Responsible rescues

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So, you’re looking for a dog?

You want to adopt a rescue?

Great! But keep in mind that you need to be as careful in selecting a rescue group as you would (should!) be in selecting a breeder.

Does the rescue vet and evaluate the temperament of the dogs they rescue? Do they follow up? Is there a contract? Do they spay or neuter animals before they are adopted out or require adopters do so? Do they encourage or even require that your new dog go to training classes?

Do they have dozens and dozens of dogs available at all times? How are they housed – in fosters where they can receive individualized care and be evaluated appropriately, or in breed-appropriate kennels or runs that provide both shelter and enough space for them to get fresh air and exercise?

If the rescue is breed (or even size) specific, can they provide information about the breed and health and what to expect? Do they ask YOU a lot of questions, including some that might seem nosey?

A good rescue organization considers its first responsibility to be to the welfare of the dog you are asking to take. Will it be secure, well trained, get reasonable veterinary care, be active and loved and a member of the family? Many rescue organizations require physical fencing – this is to keep the dog safe and at home. Too many dogs die each year hit by cars or killed by other animals. And while an electric fence *might* keep your dog within the boundaries of your yard, it does not keep people or animals out. And if there is something outside the boundary that your dog wants badly enough, they will ignore the buzz as they break the boundary to get to whatever irresistible thing it may be.

A lot of people complain about the cost of adopting a rescue dog. I can understand that. But I also know, from having worked with rescue for almost eight years, that those fees, even the highest of them, don’t cover all the costs. Rescue organizations regularly have to ask for donations to help cover those costs. Sometimes there is a cost associated with getting the dog (from whatever the situation may be), and there’s vetting and food and transportation, not to mention the expenses the fostering families may incur. And in these times, many rescues have had to get insurance in case one of their rescues bites or someone claims some other damages. Rescue isn’t cheap, and rescued dogs are rarely free.

The best source of information about a breed-specific rescue organization might be the breed club, or you can ask for the name of the veterinarian who sees their dogs. How long has the rescue been around? How much time do they spend with you on the phone or in person trying to find out whether a dog they have will be a good fit for you, your family and your lifestyle? (If the answer to that last question is none, run the other direction.)

Are they honest with you about the health challenges in the breed? Are they honest about the history of the dog (or lack thereof, depending upon how they got the dog)? I remember speaking with a woman a while back who was very interested in a Bernese Mountain Dog, but wanted the deck stacked in her favor when it came to health. We couldn’t promise that, since we had no health history for that pedigree, and the breed has some serious health issues. I ended up directing her to the breed stewards in her area so that they could fill her in on litters in that part of the country and breeders they would recommend for the home she could provide. I told her then and I still believe she will offer some lucky dog a great home, but she and I agreed that she was not prepared to take on the uncertainty of a rescue.

Good rescues do their best to evaluate the temperament of the dogs they get, and to match those dogs with families. Often they will have the foster home speak with potential adopters to discuss the dog’s behavior and training. If they won’t let you talk with the foster, find out why not. You need to know whether this dog will fit into your home!

Rescue dogs aren’t perfect, they aren’t always healthy or socialized or friendly to men or to children. They can be expensive, challenging, frustrating and heartbreaking.

They can also be remarkable treasures, diamonds in the rough. A good rescue group can help you find your way to your treasure.

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