Every once in a while a headline appears in the media regarding dog seizures. An illegal breeder gets shut down, an animal hoarder is discovered or a shelter is considered non compliant.
As animal advocates and animal lovers we all breathe a sigh of relief that the dogs caught up in these seizures have been saved from those environments, we praise the agencies involved for a good days work & we get on with our daily lives.
Seldom do we ever really think about what actually happens to the people and the dogs involved. Where do the dogs go, who pays their keep & what impact do these seizures have on people (and dogs) involved in them?
I think it fair to say that anyone who is illegally breeding dogs has broken the law on purpose for financial gain, so I will park that scenario for now & visit it in a future blog.
How do hoarders get in to situations where they have so many animals they find themselves unable to care for them? Do they deserve our contempt or should we be sympathetic?
Most people may associate hoarding with mental illness & in many cases they would be correct. But, in the world of animal companionship hoarding can result because of factors outside a persons control.
A normally fit, healthy & capable lady has three dogs, none are spayed or neutered. The decision not to sterilise is a personal one & the lady is very responsible. She takes precautions each heat cycle to ensure that her dogs do not get pregnant.
Then disaster strikes when the lady becomes unwell & incapacitated. She has the support of services tailored to her needs but none for the dogs. She manages to give her dogs basic requirements but can no longer take them out for walks or to the vet. She doesn’t rehome them because they are her world and the only real company she gets.
Life becomes very difficult for the lady and her dogs become pregnant resulting in many more dogs than the three she originally had before she got sick. By the time her dogs are in season again the first litter of pups are sexually mature and they become pregnant too. In a very short space of time this previously very responsible dog owner has a house full of dogs that she can not adequately care for.
Thankfully a neighbour steps in to help before things get completely out of hand. They contact a charitable organisation for help. The dogs are surrendered leaving the original three in the home. The neighbour and charity work together with the lady to get her dogs sterilised and walked each day. The neighbour kindly agrees to take the dogs to the vet when needed and all ends well.
This story could have ended very badly without the sympathy and support of the neighbour. All the dogs could have been seized and the lady prosecuted for animal cruelty.
In this case the charitable organisation need to raise funds to shelter the dogs, feed them & provide vet care. They rely on the kindness of the public to help them achieve the financial goals they need to meet through fundraising to give the surrendered dogs a happy future.
Sadly there are times when animal rescues have their dogs seized on welfare grounds.
We know that globally there are folks who purposely set up rescues for personal gain. This horrible practice is abhorrent.
But, could it ever be possible that a rescue set up with good intentions may bite off more than they can chew & end up over its head?
I haven’t heard of such a scenario but I can imagine that it could well happen.
Most of the animal welfare organisations I know are run by volunteers, even when a manager is given a wage most orgs rely very heavily on volunteer support to keep every aspect of their work going.
What might happen if changes in circumstances were to leave an org with a low volume of help. Who would care for the dogs? Who would fundraise to bring in the funds needed to care adequately for the dogs? If fundraising targets are not met there is a danger that dietary and medical needs may suffer. Add with the high demand for kennel space we are seeing at the moment in the UK ask yourself what it must be like to turn a dog away. A dog who may possibly lose their life because you couldn’t take them in. Could a rescue take on more dogs than they can cope with in the hope that their luck will change. I think that may be possible.
Once any organisation takes on more dogs than they have funding for standards will drop. And eventually the long arm of the law will catch up with the organisation. Dogs will be seized and those in control of the organisation prosecuted.
Seizures cost money.
Seizures involve dogs being kenneled.
Seizures cause emotional stress to the dogs involved, the people involved in their rescue organisation and the people who seize them.
Kennel fees can sit around £30 a day per seized dog. Where a significant number of dogs are seized the monthly bill for one seizure can result in fees in the tens of thousands each month.
Who pays those fees?
How would the police or a local authority claw back that kind of expense?
Who ultimately foots the bill?
Might services to the public be cut or costs to the public increase?
I wonder if there is a better way of doing things.
When criminality is without question should there be a sanctuary setting to hold the dogs until homes can be found for them. Surely this would be cheaper than kennel costs.
Is it unreasonable to suggest that we need to look at why an organisation is failing?
Might it be possible to use a budget for seized dogs to help instead of punish where suitable.
We know that seizures have a negative impact on dogs. Most rescues I know will say that many dogs find displacement and kennel environments stressful.
It is entirely possible for a formally well behaved dog to become fearful and nervous with a change of circumstances. They have been removed from their home by strangers and taken to a strange place, put in isolation away from their carer.
In the case of Livestock Guardian breeds, which I know well this can be catastrophic.
Could it be possible that dogs traumatised by seizures could possibly get out of hand & become unhomeable?
Could dogs be so damaged by their experience that they have to be put to sleep?
What if an LGD needed medical support & would not allow a carer to administer the drugs?
Would the dog be considered a threat to society & it’s life ended?
Do we know that the experts involved in assessing breeds they are not familiar with always get it right?
Could a natural behaviour be considered dangerous to the public & result in loss of life. When in fact if the dog were in an environment that made them feel safe with a responsible person who understands them they could live a full life.
What about dogs residing in rescue for life because of biting incidents?
*TRIGGER WARNING UPSETTING IMAGE*
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We don’t subscribe to death as a treatment for behavioural problems.
In 2022 a group of dogs used by fighting rings attacked each other (due to poor decisions made by their shelter) two of them lost their lives. The dogs were scheduled to be put to sleep, including the dogs who had done no harm.
After very careful consideration & consultation we offered the dogs a home for life at the shelter.
The dogs are fine with people but due to abuse for fighting they associate other dogs with pain & get incredibly stressed around them.
Given that they don’t like other dogs they are quite happy living in their private kennels with enrichment & daily walks.
We are lucky that we have the kind of people who understand the dogs behaviour and are happy to work safely and diligently with them so that they can have the best life we can all give them.
Would our government be so understanding?
Whatever way you look at it the cost of caring is great both financially and emotionally.
We owe it to dogs and the humans who care for them to use resources wisely and conduct ourselves kindly.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way of helping whenever possible instead of punishing. I truly believe that this would be the right way forward.