|Just cause you helped me get off this log doesn't mean you "rescued" me.|
I help with a few rescues in my area doing different things. I can't wait until I have my own place and can foster dogs as often as I want, but right now fostering isn't a possibility. Instead, I do home visits, give training advice, and meet with foster parents who need help from a trainer. It's great to lend a hand where I can and be a part of some great work. But over time I've noticed a discouraging trend from one particular rescue.
In my area, adoption is a popular option when it comes to finding a new dog. New England is so ahead of the rescue curb that there is often a shortage, at least of puppies, in need of homes. Many rescues have begun exclusively transporting dogs from the South in order to meet this demand. And this is where I find a problem.
|Every other Petfinder puppy|
One 'type' of rescue brings puppies up in a continuous stream straight from shelters where parvo and distemper are present. The puppies have often experienced a rough beginning and received minimal care before they are pulled. They are given their required vaccinations and are put in a foster either in the South or in New England until their adoption.
It doesn't seem so terrible, right? Obviously there are worse things in life, but this type of rescue has a fallout in several ways. These puppies often become sick once they reach New England, even after a mandatory quarantine. Kennel Cough has been much more frequent, and recently there was an outbreak of distemper at a dog park that originated with a Southern pup whose new owners wanted to socialize ASAP. Suddenly, those transport dogs are disease carriers- unhealthy and unwanted in their communities.
The behavioral fallout is my primary concern. Selecting litters of puppies because they have a sad story and a cute face is not responsible. This type of rescue has adopted out puppies with significant food aggression, dog aggression, and fear issues. Dogs that would not be deemed safe for adoption in any local shelter go to homes with children or first time dog owners. Families spend an unusually high adoption fee with dreams of that dog that will grow up with their kids, go to their soccer games, and play outside. Instead, they have a dog that is practically semi-feral, growls when strangers approach, and is too afraid of the world at large to even go for a walk.
This wealthy family is surrounded by other wealthy families. Every other family went to a breeder to get a puppy, but this family wanted to adopt. Do you think they will again? Does adoption have a new appeal to the people around them? Of course not. One rescue puppy has cemented the idea that adoption is a bad idea for this entire neighborhood.
At first I thought it was a fluke. But I've gotten more and more e-mails from foster homes whose puppies aren't old enough for adoption but who fight and do damage to each other over food, and from adopters who are thinking about returning their puppy for biting their kid/dog/husband. It makes me wonder if some rescues are having a negative impact on Rescue as a whole. I know that as a trainer, I have a certain expectation when I know a puppy has come from the South, and it isn't a good one.
|Hannah is the only adopted dog on the block.|
There are other rescues who are doing essentially the same thing. Bringing puppies and dogs from the South to the North. But they avoid death row, where illness is almost a guarantee for a litter of puppies. They pull pregnant dogs and new arrivals, use only a select few foster homes in the South, and take their time. The process is slower, they don't move as many dogs, but their adoptions are more successful. The dogs and puppies receive beyond the average in vet care, are raised in the same home with socialization, and are transported when they're just a few weeks older. These puppies haven't gotten sick, they weren't fighting for survival long enough to have behavioral issues, and they have a long, happy life ahead of them.
Rescue is rescue, it's true. No puppy deserves to die in a shelter without knowing love, or to live on a chain in someone's yard. I look forward to the day when pet overpopulation is under control so that dedicated rescuers don't need to choose which dog to save and which to leave. Sadly, that day has not arrived. To select physically and behaviorally unsound dogs while leaving healthy, well balanced dogs is illogical and, in many cases, the result of laziness. It has an effect on entire communities when illness spreads, and gives rescue a bad name when the only adopted dog on the block is also the dog everyone avoids.
I'd love to know everyone's thoughts on this. Have you noticed that some rescues do more harm than good? It's a complex issue (aren't they all?) and I certainly don't know everything about it, but the past few months I have been seeing this pattern too clearly to ignore it. After all, I want people to see my rescued dogs and think 'that's what I want to share my life with.'
|I dare you to resist me.|