The Iguana Den





So You Want to Start A Shelter

Becoming a rescue/shelter is a great thing, BUT it requires a lot of time, effort, patience, and $$! Some points below to ponder...

1. What are your state and local laws regarding sheltering? In my state (NJ) we are required to have a permit with Fish and Game to operate a shelter, and we need to keep careful records on intake and adoptions. Many animals we take in require permits, and we need to be aware of the legalities of all the animals coming in. Some counties / towns also have specific laws or regulations regarding private homes becoming shelters. It's wise to check with the local authorities ahead of time to save problems down the line.

2. Habitats and care - do you have appropriate cages, lighting, heating, food, etc for any and all of the species you plan to work with? No point taking them in if you can't care for them properly. On the same theme, do you have a competent reptile vet close by?

3. Funding - bwahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh man we would LOVE funding....but the reality is that most reptile/exotic shelters run on a shoestring. I'd say at least 90% of the money spent on rescues is out of our own pockets. We do get some donations, and some $$ from adoption fees, but it's not nearly enough to cover all our expenses. Never count on donations or outside funding, and make sure YOUR budget can afford it.

4. Donations - nice, we love em, can always use more of aware that you may need to apply for non-profit status in order to take in donations and not have the IRS give you a hard time during tax season.

5. TONS of animals - be aware, once word gets out that you rescue, you will be inundated with requests to take in more animals than you could possibly handle. (my favorite is always the people who say they want to 'donate' an animal to us!) It's imperative that you know when to say NO. The animals in your care count on you to know your limits, both physically and financially. Also know that you may end up with
'dumps'....once people know where you are located, you may end up with surprise boxes on your doorstep in the morning...with critters in em!

6. Quarantine - ANY new animal coming in needs to be kept in quarantine (and this applies to people bringing new pets in, not just shelters!) With reptiles being so slow to show signs of illness, they should be quarantined for at least 4 weeks. Do you have the ability to completely quarantine any new reptiles coming in?

7. Burnout - there is a very high rate of burnout for shelter moms and dads. It can be overwhelming with the sheer amount of animals being dumped, the poor health of the animals, and the idiots you have to deal with regarding said animals. It's also VERY hard to place certain animals (such as our beloved igs!), and it can be frustrating having to weed through the tons of bad applications to find the very few good ones. There will always be tons more animals being dumped than are being adopted.

There's a lot more to know, but those are the basics. You can always help out rescues such as S&T by becoming a foster home, or by volunteering at the shelter to help. As a foster home / volunteer, you can help out immediately, and not have to worry as much about the technical aspects of sheltering.



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