Monday, December 19, 2011

What Rescues/Humane Societies/Animal Rehome Facilities are Facing.

11 months ago, I found two dogs running loose in front of the house.  I was able to catch them and get two clinics to check for microchips.  Local animal control and rescues were notified, posts were made to the local newspaper/lost and found resource.  Within a month, one went to Golden Retriever rescue.  The other is -still- with me.

And the thing is, it's not like I have no connections. I train dogs and spend hours and hours with dog people every week. I have volunteered at a Humane Society for 5-6 years, at least once a week taking a 'shift' and caring for the animals, going to fundraisers and events, hauling animals to adoption events, helping with volunteer training and everything else.   I know lots of dog people in the area.  I know what you're supposed to do when you find a lost dog.   This is a normal dog too.  He can get upset confined in a crate, but is great in an expen type set up.   He walks well. He gets along with other dogs and kids.   He's had training and does tricks.  

One local rescue facility places a lot more dogs than where I volunteer (and they haven't had room for him!  I'm there every week and can see for myself.).  They've taken information in the past and it was a little upsetting the way they essentially told me he was unadoptable.   I went in today to beg and plead in person.  They looked back through months and months of calls...and found the records.  Why don't they want him?  He's black.    I get that black dogs are very unadoptable.  But it's not appropriate that dogs are sitting in rescue for so long.  And after hearing about other dogs sitting there for months and months...I know he would deteriorate in that environment.

I've been able to hold onto him for 11 months.  What if it was someone else? How many other dogs are in poor situations because of how hard it is?

I have more than a few students/clients in similar situations. Taking in a dog until it could be taken by the rescue. The rescue backs out or just "doesn't have room." The person gives the dog additional training to make him/her more adoptable. And it still doesn't go well. It's not that those people, or myself, don't love the dogs or want to help them...obviously that's why we dedicate so much time to the animal.  But it's not always a good match and we aren't in a position to really add another dog to the household.  

For us, four dogs means shorter walks for everyone, as I can only take two at a time (Luna isn't fond of Scottie, plus all four would more than outweigh me).  Training time is limited.  I can't take everyone to classes.  Difficult rotational schedules so that we don't have any altercations.  I can't do the normal training to get dogs to like each other as I don't have a helper to walk Luna (or Scottie) while I have the other. I can't take board and train dogs...just no more space, time, or energy.   And I have to limit my travel to the bare minimum. It's hard enough to get away with just my three.  But leaving potential fights isn't something I feel safe with.

After the seminar last weekend on behavioral health in a shelter.  It was a good reminder that we shouldn't just go with the way things are and we need to be sure we're working to improve the behavior health of the animals.    The facility I volunteer at is great, I know the people and the dogs and the volunteers. They trust me to let me do what I want in regards to working with the dogs.  But they're also, understandbly, overwhelmed. And in the rush to get by day to day, it's hard to think about enrichment, training, behavior health, preventative training, etc.   Other facilities in the area haven't been so into those ideas either.  I'm glad to not be meeting the resistance that others see....but the tolerance isn't enough to make changes happen. The management really do need to embrace the changes.

So what can I do?   Complaining can be fun and can make people feel better. But it doesn't resolve the issues.

  •  I do plan to keep volunteering where I am, and to continue to offer help to others.  It is very good for me to get training practice in with so many dogs every week.  Handling the animals and knowing how a kennel situation operates are important skills for me to have when interacting with others who work or manage a similar environment. It's a different set of challenges than dogs in a pet environment.
  • I could find other group/s where my skills can be better utilized. I'm hesitant as in the past some groups have wanted to abuse this offer (" Please take this dog to house train him, then we'll place him!  No, we don't want our foster term to learn how to house train a dog....why would a foster home need to know THAT skill!").
  • I could be a little more....forceful with my interest in more enrichment, education, training, behavior changes etc.  My polite notes and reminders and casual offers might not be enough to get changes. But if others aren't ready, it's not good for the perception of the humans if this would be a battle.  It needs to be a team effort.
  • I could work on more side-projects to get better understanding of behavior health, enrichment, problem prevention, etc...     I have a list of ideas for these projects, most are manageable on my own or with a small amount of help. I could do these through my business.
  • I could start another rescue group to focus on education and prevention.  I think I could make it work through potential grants, contacts, community involvement... but there's no way to say for sure.  And as I don't know where I'll be in five years (literally and figuratively), I don't know that I would want to make this commitment. In some ways this is the easiest option....not a problem to do things my way.  In other ways, it would be the most work by far.  

Other ideas? Solutions that work in your area?

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