The Accidental Rescuer 

by Lisa

Have you ever considered how most people get into doing rescue work with animals?  More often than not, the rescuer just kind of accidentally falls into it.  Rescuers often start with a great love for animals, hear about animals in need, and then open up their homes and hearts to care for abused and neglected animals out there.  Lots of them purchased a single pair of sugar gliders, came to know they are the coolest animals ever, and not only want more, but end up wanting to help more.

Of course there are several rescue agencies that have started with an intentional plan, putting together a facility, staff and financing.  But in general, it feels to me like most people get into rescue in a much less formal manner.  They simply want to help.  SunCoast itself has played a role for many years with our efforts to help older gliders find forever homes through the Sugar Glider Exchange.

I think rescuers of any type of animal are the unsung heroes out there.  They often receive the animals that are sick, have been physically abused, abused through neglect, or are simply unwanted because someone just got tired of having them around.  In many cases, the only gratitude and recognition comes from the animals themselves.  And for many rescuers, that is enough.

There are challenges going into rescue.  Many of these challenges will apply to those who accidentally became rescuers, as well as to those who had a more formalized approach to rescue.  Often, there is no formal business plan, no strategic planning on how the rescue organization will be run, and there is no budget or financial plan.  For many, it starts as pure love.

One of the biggest cash expenses can arise from routine neuterings, because this is typically not something the rescuer can do themselves or have donated.  This can be essential for rescue agencies because if the males are not neutered as soon as possible, they can easily end up with an inadvertent overpopulation problem because the animals will continue to breed.  Often pregnant females are given to rescuers because the original keeper didn’t have the time, space, or money to bring in more habitat space.  So overpopulation can happen rather quickly for the rescuer for this reason or another. 

The other reason overpopulation happens with sugar glider rescuers is because word can often spread quickly that someone is now accepting rescues.  The honorable person would contact the rescuer first to make sure they have the space and resources to care for more animals.  However, not everyone takes the high road on this, and will literally show up and just drop animals off.  This is a challenge for the generally soft-hearted rescuer.  I find that many rescuers have some common traits.  They have a true love for animals and can’t bear to know that an animal is suffering.  Another common trait I’ve noticed is many have a very difficult time with that tiny word, “no”.

I encourage all rescuers to charge a fair fee to those who are ready to adopt your rescued animals.  You have expenses.  If the potential adopter can’t afford an adoption fee, then they can’t afford more little mouths to feed and care for properly.  Now there are legitimate reasons people will get free animals.  In fact, we have several customers who got so inflicted with sugar glider-itis that they decided another cage or two of animals in need would be fine.  So they’ve rescued a few animals, but with the intention of keeping the level to a manageable situation.  I wouldn’t really classify these people as rescuers, just good peeps!

Licensing is not a prerequisite on a national level to be a legitimate rescue agency.  State and local ordinances may require some sort of license or permit and you might check into that before proceeding with an adoption.  Some rescue groups hold a not for profit license, known in IRS speak as a 501(c)3 designation.  These are the larger groups that apply for this designation because they need large donations to survive, and with this designation, it gives their benefactors the ability to take a tax deduction.  However, it is not an easy designation to obtain, nor is it a quick process.

Depending on the sugar glider rescuer’s policies and practices, they may be eligible, and even required, to maintain a USDA license just as breeders are.  But this is subject to limitations, primarily focused on how many breeding females they possess.  If the sugar glider rescuer keeps males separate and / or neuters them as they can, they have no breeding females and are not eligible for a USDA license.  Anything you may have read that rescuers must have a USDA license in order to be legitimate is a bunch of cockamamie baloney doodoo.  If they are not breeding at least four females with the intention of selling pet quality sugar glider joeys, they CAN’T get a license.  That is not what the USDA is here to regulate.

Most animal lovers are very soft hearted, particularly when it comes to those sad stories about an animal’s background prior to getting rescued.  I think it is beautiful when someone is willing to take that challenged little animal home and devote themselves to giving it one on one attention to help it heal from it’s past abuses.  

What Can We All Do to Help?

As I said, SunCoast is often contacted by people who have taken on the challenge of opening their homes to rescue sugar gliders.  Common topics include the glider won’t bond, won’t eat, is sick, won’t get along with other gliders, etc.  

We can offer some help in this area right away.  If you are considering opening your home to rescued gliders or just have a general interest in the topic, we encourage you to review the information in the Adopting or Rescuing Abandoned / Orphaned Gliders area of our newsletter archive.

We’re glad to help out with these kinds of issues but often wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg.  But I don’t know what I don’t know…what exactly do these rescue folks need most, is there anything else we can do to help?

For example, I have done work with a local no kill shelter called Pet Pal Animal Rescue in St. Petersburg, FL.  Occasionally people would drop off sugar gliders, and I would do what I could do to help them re-home the sugar gliders.  Although they are primarily a dog and cat shelter, they have taken in an assortment of animals like ferrets, rabbits, monkeys, reptiles, and parrots.  

Through my volunteer work with Pet Pal, I was surprised to see how many household items the shelter was always in urgent need of.  For example, used towels and linens were especially appreciated.  There were also items that are inexpensive and easy to obtain like paper towels, peanut butter, old toys (pet and children’s), animal treats, and the list goes on and on.

Here’s another example.  I often get calls from people asking me how they can sell used cages, and well, my suggestion is to see if there is a local rescue you can donate it to.  Cages are an expensive item and there’s always a need for more, as new housing or replacements.

I personally want to learn as much as I can about the needs of the sugar glider rescue community, and try to find ways SunCoast might help.  As the sugar glider community spans across the country, and we have over 20,000 subscribers to this newsletter, I’m thinking this message will reach many rescuers out there directly, if not through “someone who knows someone” who will forward this newsletter to their glider rescue friends (please).

Here is my message to the rescuers out there: please email me and tell me about your rescue efforts, including what the biggest challenges are with running your operation.  It would probably be a  good idea to include how many animals you are responsible for and in what state you are located with your message.  Send here:

[email protected]

and then let’s start figuring out together how we as a community can assist the folks in the sugar glider rescue area with their efforts.  

We will publish what we learn in a future newsletter, so stay tuned!

‘Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!