced trauma, and may be coping with injury and illness, building and maintaining a good relationship with veterinarians specialized in the animals you intend to rescue can mean the difference between life and death for rescued individuals, and should be highly prioritized. The well-being and health of the animals involved must always come first. Before photos, before social media posts, and before fundraising, the animals involved must receive veterinary care. 

    Occasions where rescuers have no planning in conjunction with qualified veterinarians, sanctuaries, and pre-arranged forever homes have often resulted in negative outcomes for all involved. Animals in need suffer when they do not get prompt access to appropriate care, and rescues and sanctuaries then face difficult and emotionally taxing questions when they are pressured into accepting residents that they were unprepared or unable to take in.

    Without a plan or a place to go, rescued animals can be stuck in an uncomfortable and unsafe limbo, lacking access to the resources and experience required for critical healthcare or an appropriate environment for their safety, with no clear path forward for a suitable lifelong home. When considering rescue, please take all these considerations carefully into account.

    Establishing A Dialogue Between Rescuers And Animal Sanctuaries

    For the reasons above, we strongly recommend that individuals and organizations interested in rescue establish friendly communications with veterinarians, rescues, and sanctuaries in their region long before any rescue activities are considered. With open channels of dialogue, both rescuers and sanctuaries can be empowered to talk through the issues and values that are important to them and get a more concrete idea of the resources and abilities available to help animals. This proactive spirit of collaboration has also resulted in sanctuaries reaching out to qualified rescuers to be a part of the sanctuary’s “rescue team” in situations that they have been contacted about.

    For rescuers who would like to foster a stronger relationship with the sanctuaries in their region, we suggest that they get involved with regular volunteering at sanctuaries (if the opportunity is available), attending sanctuary events, and offering assistance and contributing funds and other resources, where welcomed.

    Learning about the daily operation of a sanctuary and the daily care given to residents can help rescuers become more knowledgeable of what a sanctuary is committing to the day after they accept a rescued resident and every day following. These daily care skills can also be highly valuable when trying to help an animal in need! 

    Let’s now consider the sanctuary perspective and why it’s critically important to have good communication and coordination on a more granular level:

    The Challenges And Considerations Of Rescuing For Animal Sanctuaries

    Even for organizations that are already engaged in sanctuary activities and who may already have the apparent infrastructure and resources necessary, rescue is not a simple proposition by any means!

    Sanctuaries must carefully think about what rescue means to them and have a realistic idea of the impacts a rescue would have upon their existing capacity and resources. One helpful way to facilitate this kind of dialogue is through a team review of The Open Sanctuary Project’s 25 Questions To Help Guide Responsible Intake Decisions. This list covers many of the concerns that a sanctuary might need to think about before coming to a final decision regarding rescue.


    Questions of capacity are typically a primary consideration when it comes to whether it’s viable for a sanctuary to participate in a rescue activity or take in rescued individuals. The following are some of the many capacity considerations a sanctuary faces. To read much more on the subject, check out the full resource here.

    Zoning Laws & Regulations

    Each region of the world typically has its own zoning laws. These can even differ between two adjoining towns! Zoning laws frequently govern the legality of certain species, breeds, and even sexes of animals living on a property. Some areas restrict animal populations by the quantity of individuals; others restrict animal populations by their combined weight! If a sanctuary is trying to decide whether they can participate in a rescue, it’s highly important that this rescue not come into conflict with zoning regulations. The consequences of being caught breaking zoning restrictions, depending on the governing body, can be quite dire and could put the status of the organization and the safety of all of a sanctuary’s residents at risk. In addition to zoning, a sanctuary’s insurance policy may prohibit certain residents from being able to live on the property, either by species or number of individuals. Losing access to an insurance policy can be a significant concern for an organization, especially one tasked with providing responsible care for many individuals.

    Quarantine Capability

    When considering whether a rescue is feasible, a sanctuary needs to have a realistic view of whether they can safely quarantine all incoming residents until they’re deemed safe enough to join the rest of the sanctuary’s population. This means having separate space, separate care, and often separate tools, for at least 30 days, or sometimes longer if certain conditions are a concern or if the rescued individual hasn’t fully recovered. Rescued populations often come with more substantial health concerns that must be addressed (even if they appear to be relatively healthy at first glance). The consequences of forgoing responsible quarantine can mean spreading serious illnesses throughout a sanctuary’s population (as well as the biosecurity risk of an animal with unknown illnesses spreading disease to humans, which could place an entire organization in jeopardy). Some sanctuaries simply lack the spatial or quarantine capacity to take on certain rescues responsibly. Read more about quarantine basics at animal sanctuaries here.

    Spatial Constraints

    Even if a sanctuary can reliably provide quarantine for a rescue, do they have the space to house them in a way that honors the needs and comforts of existing residents while providing a comfortable life for the new intakes? Many sanctuaries may appear to have space, but could very well be dealing with complex social arrangements that would not be well-suited for an influx of newcomers at the time of a rescue.

    Staff Ability And Bandwidth

    Does the sanctuary have the trained personnel required to safely intake, evaluate, quarantine, treat, and separately care for newly rescued individuals in addition to all the needs of existing residents at the sanctuary? In many cases, organizations have had to ask for substantial volunteer assistance or hire additional caregivers to help manage rescues and the necessary care through quarantine. Some treatments for rescued individuals can be significantly time-consuming and stressful to caregivers and could strain a staff’s abilities and morale. On the other hand, some caregivers have expressed that rescue is an important aspect of their desire to continue working in a sanctuary environment and that the reward of helping new residents is worth the challenges. For this reason, we recommend that a sanctuary’s administration have discussions with their caregiving team about potential rescues and listen to their feedback before making firm decisions.

    Budgetary Commitments

    Rescuing an individual or a group of animals is just the start of a lifelong commitment. A sanctuary weighing whether to participate in a rescue must carefully look at their finances and determine whether they can responsibly provide lifelong sanctuary, including a commitment to whatever veterinary care may be required (which, for animals coming from certain situations, may be substantial, complicated, and ongoing for an indefinite period) for rescues consisting of many individuals who are all in distressed or dire states of well-being, this can quickly become an overwhelming source of stress for an organization, especially given the other financial requirements a sanctuary must meet for existing residents, food, water, utilities, sanctuary upkeep, insurance, and more. To help sanctuaries get a better idea of their costs for caring for their residents, we’ve developed a tool for estimating lifetime care costs. If a sanctuary does not currently have a budgetary surplus on hand, they must determine whether they have the support to fundraise to offset rescue costs. If an outside organization is conducting the rescue, they should strongly consider committing to help fundraise for the rescue, or provide some sort of financial contribution to support a sanctuary taking on a rescue’s lifelong care.

    Conducting Safe Transportation

    The transportation of animals is a common challenge when conducting a rescue, especially when taking in larger animals or a high volume of animals. Failing to think through all questions of transportation needs can result in significant issues, ranging from logistical problems like complications about how to safely transport animals, to legal concerns (especially if transporting animals between distinct regions, like interstate travel). And if planning to move animals who have significant health concerns or potentially communicable diseases, the challenges of transportation only multiply. None of these issues can be waved away with the excuse of a lack of timing or resources because the consequences remain just as significant regardless of how much an organization prepared for them.

    Veterinary Access

    For individuals of a species the sanctuary does not have experience with, or for those with complicated medical issues, is the sanctuary confident that they can find a suitable veterinarian or clinic to evaluate and treat them? Finding veterinary care can be a significant challenge in some regions, so a sanctuary may not be well-suited to certain rescues if they cannot guarantee that a resident will receive adequate medical treatment. This is compounded by the extra health concerns a resident might face following a rescue, or in some cases, a high volume of unwell residents in need of treatment. Veterinary care is a minimum need for residents in sanctuary, and can very often be the deciding factor whether a sanctuary can help out in a rescue scenario.

    A photo of a green parrot face with a striped face. The parrot looks peeved.
    This is a military macaw. Believe it or not, exotic birds like this get dumped or surrendered, and many sanctuaries don’t have experience with their special care requirements! If you want to help them, first find a good vet first and learn about the techniques and practices necessary for responsible parrot care! Photo by Geoffrey Baumbach on Unsplash

    Adoption Solutions

    Sanctuaries who have been involved with the rescue of individuals for whom they cannot provide a lifelong home may be able to find other solutions. For example, they may temporarily house rescued individuals and facilitate adoptions to suitable private homes, microsanctuaries, or organizations that are capable and willing to provide good forever homes. Rescuing individuals or organizations can offer to help with the adoption process or transport individuals to their new homes.

    What Are The Potential Legal Consequences Of A Rescue?

    Depending on the circumstances that have led to a question of whether to remove animals from their current living situation, there may be concerns about the legality of such actions (especially if law enforcement or legal counsel are not consulted). There have been multiple instances of sanctuaries being threatened with legal action for taking in residents that the organization was unaware had been relocated without the express permission of their previous “owner” (for this reason, we highly recommend the use of intake documentation wherever possible). In some of these situations, the rescuers have been held legally liable. In others, the sanctuary was also implicated in legal trouble. And in some resolutions, courts have required that animals be returned to their previous living situation. Historically, some sanctuaries have also lost supporters and even access to certain veterinary providers due to unwanted attention after such legal consequences. Regardless of one’s perspective on the ethics of individual rescue scenarios, a responsible rescue entails entering into situations with clear eyes and a full understanding of the legal risks involved with each event. To learn more about different laws that apply to animals (at least in the United States), check out Michigan State University’s Animal Law resources. 

    When In Doubt, Ask A Legal Professional.
    If your organization is wondering how your region’s laws might affect the decision to get involved in a rescue, we highly recommend contacting a local attorney and asking. Each region of the world will have its own laws and regulations regarding this issue, and The Open Sanctuary Project does not provide legal counsel suitable for any specific scenarios. As always, please refer to our disclaimer.

    The Legalities Of Rescuing Or Rehabilitating A Non-Domesticated Animal

    For individuals interested in the rescue or rehabilitation of wild animals in need, it’s important to know that, depending on your region of the world and the species in question, it may not be legal for individuals to conduct these operations without wildlife rehabilitation licensing and other legal permissions, including facilities requirements and restrictions on access from other humans. For individuals interested in this kind of work, we recommend doing thorough localized research to know what is legally required! For more information regarding the rescue of wildlife, please review our resource on this subject found here.

    A photo of a young mallard duckling being held after rescue. The duckling has a badly mangled beak.
    This is a baby mallard duck. A few people who lived around their flock noticed that they had a beak injury and were much smaller than their siblings and that they were being left behind by them. As a result, they consulted a rescue about what to do for this duck. After this consultation, those rescuers talked to licensed rehabbers who coordinated the duck’s rescue, and then rescuers brought them directly to a rehabber, where they are still receiving ongoing care. When you see wild animals needing help, it’s vital to consult people qualified and licensed to care for them. If you think one of them needs rescue, contact a licensed rehabber as soon as possible and follow their advice strictly. Photo courtesy of Christine Fox.

    Hypothetical “Food For Thought” On Questions Of Responsible Rescue

    Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how abstract ethical principles come into play when it comes to intense and emotionally fraught rescue situations. One way to help bring theory into practice is by considering hypothetical scenarios that can highlight some of the nuances involved in these issues and which can offer lessons to all parties involved. The following hypotheticals are meant to build upon one another and work in conjunction with each other to help rescuers and sanctuaries bring theory to life and think about how to craft their own philosophy of care tenets regarding responsible rescue.

    These Really Are Hypothetical!
    All hypothetical scenarios offered in this resource are indeed hypothetical: they are not based on any “real-life situation”. Instead, they are crafted based on some of the many ethical conundrums that can arise when it comes to rescue. They are meant for educational purposes only.

    Hypothetical 1: Action Albert Rescues Three Chickens

    Meet Action Albert. Albert has done a lot of street activism in his hometown of Zenith, Winnemac. While he’s really passionate about ending animal cruelty, he doesn’t have much experience with direct animal care. His focus has always been on organizing protests, and he also doesn’t have a lot of close contacts with sanctuaries or veterinary connections. 

    Albert is upset when he hears about a ritual slaughter event that takes place in Zenith. He decides that this particular event warrants a response from Zenith’s animal activists and begins organizing a vigil. He doesn’t think about the possibility of rescuing birds from the event and so doesn’t plan for this in advance.

    When the event occurs, emotions run high on both sides. The activists create significant disruption, upsetting participants in the ritual deeply, who then call law enforcement. While this is happening, Albert runs into the facility, takes three chickens, and runs away with them, not realizing that he was captured on security cameras doing this.

    He brings these birds home and makes several social media posts about this rescue, including pictures of himself with the birds. Experienced bird caregivers respond to these posts with messages that the birds need immediate veterinary intervention. Now that he looks at them more closely, even though Albert doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about birds, he recognizes that they really do need veterinary attention and skilled care, so he calls local sanctuaries to ask them to take the birds. Not even thinking about the potential legality of his taking these chickens without permission, he doesn’t mention this aspect but instead makes emotional appeals on behalf of the birds. After all, what sanctuary would not want to provide a haven to these poor birds? Plus, they can tell these birds’ stories and get a lot of attention and fundraising, right?

    Unfortunately, as compassionate as Albert has been, he missed some important considerations. As it turns out, every sanctuary in the area is at capacity regarding intakes. The birds in question turn out to be large breed chickens who require special care considerations and immediate attention for their veterinary needs. He gets repeated refusals from all but one sanctuary, Happy Chicken Sanctuary, whose director Anna has a special fondness for large breed chickens. So she appeals to her board concerning the intake. Her board reluctantly agrees that this intake can be managed, provided that financial support is given by Albert and his fellow activists. And so Albert transfers the birds and makes celebratory social media posts that these birds were successfully rescued and placed at Happy Chicken Sanctuary.

    Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Albert and Happy Chicken Sanctuary, due to the outrage of the community whose ritual was disrupted, law enforcement has been actively investigating the incident. Using the camera footage of Albert and tips from people who have seen his social media posts, they identify him and come knocking on his door. Happy Chicken Sanctuary is also identified via social media posts as the current location of the rescued chickens, and law enforcement visits them as well. On top of all of this, the outraged community begins their own social media campaign against both Albert and his group of activists, Happy Chicken Sanctuary, and Anna, their director. Now, not only are the futures of the rescued chickens in question due to the legal investigation, but Happy Chicken Sanctuary’s, Albert’s, and Anna’s reputations are under attack, and the question of fundraising for these birds’ care is a non-starter. Even Happy Chicken Sanctuary’s regular stream of donations is starting to wane in the wake of the mess. This is a far cry from the outcome that was desired by Albert.

    Things For Action Albert to Think About:

    As stated above, it is critically important for activists who intend to rescue or who put themselves in situations where animals are involved to have established good relationships with sanctuaries and to communicate closely with them to make sure that any possible rescues have accommodations ready for them. Animals rescued from tough situations are often in dire need of veterinary care, and this is something that activists should be prepared to help sanctuaries defray, either with personal contributions or by fundraising for the sanctuary.

    It is also essential that activists be fully transparent with sanctuaries concerning any legal situations that might be associated with the rescue. Sanctuaries should have all the facts to make risk assessments for themselves.

    Things For Happy Chicken Sanctuary to Think About:

    Happy Chicken Rescue would be well served by adding considerations of legal risk to their calculus when it comes to accepting animals associated with actions such as Albert’s and to make sure to ask questions to make sure they know the full context of such rescues. Sadly, in this case, the circumstances around these chickens were such that they can neither rely on fundraising to support these new intakes, and due to the negative attention they have received, their regular fundraising stream is significantly disrupted.

    Hypotheticals On The Question Of “Pay To Rescue”

    The Question of “Pay To Rescue
    What is “pay to rescue?” It’s complex, but typically it involves the monetary purchase of an animal who is in need. There are many different philosophies regarding the ethics of this kind of activity, and it is hotly debated among organizations, even those with similar missions. When it comes to animals who were “purchased,” it seems that an important question to be asked is, “does the purchase fee of this animal continue to enable and facilitate ongoing animal exploitation?” This isn’t actually a very easy question to address and can depend on some of the factors that were discussed above concerning the challenges of rescue and other similarly complex ethical questions.  

    When it comes to questions about “pay to rescue” and understanding nuances, it can help to consider some hypothetical examples. So let’s consider two different scenarios:

    Hypothetical 2: Aggie The Activist Buys a  Rabbit

    Activist Aggie is new to the animal liberation movement and is a new resident of the city of Zenith, having lived in rural Winnemac for all of her life. She moved to the big city to get more involved in the movement and is very eager to help an animal. She doesn’t really have any relationships with the rest of the activist community, the rescue community locally, with animal sanctuaries, much knowledge about animals, or any relationships with veterinarians. She does, however, feel really passionate about freeing animals. 

    One day on a walk, she notices an advertisement on a pet store door promoting an “Easter Bunny Sale.” On impulse, she goes into the store just to look around and gets so upset when she sees a baby rabbit who seems to be sick that she immediately buys him. Aggie thinks, “Any sanctuary or rescue would be willing to take a baby rabbit, right? Especially from a vegan rescuer! How much trouble could a baby rabbit be?”

    So Aggie gets home, searches the web for “Zenith rabbit rescue”, and writes to the first result, a local rabbit rescue called The Rabbitat. Aggie is very shocked to be very tersely told by rescue manager Ruth that the rescue is at capacity and cannot accept the surrender of a purchased rabbit, as their priority is rescuing dumped rabbits who are at significant risk and danger of harm. Ruth also tells Aggie bluntly that she considers people like Aggie to be part of the problem, as the purchase of this rabbit literally financially supported the pet store and that it’s now Aggie’s sole responsibility to deal with this rabbit. Aggie is aghast! Her feelings are very hurt, and she’s unsure what to do next. 

    Things For Aggie the Activist To Think About:

    Sadly, shelters, rescuers, and sanctuaries are overwhelmed when it comes to rabbits, particularly post Easter, when “Easter bunnies” are dumped and surrendered en masse, as families “suddenly realize” they have no time or tolerance for their spontaneous “Easter bunny” purchase. It can be emotionally exhausting for them to have to respond to all these requests (as they often feel compelled to do). So it can be particularly hard to say no to someone like Aggie, who contacts them with the best of intentions, but who hasn’t built a relationship with the sanctuary or rescue or developed a nuanced understanding of the issues involved with rescue.

    Aggie, as excited as you may be to rescue an individual, consider volunteering with your local sanctuaries and rescues BEFORE you do rescue work, so you can learn about, understand, and empathize with their experiences and educate yourself on compassionate care practices. In this way, you will be best equipped to conduct responsible rescue.

    Things For The Rabbitat To Think About:

    Many of us have been where Ruth from The Rabbitat is. Providing quality care while also juggling seemingly endless waves of rescue and surrender requests is draining at the best of times but especially bad in “dumping seasons.” Not only do you sometimes find yourself emotionally overwhelmed, but you may also possibly be tempted to snap at others. For this reason, it’s important for dedicated rescuers to always keep in mind questions of compassion fatigue and burnout. In this situation, while we can all relate to how frustrated Ruth is, there may have been some other things that she could have done to assist and educate Aggie, which may help Aggie from making the same mistake in the future and make her feel more welcome in the sanctuary and rescue community, while also providing a more hopeful outcome for the individual now in Aggie’s care. 

    Developing an email or social media message auto-reply might be very helpful for folks like Ruth. When sanctuaries and rescues are at capacity, it can be exhausting to respond to every would-be surrenderer personally. Drafting a polite and informative auto reply that can be sent to members of the public who wish to surrender, which explains that your organization is at capacity, offers some information and possible additional resources such as recommended veterinarians and other rescues (provided that you have the permission of such rescues to make referrals to them) can be a way to take the weight off rescue or sanctuary administrators tasked with responding to such requests.

    If Ruth felt compelled to give Aggie a personal response, she could have given Aggie referrals to veterinarians who are skilled with rabbit care and urged her to seek care as soon as possible. Ruth could have also offered Aggie information on how to safely house and care for, and feed the rabbit. Ruth could have more patiently explained why Aggie’s actions actually supported the pet store in its ongoing commodification of rabbits. She also potentially could have explained to Aggie that in situations like these, a better move can be to kindly approach the pet store manager and ask them if they would be willing to surrender the ill rabbit to her at no cost so that he can be brought to a vet for treatment. Ruth could have also potentially offered Aggie the option to volunteer with the Rabbitat so that Aggie could learn firsthand about direct care from skilled rabbit rescuers. These measures would ensure that Aggie, the purchased rabbit, the Rabbitat, and rabbits in need of rescue, in general, could benefit! 

    Hypothetical 3: Rescue Rhonda Goes To A Repti-Swap
    A photo of a three toed box turtle approaching the camera screen.
    This is a very friendly three-toed box turtle named Turkey. He was purchased by a teenage girl who didn’t know how to get him to eat or about his specific care needs. He was rescued by an organization that saw he was suffering but who also had difficulties getting him to eat a nutritious diet. He was ultimately adopted by an experienced turtle caregiver who knew how to give him a diet and environment that would help him to start to thrive. Photo courtesy of Tara Hess.

    Rescue Rhonda is a long-term rescuer of reptiles, with a special fondness for turtles and tortoises. She volunteers with the Zenith Herpetological Society, which pulls all reptiles that are surrendered to the local municipal shelters and find them good placements. She has multiple turtle companions, a wonderful veterinarian skilled in reptile care, and a supportive community of similarly knowledgeable rescuers who work together to provide homes for as many reptiles as possible. 

    Rhonda is aware of a regularly occurring “Repti-Swap,” which is an event held by reptile breeders that the public can attend to purchase animals. Rhonda and fellow rescuers have traced some of their rescued reptile friends back to purchases made at this Repti-Swap. Many of these animals have been sick on intake, and Rhonda and her friends strongly suspect that the breeders selling at this event are not taking care of animals well, preferring to breed them en masse and sell them as quickly as possible to unknowing novices.

    Rhonda is fed up with this and decides to investigate the Repti-Swap. She goes to the event, pretending to be an interested newcomer. Among other things that concern her, she notes a Sulcata tortoise who is exhibiting “pyramiding.”

     A Side Note On Pyramiding In Tortoises, For Those With Interest
    For tortoises developing in natural conditions, the scutes (or “tiles”) that make up their shells increase in size horizontally, increasing the diameter of the scute and the tortoise’s size. Normal growth should result in overall smooth shells, with slight ridges or rings that mark intermittent periods of little or no growth, such as when a turtle hibernates. In contrast, pyramiding in tortoises occurs when scutes also grow in a vertical direction, which means scutes grow upward, and each scute begins to resemble a pyramid.

    Rhonda knows that tortoises have complex needs regarding their diet, their need for UV light, and their need for heat and additional supplementation, and that pyramiding can occur as a function of not providing for every one of these needs. She has seen tortoises that she and fellow rescuers have traced back to this particular Repti-Swap that show the same issue. She decides that she wants to create a paper trail, linking this condition back to this particular breeder. She decides she is going to get all of his information, and she is going to purchase the tortoise in question. She hopes that with the receipt and documentation she puts together, she can make reports to governing agencies to have this breeder’s practices investigated.

    So she purchases the tortoise and gathers all the information she can from the breeder. She immediately brings the tortoise to her veterinarian, who confirms her suspicions. She adds the veterinary reports to her documentation and quarantines the tortoise. Because she has the space and infrastructure to care for a Sulcata tortoise, she commits to keeping him for the duration of his life herself so as not to overburden any other rescuer. Ruth’s documentation and report to authorities do indeed lead to an investigation of the practices of this particular breeder, and ultimately he stops breeding animals. 

    Takeaways From Rescue Rhonda

    This hypothetical feels quite different from that involving Aggie and The Rabbitat, doesn’t it? That’s because, in this hypothetical, Rhonda had significant personal knowledge and experience, as well as a great relationship with a community of rescuers and a veterinarian. In the end, her purchase ended up providing the evidence that she needed to end this tortoise breeder’s exploitative practices, as opposed to enabling them. Looking at these hypotheticals side by side can help us to understand the ethical nuances surrounding “purchase to rescue.” Navigating these decisions is never easy, but your rescue or sanctuary needs to consider them carefully before considering any “purchase to rescue” situation.

    Conclusion: Be Empowered With Knowledge

    Although there are many elements to consider concerning whether or not an individual or organization can responsibly rescue in certain circumstances, there are also many solutions to these issues. With careful planning and discussion, sanctuaries worldwide conduct responsible rescues every year. Countless animals are living comfortable lives in sanctuaries and in compassionate adoptive homes to account for this. We hope that this introductory resource helps you have a fuller picture of what should be considered before rescue, and that if you are engaged in rescue outside of a sanctuary framework, you can be empowered to work collaboratively with sanctuaries towards a kinder future for animals!


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    Determining Your Animal Sanctuary’s Capacity For Responsible Care | The Open Sanctuary Project

    What Defines An Animal Sanctuary? | The Open Sanctuary Project

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    Building And Maintaining A Good Relationship Between Your Animal Sanctuary And Veterinarians | The Open Sanctuary Project

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    All About Social Media For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project

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    Understanding Your Animal Sanctuary’s Zoning Rights And Restrictions | The Open Sanctuary Project

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    How To Find Appropriate Veterinary Care For Your Farmed Animal Sanctuary’s Residents | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Techniques And Practices Necessary For Responsible Parrot Care | The Open Sanctuary Project

    A Forever Home? Adoption Program Considerations For Animal Sanctuaries | The Open Sanctuary Project

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    The Open Sanctuary Project’s Sanctuary Resident Intake Record | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Managing Requests To Take In And Help An Animal Outside The Scope Of Your Sanctuary’s Mission | The Open Sanctuary Project 

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    Influence Of Environmental Humidity And Dietary Protein On Pyramidal Growth Of Carapaces In African Spurred Tortoises (Geochelone Sulcata) | Journal Of Animal Physiology And Animal Nutrition (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Non-Compassionate Source?
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