Apr 10

Dog rescue groups, what's missing?

When there is an active animal rescue group in a region, but shelter numbers aren't going down, what is missing from the solution?

Low cost spay/neuter is usually touted as the answer to all the problems. But it is not just puppies and kittens that are getting dumped at shelters. What about altered animals that are being given up? We all know when an "owner-surrender" call comes into a rescue group, it is, 99 times out of a 100, an adult animal and quite often, it is already altered.

This morning I had a light bulb moment. Here is a big part of the problem....we don't care about the people.  What?  Aren't animal rescue volunteer people some of the kindest people on earth?  Sure they are, in relationship to animals.  We love animals, or we wouldn't invest so much of our time and financial resources in helping them.  But how many times do you hear from rescue volunteers the words:  "I HATE PEOPLE."  I hear it all the time, and I confess, I've even said it. Go on calls with a Humane Society cruelty investigator and pretty soon, those words start coming out of your mouth.

I think the key we have missed may be compassion towards people. We must learn to care enough about the pet's owner to take time to work with them on how to keep their pet.  Sure, opening a low cost spay/neuter clinic will help some people, will help stop the flow of infant animals coming into shelters. But it will not help the people who are struggling to put up with a dog that jumps all over them, chews up all their furniture or has ruined their carpet with potty accidents.   Believe it or not, sometimes a person's marriage is on the line, due to a dog causing so much stress in the household.  When they call for help, they are either referred to a dog trainer, which often they cannot afford ($25-100 per hour for a private trainer, depending on where you live) or they are lectured about not having made a commitment to the dog.  So what do the people learn how to do?  They learn how to state their story dramatically, how to use life circumstances to manipulate us to take the dog (my mother is dying, my kid has ADHD, my husband lost his job).  Sometimes those stories are true, but many times that is not the true reason they want to give up the dog. Most of these people could either find a way to keep the dog or find a home for the dog themselves, if the dog was valued and loved (and not such a pain in their rear end)!

Guess what?  Maybe we should not even put the "blame" on these people, for wanting to give up the dog. Who is to blame then? THE PERSON WHO SOLD THEM THE DOG IN THE FIRST PLACE. The person who did not insist that they have a crate before they brought the pup home, the breeder who did not go over all the details of proper house training.  The shelter who adopted out a Retriever mix puppy to someone who lived in an apartment and worked 10 hour days.  The breeder of the Siberian Husky who did not explain that these dogs will run away if allowed off-leash, or the breeder of the Dachshund or Yorkie that did not explain that tiny dogs can be very difficult to housebreak. The person who adopted out the Aussie without revealing that herding dogs will chase and nip everything that moves if they are not managed properly and trained from day one.

Let's try something new.  Let's try implementing programs that offer free, or "donation only" advice to dog owners.  Not lectures on how they should have thought before buying the dog, but true, supportive COMPASSIONATE HELP after they get the dog.  Let's advertise in every veterinarian's office in town the fact that we offer this service.  Then let's reach the ones that cannot afford to be going to the vet on a regular basis by putting up flyers where they go to do their laundry, or on the bulletin board outside the Minute Mart where they stop to buy their gas.  Remember, we need to reach them BEFORE they are so frustrated that they think the only solution, the only way out, is to dump the dog on someone else.

We'll have to realize that they may not want to do everything we tell them to do.  If we feel the dog needs to be inside but they insist that their Beagle has to be an outside dog (but he is digging out and escaping), we need to teach them how to install an electric wire at the bottom of their fence.  To reach them, we have to stop judging them and condemning them.  We need to stop honestly believing that all we can do to help is to take their dog from them and find it a new, more perfect, owner.  Why is this not the solution?  Two reasons.....number one, there are not enough "perfect" new owners out there to meet the need and two, when we (or the local shelter) accept that digging Beagle or the Lab who chewed up the apartment, 9 times out of 10, the pet owner will get ANOTHER dog within months.  So we did not really solve the problem, did we?

Let's try caring enough about the pet owner to help them keep their dogs. It just might be the missing piece of the puzzle!


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Comments (3)
  • ClydePossum

    I know plenty of rescues that do provide no cost owner surrender education prior to bringing a dog into rescue. Most of the time rescues are so full of dogs that were saved from euth from shelters, that owner surrenders are low on the priority list of intake. They work with the owner to not only try to teach them how to make it work, but also help them to identify the next owner if they decide its just not working out. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, the owner still ends up giving up the dog, but the rescues hope that by finding someone who is educated and knows what they are getting into, that dog won't have to find ANOTHER home after that.

  • B Alexander

    The problem is that rescue groups do not have the manpower to do preventative programs to reach the people before they give up animals to shelters. By the time the public is calling us, the rescue group, they have already made up their mind to dump the dog and nothing we say changes anything.

  • Melanie S

    Yes, I know you are correct - many rescue groups do offer solutions to try to help the people keep the dog, but usually by the time they get the call, the bond is already broken--the person has already decided to get rid of the dog. What I am suggesting is that we need to reach them BEFORE they reach that point. Perhaps we could recruit a different type of volunteer to do this for us. Many people cannot foster or transport, but they could volunteer on an education committee and come up with ways to reach the public with free advice about dog behavior issues.

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