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What Does It Mean to Be an Animal Rescue?

“How is your organization different from the other animal shelters in Belmont County?”

It’s one of the most common questions we receive. While it’s true that you’re participating in the facilitation of animal rescue whether you’re adopting a pet from a shelter or from a rescue facility, an animal rescue facility is not the same thing as an animal shelter. The concept can be confusing, particularly because the two terms are frequently used synonymously in a lot of communities.

There are several important differences between an animal shelter and an animal rescue facility. We’re going to take an up-close look at both terms to shed some light on what it means to be an animal rescue, specifically.

We are very fortunate to have so many animal care facilities in Belmont County, but with over a half dozen different animal advocacy organizations in our community, it's easy to get confused.

At BCARL, our name says it all. We are the Belmont County Animal Rescue League, and we are committed to providing proper resources for the rescue, recovery, and re-homing of abused and neglected animals, as well as pairing them with loving, compassionate families that share our mission and our ideals.

Rescue vs. Shelter

So, what IS the difference between a shelter and a rescue?

Animal Shelters

A shelter, simply speaking, is an organization that rescues homeless pets in the community.

Shelters are usually run and funded by local government agencies, and are often supported by city, county, and state budgets.

Animal shelters are occasionally privately owned by a group of volunteers, though this is not as common.

A majority of shelters treat minor health conditions of the animals in their care.

Because most shelters accept owner surrenders and strays, they are almost always full and often have a quick turn-around time.

Most shelters take in a high volume of animals and have a problem housing all of them. In the past, many shelters were left making the difficult decision to euthanize certain animals, which is a very polarizing, complex issue.

Thankfully, a majority of shelters have adopted no-kill policies in recent years.

Animal Rescues

Animal Rescues fund their work nearly entirely through donations from the community and the goodwill of animal lovers within that community. They are nonprofit organizations that typically take in animals from abusive and neglectful situations.

It is common for a rescue facility to rely solely on a network of foster homes created and overseen by the rescue's leadership.

Often, rescue organizations specialize in rescuing specific animal species—certain species of wild life, horses, exotic birds, cats, specific dog breeds, etc. and these facilities are typically manned by volunteers.

Additionally, rescue facilities are more precise when matching an animal to a future adopter. Because the rescue workers often spend ample time with the animals in question, they have a better understanding of the animal’s behaviors, needs, and personality. And because animals are often housed in foster homes, they benefit from socialization and are accustomed to humans and home life. As such, there is usually a lot more available information about the animal’s personality and condition of health.

BCARL's Unique Mission

As an animal rescue facility, BCARL is exceedingly fortunate to have a physical location to work from. It is a great asset to have a base for our operations so that we can continue to focus on our mission of animal abuse prevention and the coordination of available local resources to animals in need.

But we still rely heavily on the support of foster homes within Belmont and the surrounding counties.

Like most rescues, we take in animals that have fallen victim to instances of abuse and neglect. We employ humane agents, as it sometimes becomes necessary to take custody of these vulnerable animals.

Because of the nature of our mission, we DO NOT accept strays or owner surrenders. We are so thankful that there are many other animal organizations in the Ohio Valley well-equipped for such important and valuable work.

We hope this breakdown of the common differences between animal shelters and animal rescues helps you to understand the community necessity for both types of organizations.

Both rescues and shelters have a unique set of obstacles and advantages.

The good news is that both shelters AND rescues are doing their best to save the lives of the animals in their care—and to help them find their forever family.

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