Gambit at 15 — photo by author

Is There a Problem With the Animal Rescue Industry?

Some organizations could be harming animal rights more than helping

Amy Sterling Casil
6 min readMar 22, 2022


This is our Jack Russell rescue dog Gambit on his 15th birthday. We don’t really know if that’s his birthday: he was adopted on St. Patrick’s Day 2011 and the rescue said he was about four years old at the time. He is 15 and still going strong, healthy and happy.

When we adopted Gambit, it was a different experience from getting Badger from the regular down-home community-based animal rescue back in 2002. I tell people that Gambit came from the “dirt farm,” a rundown rural house surrounded by an acre of dusty dirt, divided between the “big dog” side and “little dog” side. The dogs had an exterior metal shade structure, but their communal food and water had more in common with a substandard cattle feedlot than with a shelter caring for dogs. I estimate there were about 200 dogs on the property.

I think the “dirt farm” was an animal rescue hoarder.

As a rescue dog of uncertain provenance, Gambit had behavior problems just like Badger did. Whereas Badger sort of ran through his behavior problems one right after the other (jumping, biting, barking, running away), Gambit had a constellation of issues, mostly fear-based, that have taken years to heal.

If you adopt a rescue animal, you aren’t just agreeing to provide food, water, and a warm place to sleep. You’re taking responsibility for a living creature with strong and deep emotions, one who relies upon you for a safe, comfortable, and happy home for at least a decade or more. Is it like having a child? Well — yes. In many ways, it is. Would you lock a child out of your house in the snow or tie them to a tree in all weather?

Some people do that to dogs.

Which brings me to a trend that I don’t think is best for animals or for people. While the overwhelming majority of community-based animal rescues are the kindest-hearted, best organizations ever, there’s a few that could even be making the problem of dogs and cats without homes even worse.

I never felt right about the “dirt farm” lady and her rescue. There were just too many dogs at that rural location for it to be healthy. And Gambit was totally…



Amy Sterling Casil

Over 500 million views and 5 million published words, top writer in health and social media. Author of 50 books, former exec, Nebula nominee.