Take My Dog, Please!
by Eleanor Scheidemann
Eleanor Scheidemann,CEO The Dog Lady, Inc. and President of Last Chance for Love Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc. has over ten years experience as a professional dog trainer. Her company provides hundreds of dog owners each year with obedience training, behavior modification and problem solving. She works actively with rescue groups by rehabilitating dogs that would otherwise be considered unadoptable. This company is about more than just dog training; it is about everything "dog". Eleanor, "The Dog Lady" is more than just a dog trainer. You are sure to find her opinions on dog training matters both educational and entertaining.
The most common phrase you hear while working in the dog rescue trade is "Take my dog, please."
I just recently organized a new dog rescue and rehabilitation organization; most of my experience in this arena comes from years of working with other rescuers. The work is both rewarding and heartbreaking. But after all this time I am still amazed at the misconception the public has about how the system works.
This article should serve to answer common questions and shed some light on the front line hard facts.
I do make every attempt to check my facts; but with all my years of dog training and behavior consulting experience, I am by no means an expert on the subject of rescue. And if you have the need to re-home your dog, I must warn you that as a rescuer (I can only speak for myself) I do not feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for your dog.
As you might imagine, more people want to surrender a dog than adopt a new one. This probably accounts for the fact that we KILL 5 MILLION DOGS ANNUALLY for lack of facilities to care for and/or rehabilitate them until they are adopted. If you are seeking help from a rescue or a shelter to re-home your dog, be advised that he has a 70 percent chance of becoming one of the 5 million.
Most rescue organizations will accept only a limited number of dogs.
They do not have kennels or large facilities to house them. Their dogs are placed in foster homes to be cared for until which time they can be placed in a permanent home. There is a great shortage of qualified people willing to volunteer as a foster home. This is probably the most limiting factor rescues deal with.
Rescues are normally non-profit organizations dependent upon donations to stay in business.
No money, no dogs! They do not charge a surrender fee in the hopes of limiting the number of dogs people dump on the street to save a few bucks. Yet, many people want to surrender dogs that need medical attention, vaccinations, and spay/neutering. A common statement from someone wanting to surrender a dog might be . . . "He is a great dog and will make someone (else) a wonderful pet. But like all dogs he has a few problems . . . " Then they go on to list destructive and/or aggressive behavior issues that would keep this dog from being adopted by anyone.
Rescues offer re-homing services.
If a dog's health or behavior would keep it from being re-homed, then it is likely they will not accept him. If they did then they would simply be assuming the cost and responsibility for having him euthanized. Unfortunately, that is what a lot of people are looking for when they call a rescue. People will try a rescue first before taking the dog to the shelter to avoid feeling guilty. If your dog is not adoptable HE IS GOING TO DIE ANYWAY, NO MATTER WHOM YOU GIVE HIM TO.
I have contacted other rescues that refuse to give me a dog without a reason. Why is this?
Hogwash! All rescues (that I know of) will tell you why you cannot have one of their dogs. Unlike most breeders who will sell a dog to anyone who has the money, RESCUES DO NOT WORK FOR YOU, THEY WORK FOR THE DOGS. They want the dog to go to a home for life. The dog was not in a proper home in the first place; that is how it ended up in a rescue. They are not going to take a chance that it will happen again.
How can rescues have waiting lists for dogs if there are more dogs than there are homes?
It is not that there are more dogs than there are homes; it is that there are more homes wanting the perfect dog than there are perfect dogs. There is no such thing as a perfect dog. However, many good hearted people desperately want to help by rescuing a dog as long as the dog is housetrained, obedience trained, doesn't chase cats, will get along with their other dogs and has been certified to be in good health. No problem, we will put you on the waiting list! Also, some rescues do not work on a first come, first serve basis. They will adopt a dog out to the best home for the dog, not the first.
I keep getting turned down for a dog because I have small children. Why?
Let me think . . . oh yea. Because a dog is an animal and they can jump, scratch and bite! Rescuers are trying to right a wrong that has already been done, not cause another one. Even if you are willing to take a chance that your children could be hurt, they are not (thank heaven). Not to mention the poor dog. It is not unusual for children to do silly things like run, tease, poke, and kick or fall on a dog thereby causing the dog to defend itself.
A rescue refused to take my dog. Isn't it the law that they have to accept him if I can't keep him?
First of all, it isn't can't keep him; it is won't keep him. And secondly, NO! Dogs are considered personal property (unfortunately) and the law says you are the only one responsible for maintaining and caring for your animal. Legally, no one has to take him, which is why people dump their dogs on the street. This is a great way to avoid legal and financial responsibility. (I would also add moral responsibility though I don't believe anyone that dumps a dog on the street to starve has any morals.)
Why do rescues charge adoption fees, some of them are several hundred dollars? Don't they just want the dog to get a good home?
This question partially answers itself. Yes, they just want the dog to get a GOOD home that includes a household that can afford the cost of taking care of the dog. If you cannot afford an adoption fee, then you probably cannot afford veterinary care, accessories, training and good food. The willingness to pay a fee shows your willingness to accept financial responsibility for the dog. It is expensive to rescue dogs. It costs most rescues anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for medical, housing and feeding per dog. The rescuers I know not only use the adoption fees to cover the cost of care but also use every spare penny of their own and often go into debt. When was the last time you donated to a rescue?
There are two types of shelters:
1) Private, usually non-profit organizations like the SPCA, and 2) public tax funded facilities like animal care and control departments.
Private non-profit shelters operate similar to non-profit rescues. They are funded by donations and charge adoption fees. Though private shelters will have an adoption process that is more stringent than public shelters, they can be less stringent than most rescues.
Large private shelters qualify for and receive most government grants and large organization donations whereas rescues have to struggle by with small donations.
Amazingly enough, the battle for grants and donations is very political and commercial. Nothing for free is a term that comes to mind. Larger organizations can offer more publicity to large donors and advertise to the public for a greater share of smaller donations. Smaller rescues can get some grant money from large shelter organizations (if they like you). This is why the larger shelters get larger and the small rescues stay small.
Public shelters (known as animal control or the pound) have become notorious as killing fields.
Communities have charged them with the thankless job of holding all dog owning citizens (other than themselves) responsible. Yet, they get very little community support.
Though shelters, both public and private, have kennel facilities to house dogs, they do not have an unlimited amount of space. The space they have must be kept available for adoptable dogs. Both usually will charge you a surrender fee to accept your dog. Some have night drop boxes where you can drive up after hours, shove a dog in a box and drive away. It is kind of a no ask no tell policy. You can hide the fact that you dumped your dog, avoid paying a surrender fee, and still keep the dog from dying on the street.
Why does animal control have to euthanize so many dogs?
With the facilities, money and staff available to most public shelters it is not even close to possible for them to be anything but collect and destroy units. Other organizations that advertise themselves as NO KILL often do not keep un-adoptable dogs. Unless a dog can pass a temperament test to qualify as adoptable, they will transfer the dog to a public shelter that DOES KILL. They receive surrendered dogs from the public, private shelters and rescues alike. Most adopters do not want to visit their facilities. People tell me that it is too hard to face the fact that most of the dogs they see will die. So they take their business elsewhere (they call rescues and put in their order for the perfect dog!). Though animal control facilities are where most homeless dogs end up, only 10 percent of the 74 million owned dogs in this country come from them. Because of this, 70 percent or more of all pets taken in will not leave alive.
Why are some people turned down by even a public shelter?
Recently, public shelters have been adopting stricter screening procedures for adoptions. There was a time when the only qualification to adopt from animal control was that you could register a blood pressure. They had to do something; the rate of return on adoptions was anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent (proof that not everyone knows what it takes to have a pet). If you cannot qualify for a dog from animal control, then you really, really should not have one.
What can I do to help?
Good question, I am glad you asked. After explaining the sad treatment our canine best friends are receiving, a lot of good people ask this question. You can help by volunteering and/or donating.
Of course when I answer this question most people apologetically respond by explaining that, though they really wish things were different, they have no time or money to give. They go on to say that they agree it is wrong to kill dogs for being homeless and the job rescuers do is absolutely necessary. Then they wish me luck, pick up their Starbucks coffee and quickly leave. Not to be heard from until they need to re-home their dog, at which time they call me and say, "Take my dog, please."