Re: How to distinguish reputable rescue's from others
For the ones that I don't personally know here in the states I would want to know that they are registered with the government as a tax exempt organization. This filing, combined with their state filing, will show that they have a board, a set of by-laws and probably a consitution. I'd also talk to my vet about how different organizations in my area were run, how they accomplished their mission. And they should have a mission statement to share with you.
You could also begin by giving a modest but not insignificant amount and see how they respond. Do you get a receipt? Do they offer a receipt? How do they acknowledge your contribution?
Down here, contributions are considered made when you mail them yet many charities do not acknowledge that in end of the year contributions. Even big ones that SHOULD know the regs. I feel the need to enlighten them with my next contribution -- and to some of them it will be a "why I am not renewing" letter.
One of my early contributions was to a very legit organization but when their subsequent mailings revealed they were holding a lottery with a cash prize as a fund-raiser they lost any future contributions from me. I don't give money to fund lotteries with cash prizes.
(I'm a government employee with a NFP background - btw govt is also NFP.)