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Thread: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

  1. #1

    Default So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    I've gotten quite a few PMs over the last 6 months, asking about running a rescue. I thought it might be easier to just open a thread about it.

    I hope to do a nice article write-up when I find the time, so this is not at ALL complete. But just to start (I'll add to the thread as I think of things, or if questions are asked, and any other rescues, please contribute!).

    First of all, you need to plan. Plan, plan, plan. Many people who jump into rat rescues end up closing their doors within 6 months - a year. If they even last that long.

    You need money. You can not just start asking for donations off the bat. Well, you *can*, but it doesn't look too good. Start a fund, NOW. If you do not, you will be in for a heap of trouble when a bunch of rats come in, sick and in need of vet care.

    Even with a discount (mentioned later), it will HURT if you aren't prepared. Just in the last 2 months, with a nice discount at our vet, we've spent over $350 on vet care (breathing issues, sneezing, Revolution for ALL rats (we dose as they come in), eye injury, abscess)... About $310 of that came from our pockets.

    If you are struggling, it's not a good time to open a rescue. Most of the money will come from you. You can not, will not get away with running a rescue solely on donations and fees.

    Once in a great while, someone will donate a bit more than their adoption fee. For us, it happens in about 2 out of every 9 adoptions or so. It's usually $10-30 extra, max. Most people will NOT give a surrender fee (unless you demand one, in which case, you'll probably have less surrenders than you otherwise would), and many will give you unusable supplies (cedar, "bad" wheels, tanks - we have SO many 10 gal. tanks that we are refusing them and trying to get rid of them!), seed mix (or guinea pig seed mix - we got that with our last surrender), etc. Do NOT expect random donations. The only one we've gotten in 7 months was a $10. Which is wonderful, but again... You WILL be running the rescue with your own funds 90% of the time.

    Strive for 501(c)3 status, but don't plan to be able to write everything off right away, or get the grants you can get with those. You must have a certain level of money coming in and out before you will even be considered by the IRS for a 501(c)3 status. This is why most small rescues do not have tax-exempted status.

    Space and cages. You'll need both. A lot of both. If you're thinking of starting a rescue in the future, I suggest stocking up on cages soon, if there's storage space. You'll want all sizes, and at least half (or more) need to be small bar spacing.

    Time. You'll spend most of your time cleaning cages, feeding rats, medicating rats and socializing rats. If you have a full-time job, this is going to be tough. People do it, but they're exhausted. Enlist help from family and friends, or if you're lucky enough like me to be stay-at-home, then you'll be much better off. If you have a social life, forget it. Your life now consists of rats. Rats, rats and more rats. :P

    Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself right away. Set a limit, and STICK to it. You can build up over time. NEVER take in more rats than you can care for... You will burn yourself out, and you will not be able to give them the best care you can, which may put them in a worse situation than you they left. This is a fine line that rescues of all sorts walk, and you need to always be aware of how close to the line you are. It happens over and over again, that rescuers start out with the best of intentions, get in over their heads, and then NEED to be rescued. This doesn't help the animals, and that's what you always need to keep in mind - the animals.

    Always educate yourself. Participate on rat forums, rat lists, read up on rat medicine, etc. While you're doing that, network. Network, network, network. 90% of our adoptions come from people met online, one way or another.

    Which brings me to... A website. Be it a MySpace, a site on a free site, or your own domain... I highly suggest it. There are people who do it all via email... I can't imagine how!

    Find a vet that *specializes* in rats. We have so many vets around here, but we drive past 8 of them (about 20 minutes) to get to our rescue vet. The main vet specialized in rats in college, and loves them. Once you've found a vet, chat with them about starting a rescue, and see if they have discounts for rescues. All vets will vary, but as an example, we get 50% off visit charges, and 33% off everything else (meds, procedures, surgeries, etc). They often give us free things as well, and keep us stocked up on meds. A typical visit for, say, a severe myco flare-up costs us about $45, but without the discount, cost $90.

    A relationship with a vet BEFORE you start the rescue "officially" will be the best thing (other than having a fund in place) you can do.

    Screen adopters. Ask questions on a questionaire. We actually have a lengthy one, and we've never had anyone say a word... In fact, many appricate it. We vet-check everyone and if they rent, check with the landlord as well. Once someone is approved, make sure you get any adoption fees before or when they get their rat(s). I haven't had trouble with this (as I insist on the fee first), but some rescues have gotten shafted when it's "in the mail". Also, ALWAYS have the adopter sign a contract. Also, always have surrenders do the same. I'm happy to share my forms if anyone is interested.

    I'm drawing a blank on where to go from here, but I think that's a good start. If you read this far, you deserve a yogie!
    Rattie Love Rescue
    <br />Website - Petfinder - Gift Shop

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  3. #2

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    I didn't even mention quarantines, but I'll touch on it quick. Rescues are at the HIGHEST risk of SDA and whatnot breakouts. You could loose the entirety of your pet rats, and the rescue rats. ALWAYS quarantine. ALWAYS. Do not take rats in if you can't quarantine. I mean full q-tines. Separate rooms will not do for a rescue... You will get rats in sneezing, with porphyrin, and you do NOT know what they have. Always assume the worst until the vet says otherwise, and ALWAYS take FULL precautions as listed on this site:

    Practice constant quarantine at all times!

    My next post (later) will touch on getting volunteers to foster and quarantine.
    Rattie Love Rescue
    <br />Website - Petfinder - Gift Shop

  4. #3

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    The hardest part for any self run rescue is the "seperate air space". 99% of the people that live in houses have the house, and a garage, sometimes detatched. A detatched garage would work, except it would need an A/C unit and vents. Most houses built new these days have attached garages, so you would need to have built with detatched in mind, or bought an older house... usually a house that is 30 years or older.

    This means that there are very very few people that could do this. I stress that part... you have to truly have the seperate air space setup, and it usually just isn't possible for 99% of people right away, but those with detached garages could convert them over with some remodeling. Still, this leaves few people that can really pull this off independantly, making this project something out of reach for the average person.

    I could imagine friends living in the same apartment complex doing this, having one person handle quarentine and one handle housing. This would solve the seperate airspace problem, but you would have to be sure of your friendship, and the logistics of going between apartments. Many complexes, even with a pet deposit, may not like this idea.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    It's a LOT harder than I ever could have imagined. Im learning that I NEED to say NO. Never thought I had a problem wiht that before.

    But here is the thing that makes me BEYOND angry to the point that it elevated my heart rate to the point that I ended up at the cardiologist. Im losing my cool again just THINKING about it.

    A few weeks ago we got a girl in to the rescue. sweet little thing. The 'owners' couldnt jet out of here fast enough. We found out why pretty quick. SHe went into labor. !3 babies later....yeah.

    3 days ago we got a young girl in - GORGEOUS baby. About 8 weeks old and she is positively AUBURN. ANd so sweet - she is a kisser and just couldnt give or get enough love. Tonite, she gave birth to 2 babies.

    This really hacks me off. I have in BOLD print on the surrender applications and paperwork packet to PLEASE disclose everything about the animals. PLEASE tell us if they are sickly, pregnant, have lice or mites or fleas. I even have on there that it doesnt mean that we wont take them, we just need to know so that we may provide the proper care for their optimum health and well-being. Not only is it clearly stated, but I go over this with people AD NAUSEUM. Yet still they lie. And to the detriment of another living creature.

    I had to say something this time, as holding my tongue isnt a virtue that Ive ever mastered. And the kid was honest when I called her that yes, she knew. So when I asked her WHY didnt she tell me...she replied that she was afraid I wouldnt take the rattie. Ummm. HELLO. I SAID that I would. I had in PRINT that I would. What does it take? Should I carve it into a baseball bat and whack people over the head Im really close.

    NOT to mention that this sweet girl is just a baby herself. Barely 8 weeks! She seems freaked out. She is TINY and these 2 babies are so tiny its unreal.

    I can deal with the endless cages to clean, the endless vet bills, food bills and cage bills. I can deal with the HOURS everyday of socialization and RE-trust-training. I can deal with all things rattie. Its the PEOPLE that Im finding so distasteful at this point. Its the HUMANS that Im disgusted with. The condition that some of these sweet things are brought here in is beyond deplorable and their 'owners' just look at me wiht these ignorant blank looks. Then some even have the nerve to get upset when I ask, how did your pet get to this point (which I need to ask so I can tell the vet).


    <steps down off soapbox>
    There is no such thing as a 'disposable' life.

  7. #5

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    I hear ya, DFW. I can honestly say not ONE person who has surrendered to us hasn't lied about something. From pregnancies, to very ill rats, to more rats than expected, to the conditions they were in... It's tough. I think the hardest part IS dealing with people. The adopters, I love. The volunteers, I love. But the way rats come in often sickens me. I much prefer working with shelters and other rescues... I've found it to be much more rewarding... The rats are often in the same sort of conditions, but helping out other rescues/shelters feels so much better... And the gratitude you give each other, and the way everything feels like a team effort is awesome. I'm reaching the stage that's common in rescue work where I'm becoming bitter... That's not a good way to be. :\ But man, it's so hard... Seeing what humans really are capable of...

    I love hearing that some of you are interested! Definitely check and see if there's a rescue near you that you can help at, and also check and see if your shelters take rats... Rats often don't do great in shelter situations and NEED foster homes.

    (Feeling sick, so I won't update more right now, but more to come from me on the subject.)
    Rattie Love Rescue
    <br />Website - Petfinder - Gift Shop

  8. #6

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    The first thing I learned when volunteering for the rescue was that you can not save them all. I would see horrible postings offering rats up for snake food. I finally came to realize that no matter the situation if there isn't room in the rescue I had to say no. The rescue I volunteer for is pretty big but we are still very short on foster homes. People want to help but it is a thank less job and most people get burned out too quickly. This is definitely something that you have to have the heart to do. No one pays you, you get lied to, you are constantly trying to do the best you can but always falling just a little short. In the end it is a wonderful feeling that you re-homed some rats to a perfect family but those times in between are really hard to cope with. Before getting involved in any rescue you need to be sure that you can emotionally, physically and mentally handle all of the stress and trials it puts you through. If you are unbalanced in any way this line of work will chew you up and spit you out.

    With all of that said I might also add that there is no better feeling than seeing those babies you raised from a horrible situation go into the loving arms of their new moms and dads. It makes every part of it worth it. Every time I place a rat in an appropriate home my heart is filled with such warmth and satisfaction for days to come.

    I admire absolutely everyone that works, runs or volunteers for a rescue in any cause. It is a taxing job and you all make it look so very easy! It takes a spectacular type of person to do what you do and still hold your head high knowing you are making a difference even if it seems that you aren't sometimes. Please give yourselves a pat on the back every chance you get! The animals truly appreciate all that you do!

  9. #7

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    One tip I really recommend to ALL rescues... Get on Petfinder ASAP. Our adoptions have quadrupled since doing so (a few months after we opened, I believe). We've also gotten supplies from those who'd probably not have known about us.

    Of course, our surrender rate might have gone up a bit, too, but the adoptions are well worth it.

    Also, I've noticed some people take us more seriously since we do have a Petfinder. Silly, but true!

    The process is quite simple. You need to fill out the form, send in your adoption contract, and get your vet to fax (on their letterhead) a letter stating they do see the animals in your rescue. They're really great at Petfinder!

    Probably my biggest Must Do tip!
    Rattie Love Rescue
    <br />Website - Petfinder - Gift Shop

  10. #8

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    A financial breakdown would be great, and it might stop people from jumping into a rescue and drowning. It's one thing to run a rescue but I'm sure it's completely different to run one well.

    I just had a thought actually. Is there any way you could get some sort of educational or professional credit for volunteering at your rescue? I really don't know what would be involved with that but it would mean more reliable volunteers.

  11. #9

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    about rescues

    There are plenty of rats out there that need homes. Please look into local humane societies or try to find a local rat rescue. They deserve homes just as much as ratties that come from breeders. If a rescue doesn't seem up to recommended standards it's always best to talk to the owner and educate them about their methods rather than divert people away. Most things can be solved through communication and education not insults and badmouthing. If anything, informing a person not to go to a rescue because they don't meet your standards is hurting the animals there that could otherwise have happy homes, and not really solving the problem as they will undoubtedly always have people dropping ratties at their door. Work with people rather than against them, and hopefully combined efforts can provide a save and loving environment for all ratties seeking new homes! Thanks!

    I really needed to get this off my chest, and I didn't really have another place to do it. Also I was still curious about educational credits for volunteering at a rescue. Any thoughts anyone?

  12. #10

    Default Re: So you wanna run a rat rescue...

    Oops, I never got a notification you'd replied before!

    Well, I'm not exactly sure. I haven't come across that. I suppose, if it would count with your school, it would probably count. I'm not exactly sure if there's certain criteria that needs to be met to qualify. I'd think if you went with a rescue that has non-profit status (501(c)3), that it probably would count.

    Did I explain that well? It's something I will have to look into, though! Fantastic idea.

    Speaking of non-profit status, we're hoping to start the process soon! I'm excited.

    Regarding a financial breakdown, I'll take a look at my books and do just that.

    And I agree with all you said. Word of mouth is VITAL to all rescues/shelters. If you have a problem or concern, FIRST take it up with the owner to make sure its not a misunderstanding or anything of the sort. Word of mouth can break a rescue that's actually legit...
    Rattie Love Rescue
    <br />Website - Petfinder - Gift Shop

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