Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Rehome" or "rescue"?

Our choice of words can wield a powerful influence. Words can evoke a particular sentiment or emotion. The crafty animal rights extremists have capitalized on the effective use of words such as "rescue", "puppy mill" and "overpopulation" to help promote the agenda of tightening restrictions on breeders.

Over time, such words and phrases can influence attitudes within society. Consider these oft-repeated platitudes:

"Every dog produced by a breeder takes a home from a shelter dog."
"Don't breed or buy while others die"
"Until there are none, rescue one"
"If you breed, you should rescue"

The not-so-subtle implication is that there are not enough homes to go around; that breeders are to blame for dogs who wind up in a "rescue" situation; that dogs are abundant, and that animal control agencies simply cannot find homes for them all. We are told that there is a dearth of dogs needing homes simply because, well, they exist. Therefore breeders should, the logic follows, help to solve that problem of dog homelessness, since they are the parties responsible for bringing dogs into existence.

However emotional this appeal is, logically, it is a fact that there are many more homes opening up for pets each year than there are pets entering shelters. But emotionally, it's difficult to shake the notion of the need for "rescue", replete with images of forlorn waifs enclosed behind bars awaiting their knight in shining armor to deliver them from the evil human dragons who bred them and thereby are responsible for their imprisonment.

Progressive shelter directors, like Ontario's Bill Bruce, know that shelter problems are not caused by "overbreeding".

"We don't have a DOG problem," states Bruce, "we have a PEOPLE problem."

People want pets and will obtain them through the most convenient avenue. Sometimes, however, problems can occur in the home. It is the inability or unwillingness of these pet-owning people to deal with these problems that results in pets needing a new home. And more often than not, these troubled, pet-owning folks are NOT breeders.

Why does re-homing sometimes become necessary for pets? There can be many reasons. Some, such as death or illness of the owner, cannot be prevented or even predicted in many cases. Divorce causes a split in the family, with the pet in this situation possibly needing to be re-homed. Other reasons may stem from an unprepared owner's unwillingness or inability to deal with normal dog training issues such as barking or housetraining. In today's poor economic climate, another major factor is pet owners who suddenly lose their job. Loss of a job may mean losing your home and having to move, resulting in homeless pets as well as people. In some severe cases, the decision for giving up the family pet may result from the choice between feeding the pet or feeding the family.

These situations call for rehoming, not necessarily for something we might tag as "rescue". Rescue implies removal from an abusive situation. None of the situations above are considered abuse, and such dogs don't need to be RESCUED from abusive owners, they simply need a new home!

The term "rescue" implies a Dudly Doright riding in and swooping Nell from the train tracks. Rescuers generally have an evil nemesis, a Snidely Whiplash. How evil is a dead or unemployed owner? Most of the time, Not Very.
Re-homing seems to be a better term to use for such situations. I've heard some "rescue" groups playfully tag themselves as "pet recyclers" or "second chance groups", and I think that more accurately describes the re-homing job at hand.

In many cases, breeders will take back dogs they have bred when re-homing becomes necessary. In other instances, breed rescues step in to help. However, it's the animal control agencies, the local "dog pounds", who bear the brunt of pet relinquishment. And, according to these agencies, many animals they take in end up being killed.

There is, however, no earthly reason for this situation! No adoptable pet should be killed. Claiming a lack of homes is disingenuous, because statistics show that there are plenty of homes. 

According to the 2010 US census, there are over 105 million households in the US. And, according to the 2009-2010 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 17 million of those households will add a pet this year. This translates to roughly one in six US households who will add a dog or cat to their home….this year, and every year! With pets only living on average about 10 years or so, and most pet households owning multiple pets, these statistics are reasonably accurate.

So how best to re-home the homeless pets?? Obviously, many shelters are not effectively performing the job. Could local limit laws be partly to blame? After all, if there were no pet limits, there would be many more homes for the homeless, and many less pets sent to shelters simply because the owner might happen to be over the legal limit. Claiming there are not enough homes, and then removing pets from homes due to technicalities of limit laws smacks of the most blatant hypocrisy.

Yet removing pets from homes for not good reason does occur, on a regular basis. In my local area, in just the past few months, there were a couple of rescue groups who were forced by the local humane society to relinquish dogs due to being over limit. These were groups who were not mistreating their dogs in any way, and there were no neighbor complaints. They were simply over the arbitrary numeric limit.

One of these rescue parties is a couple that runs a local yoga ashram studio who took in some street strays. The other group was an established dog rescue actually prosecuted in civil court for being over the legal nuberic limit, and for having facilities built for the dogs....without obtaining a permit. 

Limit laws are "just another tool in the toolbox", to quote the animal control agencies. Meant to be selectively applied in cases of abuse. Right! Like taking rescued pooches from peaceful yogis and from a group without a building permit!

But what limit laws really teach us is this: "Better off dead than living happily with a few other pets". Because the shelters then take the easy route. Rather than being proactive in placing dogs, they kill them.

So how best to place the adoptable dogs in shelters? Should rescue fall to breed clubs? There is no question that, when it comes to specific breeds, breed club rescues are most qualified to match pets with appropriate homes. But what about all those mixed breed dogs? Are the breed experts responsible for those dogs as well? After all, their puppies are keeping those mixed breeds in shelters, right?

This is really twisted logic and yet we see it continually, from rescue groups, to breed clubs to breeders themselves who believe that breeders are responsible for circumstances that result in dogs needing to be re-homed….even when those circumstances are beyond anyone's control!

If our animals shelters would implement more effective methods of rehoming rather than the knee-jerk reaction of killing for space, society would be better served. It can be done! And it has been done in many areas where they have embraced the No Kill philosophy.

"No kill" is also about "no blame". To be part of a solution means to help unselfishly and without sitting in judgment of others. That's sort of difficult, considering human nature, isn't it? We always seem to want to demonize somebody for problems that just, well, are really nobody's fault. Whether it be loss of a job, being over limit, or faced with relocation, there should be someplace to turn when it comes time to re-home a pet.

Because there, except by the grace of God, go you or I tomorrow. Will there be someone there to help re-home our pets when our turn comes?


Message from "Addicted to Yoga".......

To our very dear students,

We are sending you this email with hesitation but hope that you will be able to help! We love dogs and have rescued many from the streets in the last several years. Many of which we have placed and some of which we have not. We have seven dogs left that need homes and if we don't find homes for them the humane society will take them and most likely euthanize them. Below are pictures of some of the dogs if you are interested or know of anyone who is interested please have them call, email, or visit us to see them! There is no cost we just want the dogs to have a loving and caring home. We are sorry if we offended you by sending this email we just want the dogs to be in a good home and not be euthanized. We have one week before they come back and take the dogs. Thank you for your help and time.


Dave & Polina

These dogs need a home or they will be euthanized!

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