Is handing my dog into rescue the right thing to do?
This decision never comes lightly, here are a few things to consider...
Owners surrender their dogs for a myriad of reasons. More common ones include: Moving, can’t keep; landlord won’t allow; not enough time; and can’t afford.
Although those are the reasons commonly given, the underlying cause far more often in those cases, is that something interfered with the development of the all-important bond between dog and human that ensures the dog a lifelong, loving home. Every day thousands of dog lovers move and take their dogs with them, find a new place to live where dogs are allowed, rearrange busy schedules to make time for their dogs, and reprioritise budgets to cover their dog-care expenses.
Animal protection and rescue workers often become cynical about, and unsympathetic toward, those who give up their dogs. Many of us who love our dogs find it difficult to imagine any legitimate reason for giving them up. While it’s true that many dogs are given up for seemingly frivolous reasons, there are times when it is the right thing to do, including the following:
Valid Reasons for Rehoming Your Dog:
1. Two (or more) dogs in the family are seriously fighting.
Although it’s not uncommon for two dogs in a family to have occasional squabbles, there are also times when knock-down-drag-out battles – or even rough play – can put one or more canine family members at risk of serious injury or even death (not to mention the risk of injury to the humans who have to intervene in the dog fights). This can be especially life-threatening when a size differential almost guarantees that a smaller dog will be injured – or killed – by a larger dog who plays too roughly or has mayhem in mind. Plus there is the risk of predatory drift, where the larger dog sees a significantly smaller playmate dash across the yard and his brain kicks into “Squirrel!” mode. He perceives his smaller canine companion as “prey” instead of “playmate,” and tragedy strikes. Whether due to size difference or not, conflict and potential injury between canine family members calls for careful management protocols, implementation of a behavior modification program to reduce or remove tension when possible, and if necessary, rehoming of one dog to prevent tragedy. If modification isn’t successful and management isn’t realistic, it is only fair to give both dogs a chance at long and happy lives by rehoming one. It may be better to consider rehoming the easier of the two dogs rather than the more problematic one, because it’s much more difficult to find a new home for a dog with problematic behavior; you are probably that dog’s best option.
2. The dog is a danger to someone in the household, or to the community.
This often entails aggressive behavior, but not always. Sometimes an aging dog-lover makes the mistake of replacing her beloved senior dog who recently passed away with a puppy of the same breed, forgetting that she was 15 years younger the last time she had a bouncing adolescent canine underfoot. If the human’s dexterity and balance is beginning to fail her, and/or if she is physically unable to meet the dog’s activity needs, rehoming may be the best option.
While daycare, pet walkers, and sympathetic family members and friends may be able to help with some of the exercise, the dog might still present too great a threat to the owner’s safety. If that’s the case, rehoming is the right choice. A rowdy dog may also present some physical risk to small children in the home. Good management can often minimize the danger while the child grows and the dog matures and learns his good manners behaviors. Aggression, however, is another matter. Aggression alone is not necessarily a reason to give up your dog. It is irresponsible parenting and dog-owning, however, to keep a dog who shows a willingness to bite kids in a home with children. Dogs who live in homes with small children must adore them, or the child’s safety is at significant risk. Anything less than “adore” means the dog should be rehomed, or at least sent off to stay with relatives until the child is old enough to no longer be at risk, and/or the dog has learned to love children. It’s a lot easier to rehome a dog before he bites a child.
A dog with aggressive behaviors presents a risk to the community if the owner is unwilling or unable to take necessary management steps to keep the community (and the dog) safe. While this can be due to a lack of concern on the owner’s part, it can also be a result of denial and/or lack of education. When aggressive behaviors have been identified in a dog, it is critically important that the owners prevent the dog from having any opportunity to bite, and seek assistance from a qualified positive behavior professional for help in managing and modifying the behavior.
3. An unavoidable change in life circumstances precludes keeping the dog.
Stuff happens. You may have the strongest commitment in the world to your dog, and if life circumstances change and you can truly no longer care for him, then rehoming is the responsible decision. I’m not talking about simple priority choices (“We can’t afford the dog’s ACL surgery because we want to go to Europe this summer”); I’m talking about unavoidable life events such as heart attacks, strokes, foreclosure, moving to a long-term care facility, and other life-shattering occurrences. Sometimes, tragically, you really can’t care for your beloved canine any longer.
4. The dog has a health or behavior problem that is beyond the means of the owner to resolve.
Quality of life is an important consideration for dog and humans. If you really can’t afford the care your dog needs, you either provide it anyway, perhaps at the cost of your own health or diet, or you don’t provide it and your dog suffers. You can choose to make sacrifices in order to provide for your beloved dog, but there may come a legitimate time when the sacrifice is too great, or the challenge too difficult. Some medical procedures now available for dogs cost tens of thousands of dollars. Just because we can try to fix something and prolong life, doesn’t always mean we should. A loving owner may be completely willing to work with her difficult dog’s behaviors, but physically unable to do so. In those cases, rehoming or even euthanasia may well be the best choice. Aggression, severe separation anxiety, and a variety of canine obsessive-compulsive disorders can be extremely difficult behavior challenges. While these sometimes respond to treatment, often with the help of behavior modification drugs, they don’t always, and quality of life can be greatly damaged for both dog and owner.
5. Wrong dog for the situation.
Sometimes, humans acquire a dog for a specific purpose – to be a service dog, do narcotics detection, or to fulfill some other working or competition goals. Sometimes the chosen dog turns out to be totally unsuited for the desired purpose, and the human doesn’t have the luxury of keeping the newly acquired dog while seeking another one who is more suited for the training goal. In such cases, it may be absolutely necessary, or at least fully justifiable, to return or rehome the unsuitable dog in order to allow the person to seek and select a more appropriate candidate.
Options for Rehoming A Dog
It can be a challenging proposition to rehome a dog, especially one with major health or behavior problems. Here are options to consider when you must give up your dog:
1. Return to the breeder, shelter, or rescue group you acquired them from.
2. Place them with a trusted friend or family member. Well-loved, well-behaved, healthy dogs usually have a circle of admirers who would jump at the chance to adopt.
3. Advertise for someone to adopt them, however this can be risky in this day and age.
4. Take them to a good shelter or rescue. There are thousands of excellent dog adoption services around the country. Many provide medical treatment for at least some of the dogs in their care that owners couldn’t afford. The best have behavior departments or working relationships with qualified professionals to modify difficult behaviors in order to make dogs more likely to succeed in their next, hopefully final, homes. Not everything is fixable, and responsible groups still have to make difficult euthanasia decisions, but your dog might be one they can help.
5. Have them euthanized / put to sleep. As painful as this, it may be the kindest thing you can do if your dog has significant health and/or behavior issues. It may not be realistic to ask someone else to care for such a dog, and she could be abused or neglected in the process. Dying peacefully in the arms of someone who loves her is better than dying neglected in someone’s backyard, or after spending weeks, months, or years in the stressful environment of a shelter.