Until recently I never fully understood, nor appreciated the importance of an animal rescue service. These centres are run entirely by volunteers who dedicate their time to save the lives of dogs they don’t even know. Dogs who are neglected physically or emotionally, dogs on ‘death row’ in pounds and shelters, or dogs that no longer have a place in their family unit are given a second chance at life. Every year hundreds of great pets would be destroyed if not for the endeavours and intervention of rescue.
For the average pet owner it is easy to overlook the fact that dogs are mistreated, especially when most people only ever see happy, healthy pets. This is probably because the worst cases of neglect are those where the dog never gets to see anything but their backyard so are never out in public, often chained up their whole life never seeing more then a few feet of space. No people contact, no canine friends, and often little food or fresh water. Their coats are often matted with filth and grime & they are usually covered with fleas and other parasites. Riddled with worms of all description, the little food they do get would not go far.
One case of this nature concerned Rottweiler who was permanently chained outside in the yard from the time he was a puppy. When his owners moved house they left him behind with no food or water to die on that chain. Before that could happen, new tenants moved in and saved the poor dog from an agonizing death through dehydration and starvation. Another couple of days and there is no doubt that dog would have become another statistic. When the owners were contacted their response was ‘oh, just put him down’. The new tenants could not take on another dog and were facing the very real possibility of having to hand him over to the pound which would have meant it was only a matter of time before he would be destroyed after all. That is where rescue stepped in. They took him into their care & are currently seeking a home where he can finally experience the true joy of love and companionship.
The most heartbreaking cases for any rescue to deal with are those that involve the physically and emotionally abused dogs. The sadistic and cruel owners that perpetrate these offenses do not give any consideration whatsoever to the dogs general well being. Instead the poor dog is seen as an object to be owned or manipulated. These cases usually involve puppy mills, breeding only for money.
A classic example was a recent case in Michigan, USA. The dogs were thin, dirty, covered with urine and feces, & had obviously been given no vet care for some time. Of the 50 dogs taken 7 were puppies from 5 weeks to 3 months in age.
Initially the pups had to be coaxed into eating 3 times a day as they had only been fed once every three days. Then there was Kina, found in a crate in the back of an old van with a litter of pups and no room to move. It was 96 degrees Fahrenheit and all windows and doors were closed with no food or water. Several of her puppies were dead & had been left in the crate with her. It was a wonder that she even survived. “There were dead dogs everywhere at that place. They found a barn with a bitch and a litter in the same shape as Kina, only the mother had obviously not seen anyone for a long time and was eating her pups to stay alive. It was just the most awful situation we have ever come across.” Linda Smith
This tragic situation was caused by one person’s greed. Amazingly, despite the traumatic conditions these dogs faced, their temperament remained sweet and loving, even trusting towards humans …… far more than any person deserves considering the ordeal man put them through. At least now the dogs rescued will get the opportunity to experience kindness and love and we will have the opportunity to atone for this evil.
Thankfully the cases above are the exceptions and not common. Most rescues actually revolve around selfish, ignorant, thoughtless or lazy owners. A dog who is extremely destructive for instance might be put on a chain ‘to stop them destroying the place’ instead of the owner seeking professional help to permanently correct the behavior. After awhile the owners go out to visit less and less, stopping only long enough to feed and water the dog. When it becomes evident this lifestyle is inappropriate long term they turn the dog over to rescue. Physically the dog is probably in good health but emotionally its need for companionship would be driving it crazy.
Then there are those cases where the cute & adorable puppy has simply outgrown its appeal & has become too much effort to maintain. The owners usually have an excuse of some sort, generally fabricated, which is actually an attempt to alleviate the owners’ conscience. These people give up the dog in relatively good health and mind but wash their hands of a problem they instigated the day they bought the dog without thinking through this 10 – 15 yr commitment. By dumping at a rescue centre someone else has to go through the arduous task of selecting new homes, someone else foots the bill to maintain the dog, & someone else gets to put the dog to sleep when there is nobody else. A rescue service would rarely refuse a dog but using it as a dumping ground in this way uses up valuable resources desperately needed for genuine cases
In all the above cases, there is more blame then on just the perpetrators. The breeders of these dogs are also partly responsible. More breed specific education, a better screening process and careful selection of buyers may have prevented at least some neglectful situations. If buyers are fully aware of their 10 – 15yr commitment and all aspects of owning their chosen breed then they may decide not to buy the dog after all and spare possible devastation later in the puppies life. On the other hand, those that do go ahead with their new puppy after knowing what situations may arise, will be less likely to dump their responsibilities just because things get a little awkward as they know what to expect and accept this at the outset.
Anyone considering raising a litter, must be prepared to spend the time to fully educate prospective buyers on all aspects of your breed. If you don’t feel you have enough knowledge to fully prepare the buyer or you don’t want to devote hours of your time on interviews, then please reconsider your decision to breed. We don’t need any more rescue statistics.
If you have taken the time to read to this point you will have realized just how imperative Rescue is & what an enormous task it can be. There will always be all of the above situations, and probably others. If rescue did not exist, most of the animals that are faced with the aforementioned situations would end up dead. So please, next time you look at your beautiful, healthy, loved pet, spare a thought for those that are not so lucky. If possible, consider fostering a rescue dog short term or make a contribution to your breed rescue, its all volunteer work and funded only by donation and fund raising. Rescue services can use all the help they can get, & you can help.