Transparency and Ethics

For Fox Sake has always had a commitment to operating with integrity, honesty, and transparency. We operate within full compliance of all standards set by the IRS, NWRA, USDA, and TWRA, valuing the animals’ wellbeing and our compliance with these standards above images and egos.

Some people misunderstand the work we do and why we do it. We don’t mind being talked about, but we are hurt by the idea that well-meaning people might have an incorrect impression of the nature of our work. So here’s a breakdown of some misconceptions and wacky rumors we’d like to address.

Claim: For Fox Sake kills animals for no reason.

Truth: For Fox Sake only euthanizes animals when absolutely necessary.

For Fox Sake has never euthanized any animal for space, convenience, money, or “fun.” We euthanize only animals that are terminally ill or injured with no reasonable hope for recovery, or when required by law. We have in the past invested thousands of dollars into individual patients to save them and we have taken many “long shots” that arrived so weak that they were effectively dead.

An example of a patient we had to euthanize: Blaze, whose spine was severely fractured and whose internal organs were crushed by a car

We believe that euthanasia is the kindest gift that can be given to an animal that is suffering and will not survive. The cases that we see are often horrific: broken spines, central nervous system infections, four completely shattered legs, ruptured bladders, third-degree burns. We make the decision to euthanize these animals just as we would for our own pets. If an animal has no hope of recovering and living a quality life, we give them the merciful, dignified death they deserve.

There are times that our hand is forced and we’re required to euthanize animals that we wish did not have to die. This generally happens when a species considered high-risk for rabies, found in an area where rabies is prevalent, has bitten a person (usually someone who adopted it as a “pet”). There is no test or known quarantine period for rabies in a living wild animal. State law, and the terms of our permitting, require that we comply with efforts by state officials to euthanize these animals. We have to follow these regulations even when they are heartbreaking.

Claim: For Fox Sake drowns baby animals in formula.

Fact: No drowning babies here.

While we introduce formula in a dish over time, our patients are bottle -fed around the clock for as long as needed.

This rumor started with a photo we shared of a raccoon patient in 2019. She was four and a half weeks old, which, at the time, was the age that we believed was appropriate for introducing milk in a shallow dish. Young raccoons often first figure out how to self-feed formula by putting their feet in it, licking it off their hands, and awkwardly sniffing it a time or two.

When this patient had dipped her nose in formula for the first time, she sneezed and squinted. Without considering how it might be interpreted, we posted the photo online thinking it was cute. Between the fact that she was squinting in the photo and that it was a large (but very shallow) dish, many people misinterpreted that she was a newborn with closed eyes and that we were forcing her to drown in formula instead of giving her a bottle.

That patient was successfully released months later, never developed aspiration pneumonia, and was never weaned from the bottle until she was able to fully self-feed. We also learned since then that it’s better to wait until about six to seven weeks to introduce formula in a dish, so we changed our protocols and no longer offer formula to four-and-a-half-week-old kits except in a bottle. Nevertheless, any time someone is angry with us for whatever reason, they pull out the photo of “For Fox Sake drowning a baby raccoon.”

Claim: For Fox Sake wants to kill everyone’s exotic pets.

Fact: We support responsible, legal ownership of exotic pets.

Ember, a red fox, was a captive-bred pet who was housed at For Fox Sake for four months with his raccoon “brother,” Shadow, before being permanently placed as an ambassador at another organization.

We will always be deeply opposed to the kidnapping of wildlife for the pet trade. This includes people who “rescue” baby animals from the wild— often animals that didn’t need rescuing— and choose to keep them as pets. These animals usually end up sick, dumped, or simply dead. We believe orphaned animals need to be brought to rehabilitators.

However, we have never opposed the responsible and legal ownership of exotic pets, particularly those rescued from fur farms or surrendered by unprepared owners. We feel that captive-bred wild animals, like any other pet, should be treated as a lifetime commitment and undertaken only by those fully prepared to deal with the unique challenges of owning a wild animal. We work closely with organizations like SaveAFox Rescue and Exotic Pet Wonderland to help find permanent homes for captive-bred exotic pets.

We have never wanted or asked for any healthy pet to be euthanized, despite what the owners of exotic pets often claim.

Claim: For Fox Sake lied about getting destroyed by a tornado.

Fact: We lost absolutely everything and rebuilt with honesty and transparency.

The night of the tornado (top) and five months later (bottom).

Easter night, 2020, a tornado ripped through the neighborhood where For Fox Sake was built. Extreme roof damage caused gallons upon gallons of water to soak the inside of the home where For Fox Sake was built, which sustained $143,000 in damages, not including damage to personal belongings like furniture, clothes, children’s toys, and books.

The house was uninhabitable for 11.5 months and our director was displaced from the home during that time, but continued operating For Fox Sake in the backyard.

Immediately after the tornado, For Fox Sake’s supporters all across the world stepped up to help. While For Fox Sake had formerly been a one-person operation, our executive director knew that it would be irresponsible and unethical to rebuild without assurance of oversight to our supporters, so For Fox Sake immediately incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The board of directors saw that 100% of the funds we received after the tornado went directly toward rebuilding, reconstruction, improvement, and expansion of For Fox Sake, and toward the care of our patients. None of the donations were used for personal expenses of any kind.

Claim: Juniper Russo gets rich from running For Fox Sake.

Fact: LOL

Russo ran For Fox Sake for zero pay— and zero expectation of ever receiving pay— for three years. Caring for dozens of patients twenty-four hours per day is an exhausting and thankless job and, though rewarding, is hard for anyone to sustain forever.

At our annual board meeting in January 2020, our directors voted to pay Russo an extremely modest stipend of just $1,000 per month to help with expenses like childcare, meals, and an occasional cup of coffee (boy, do we need coffee during baby season!). This is not a living wage but is graciously accepted. The year’s wage was determined by the board not based on Russo’s request, but rather based on the previous year’s surplus after all patient needs and operating expenses had been fully met.

It is a common myth that “nonprofit” means “no paid employees.” Almost all nonprofits have at least one paid staff member. Most churches and schools are nonprofits but pay their priests and teachers. Saint Jude Children’s Hospital is an example of a well-respected and wonderful nonprofit, and pays its doctors and nurses quite well (thankfully, because they deserve it!)

Multiple executive directors work for nonprofits that pay them over $12,000,000 per year— which we find reprehensible, but it is legal under IRS law as long as an organization’s primary mission is for nonprofit purposes. Our executive director’s pay is not excessive or unethical by any standard.

A pay stub showing our executive director’s modest monthly stipend: a net pay of $923.50 per month.

Russo’s salary will be re-determined each year based on our annual surplus, and funds needed for the animals will never go toward stipends or salaries.

We will still run For Fox Sake even if we don’t receive enough donations in the future to continue paying Russo. However, it would likely mean having to dramatically reduce our number of patients, since the things that make it possible— like childcare and delivery meals during baby season— depend on our director having some modest form of income to make ends meet.

Claim: For Fox Sake feeds innocent animals to their patients.

Fact: Predators have to eat meat, but we value ethics and compassion.

The second-strangest thing we’ve been investigated for was an anonymous tip to our local animal control that we are trapping neighborhood cats and feeding them to our patients. (The first strangest claim is that we run an underground dingo breeding business.)

A patient foraging on live mealworms.

We primarily rehabilitate predators, and that means they do have to eat meat— ideally meat that is similar to prey they receive in the wild. We don’t, however, feed them cats or any other pets. We work through several ethical suppliers to obtain frozen whole prey to feed our patients. Some of these animals are the control group from animals used in medical testing, which would otherwise go to waste. Others are deceased, donated patients of other rehabilitators. Some are natural roadkill. Occasionally, hunters and farmers will bring us meat that isn’t quite fit for human consumption.

We do occasionally have to feed live prey to our patients to test their ability to hunt in the wild. However, for ethical reasons, we mostly use feeder animals with limited central nervous systems, such as crickets, mealworms, and crayfish. These small feeder animals help teach hunting skills but are unlikely to experience pain in the same manner as vertebrates.

Claim: For Fox Sake has tiny, cramped cages.

Fact: Our cages exceed all state and federal standards.

Our enclosures are spacious and meet our patients’ needs.

No one likes seeing animals in cages, especially us! That’s why our main goal is to release our patients to the wild. While we can’t provide them with the same amount of space they might have in the natural world, we do ensure that they have sufficient space for their health and happiness while in our care. Our caging sizes exceed the minimum standards set by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and greatly exceed the standards of the USDA Animal Welfare Act.

Each enclosure has water, toys, multiple shelters, hiding places, climbing surfaces, exercise wheels, and hammocks. We believe our patients’ wellness depends on the quality of their habitat and enrichment. We don’t want them to be bored, weak, or depressed in our care and we make sure they are fit, bright, and mentally healthy at the time of release.

Some of our cages don’t look as “nice” as what you might see at your favorite zoo. They also aren’t always as large as a zoo enclosure, since most are by intended to house young animals temporarily, not adults long-term. A zoo is generally more focused on appearances than we can afford to be, and we feel that spending money on aesthetics would be irresponsible. While your local zoo may have enclosures protected by glass or moats rather than chain link— which serves to create an illusion that the animals have a lot more space— we go for function rather than form, and we think that’s okay.

Claim: For Fox Sake mutilates animals with ear tags for fun.

Fact: Ear tags are a simple, humane way to identify animals and are required by state law.

State law requires that all skunks, foxes, and raccoons that enter human care in the USDA’s rabies surveillance zone must be affixed with a permanent ear tag to identify them. This helps us keep track of each individual patient and, should our former patients ever end up trapped or found sick or deceased in the future, it helps to ensure that they can be tracked back to us.

Two kits with identifying tags.

Ear tags have been used extensively for decades by farmers, breeders, zoos, laboratories, and field biologists to identify hundreds of species of animal. It is a quick, low-risk procedure that doesn’t cause any more pain than an ear piercing. Tags are identifying marks that we have to use to keep our licensing in good standing. They are not mutilation or abuse.

Claim: For Fox Sake doesn’t care about wildlife.

Fact: We do this because we care.

No one who “doesn’t care” feeds thirty raccoons around the clock, gets sprayed in the mouth by skunks, cleans maggots out of infected wounds, gets screamed at on the phone, goes through post-exposure rabies shots several times a year, cleans up piles of wormy poop, or stays up until four a.m. desperately trying to resuscitate a dying animal.

We do this because it’s what we love. We work hard and we fight for the animals even when it is painful, exhausting, scary, heartbreaking, and disgusting. We do it because we think animals are worth it. And we hope you think they are, too.

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