A young rescuer shares what she has learned about the ugly side of animal rescue

Editor's Note: For more information on Rhiannon Brinkman Jent and Furry Friends Animal Rescue, click here.

Dear Rescue People,

Let's be honest. Things need to change. No, I'm not talking about the lack of laws to protect companion animals, although that certainly needs changing, too. I'm talking about the rescue community, and the people within it. The attitudes need to change. More importantly, the lying, backstabbing, hateful, and catty behavior needs to change.

Ladies, we can be so cruel to each other. I know, because I've been on both sides. We are

Rhiannon Brinkman Jent, founder of Furry Friends Animal Rescue.

Rhiannon Brinkman Jent, founder of Furry Friends Animal Rescue.

judgmental, hateful, catty, and sometimes get the idea that our achievements make us better than others. In fact, the behavior of women in rescue has given the entire community an awful reputation. I'm sure you've heard. Rescuers are called crazy, hateful, mean, rude, and any other name in the book. Of course, denying it is always an option. But I think if most of those in rescue sat down to evaluate themselves honestly, they'd find that isn't really a stretch.

Rescue is not an exclusive country club. You do not get to dictate who comes in, or who is "good enough" to join. While yes, standards and ethics need to be observed, your way is not the only way -- and, I know it's shocking, but just because you think something is right, doesn't mean it's right for everyone. Who gave you the right to judge another person, some of whom you do not even know, and decide if they are "worthy" to be a part of your clique?

This isn't high school, but the mentality is still there, and that's frightening. I can count on one hand the number of people who are part of the "rescue" community who are honest with themselves and others. The vast majority of those I have encountered have proven themselves to be exactly what everyone outside of the "community" has claimed -- vindictive, hateful, spiteful, rude, backstabbing, and drama-filled. Yes, even those who claim not to be.

I'm going to spill a closely guarded rescue secret here: You all pretty much hate each other. I can hear some of you screaming, "No we don't!" but let's be honest. Your actions indicate otherwise. I can't count the number of times that one rescue has smiled to the face of another, congratulating and praising them, then gone and spread rumors and vicious comments. Nearly every rescuer I have encountered, and some I have only watched through social media, has had a hand in tearing another person apart, or being caught up in the drama of "who is better."

You will swear that you don't have the high-school lunchroom table mentality, but I experienced it first hand, when those of you who knew nothing about me told me what I "couldn't" do, determined that I wasn't "good enough," without ever even bothering to know me first. I felt it, when I reached out for help, only to find no substantial guidance, no offering to share information or contacts, no willingness to sit down and help me learn. What little help that was there was given begrudgingly, and only after I had indicated that I would start this journey, whether anyone liked it or not.

People call you backstabbing. You are. Nearly every one of you has no problem smiling to someone's face, telling them publicly what an awesome job they've done, but then talking down about them behind their back. You step up to help a dog, just to keep another rescue from being able to -- and sometimes, don't even follow through. Then, you tag, comment, like, and share as if you are best buddies. Yet, you never have the spine to tell someone what you think to her face. I experienced this when I was told what a "good job" I was doing to my face, but it was whispered that I wasn't a "real" rescue behind my back. Tell me again, who put you in charge of deeming what is "real" rescue?

In order to even remotely begin to explain the "drama filled," I would need a novel. Because there's an abundance of drama. In fact, it's every day. This person said that thing about the person in this rescue. That rescue hates this rescue because they adopted this dog to this home. Some of it has a good reason behind it. The vast majority doesn't. Do you know what would fix a lot of it? Instead of climbing onto your virtual Facebook soap box, or running to your friend-0f-the-week in this or that group, confront these things head on. If you see a true injustice that is deemed bad enough to cause a public outcry, then DO something! I don't mean vague-booking, either. If it's not important enough to confront in person or person-to-person, then leave it alone. I promise, your nose does not have to be in every single thing that occurs, and while I am sure you have an opinion on everything (everyone does), not everyone needs to know it all that time. That's what journals are for (and spouses, in some cases.)

Here's another revelation for you: You're getting old. I know that's a shocking thing to say, but it's true. You won't be able to do this forever. Who then, is going to take up your banner, and continue your work, when you cannot? IF you push away every young person who wants to get involved, and write off every inexperienced but eager and passionate individual, what happens? Your cause dies, and along with it, hundreds of animals. You called me inexperienced, incapable, and pointed out a lack of knowledge. I showed you a passion, drive, and uncanny ability to bring people together and get them to rally behind a cause.

You didn't want me, because I couldn't foster/fund, and you said I couldn't do it – but I incorporated, received 501(c)3 status, adopted out over two dozen animals, and raised thousands of dollars, while connecting with some of the biggest names in our state, all in a two-year period, with less than five people's help at any given time. The joke's on you, because I can and did do it, and what's more, I did it without sacrificing my integrity, ethics, morals, or getting chin-deep involved in rescue "drama." Can you imagine now, what sort of impact that could have had for one of your organizations, if one of you would have stepped out, had just a little bit of faith, and made a way for me? Oh, you can say all you want that you “would have,” but I have the e-mails and unreturned notes and requests and submitted online forms that I never heard back from. To you, I was just a kid. You underestimated me.

But, I also overestimated myself. I thought I could do this for years to come. I wanted to give my life, heart, soul, and blood, sweat, and tears to my business. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of every animal I could, and help people along the way. I believed that I had the strength to do it, all by myself, with minimal help. After all, I had the Lord and Faith, and prayer. I had already accomplished incredible things with His help. But, I can't do it on my own. Oh, I can go on rescuing animals. I can continue to pull people together and get funding and save one at a time for years to come. What I can't do, is fight this invisible war against the rescue community. I've learned a sad truth: It's not how hard you work, or how good you are. It's whom you know. Are you part of the "in" crowd? Awesome, if so, you are untouchable. If you aren't, then no amount of strength will allow your fortress to stand. Because the mental toll rescue work takes, when it comes to dealing with the people and having every move analyzed, knowing that there is pack of hungry wild wolves (or women) just waiting to tear you and your reputation to shreds, will eventually cause you to crumble. Unless you become one of those women. That's something I can't do.

I refuse to be a part of the silly crusade against "normal" pet owners. Not everyone who lists a dog or cat for a new home is evil; 98% of them do not deserve to have their post taken over by the so-called "crazy animal people," and called horrid, disgusting names. Most of them do not deserve to be made to cry because they don't fit your definition of perfection. Sometimes, they need understanding and knowledge. Others, they just need help. Life happens, mistakes happen, and we are not called to be judge, jury, and executioner. I wish you all realized that. Those people are your supporters. They are your donors, and those who will make or break your organization in the long run. A little customer service skills will go a very long way.

I refuse to believe that every breeder is evil. That's as ridiculous a notion as saying that everyone who is seen on a motorcycle is involved in a violent street gang. The world is not so absolute. There are good and bad breeders. Absolutely, do everything in your power against the puppy mills and bad breeders, those who indiscriminately have litter after litter in a backyard baby pool. They deserve it. The ethical, responsible breeders who have contracts to protect their babies, with stipulations and applications more in-depth than some rescues, do not. They could be your biggest allies. Yet, you shun them. What senseless behavior.

I can't bring myself to believe that there is a magical land called "North," where every unwanted southern pet can go and live out a happy life with no fear of being dumped in a shelter or abandoned on a street; a place where the shelters stay so empty that they have to import dogs from Egypt, China, and the South, to fill them. I can't bury my head in the sand and scream with the masses that the black pit bull with slight behavior issues that you throw on a transport truck to the magical land up north is going to somehow end up in a better place. Wake up, foolish sheeples! That's just not practical. I am sure there are great rescues up north, and I have seen happy endings with wonderful dogs and happy owners. I realize transport can be done ethically. However, packing literally hundreds of dogs into a truck and sending them off to only God-knows- where in the northern USA and never following up a year, two years, or five years from now, is NOT Rescue. That is throwing our problem off on other states.

Because of all this, I have to take a step back. I need a break, to focus on my still brand-new marriage, my physical health, and my own life. For my mental well being, and because I refuse to be a part of this daytime drama television show anymore. I'm not sure where this leaves, well, much of anything yet. But, I leave you with this:

I hope you learn compassion. Not just for the animals that we all love so much, but for the young girl who is struggling to find her life's passion and reaches out to you, asking for guidance; for the mother who honestly thought her family would love the little dog, but is being evicted because her husband left them, and she can no longer afford to feed the dog and her children, but is too ashamed to tell the details on Facebook; for the elderly couple who have a dog that has brought them so much joy, but now, when it is 5 years old, can no longer care for it adequately; for the college student who got that bundle-of-energy puppy without realizing he would lose his job and find himself back at home, with parents who refuse to let him keep the dog. Most importantly, I hope you learn compassion for each other. Rescue is so hard, and it can absolutely break you mentally. Take the time to put aside your petty differences, reach out and say, "Hey, I'm here. I know what you're going through. I'm sorry." Stop privately crucifying each other. Life is too short for that nonsense.

I’ll never be able to go back to the girl who didn’t see the suffering and it break her heart. I’ll never drive past a homeless dog or cat and not want to save it. I’ll always want to make a difference in this world. But, at 25, I’ve got lots of time. After all, when the current “generation” of rescuers is too old to rescue anymore, I’ll still be here. Maybe then I can help a younger generation succeed, and be the mentor to them that you should have been to me.

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