Animal rehabilitation is, in a broad sense, the repair of injury which is most often caused by humans. This is the term used for several types of rehabilitation, including the time and care needed to bring an injured domesticated animal back to full health or, in terms or rescue, it can be the capture and treatment of an injured wild animal or the treatment of psychological wounds inflicted on an abused animal. While each of these types of rehabilitation have the same goal – to bring the animal back to full health and return it to its previous state – they each have very different processes and responsibilities.
The easiest to define and most common form of rehabilitation involved aiding in the recovery of a physically injured domesticated animal. This could mean nursing an animal that has been in a fight, caring for a foundered horse, or observing animals that have recently given birth to ensure there are no complications during recovery. This could be an issue in any pet household, no matter how careful the owners are, but it can become a matter of life and death in the context of an animal shelter. Shelter employees and volunteers don’t have the time or means to give these animals individual care throughout their recovery, and these animals often face euthanasia. However, in these cases a foster home can make all the difference, giving the animal a chance to recover in a home environment before being returned to the shelter.
Injured wild animals present a unique rehabilitation problem. These animals are not used to humans and in fact have a severe innate fear of them, and those who care for them want to keep it that way. Often wild animals that are hit by cars, injured by pets, or other such issues are surrendered to wildlife foundations that attempt to treat the animals with the aim of eventually being able to re-release them into the wild. If the animals become comfortable with humans during their treatment time, the risk that they will be injured or killed by humans increases exponentially. These animals may be struck by cars or become nuisances in the wild if their handlers allow familiarity to exist.
Finally, there are some of the most heartbreaking cases for rehabilitation in the animal world. Each and every abused animal enters into rehabilitation with various crippling psychological issues resulting from the abuse and neglect perpetrated by the humans charged with caring for them. A vast majority of abused animals that end up in animal shelters are euthanized due to the lack of resources, possibility that the animal is dangerous, and extremely low chances of being adopted. Those who work in abuse rehabilitation may take months to win the trust of an animal, and in many cases the animals still do not find homes. Though many abuse rehabilitation cases are successful, they are still in the minority, and every single case is preventable.
Rehabilitation of all types is essential to animal rescues and shelters. While healthy animals need to be cared for too, they take much less care and generally a shelter facility is tailored to care for them until permanent homes can be found. Without rehabilitation volunteers for both wild and domesticated animals, thousands of animals would have to be immediately euthanized lacking the possibility for proper care. Every type of rehabilitation has the same goal and requires similar types of people, and each type is equally essential to minimizing the damage humans do to other species.