If dogs from rescue are so good, why would you buy a dog?

As a Founder and Operations Director of Service Dogs UK, an assistance dog charity that primarily uses dogs from Dogs Trust, I find it astonishing that people still buy dogs when the shelters are literally brimming with great dogs.

A huge demand for dogs during lockdown…

When Covid struck, a huge amount of people purchased dogs (many from unscrupulous dealers, the internet and from dubious backyard breeders) to help them cope better at home. Covid had given them the opportunity and ability to look after a dog at home and enjoy a canine relationship, but socialising was difficult for both the dog and the person and many dogs, without proper socialisation, developed behavioural problems. Just as restrictions were lifted and people were called back into the work place we were hit by the cost of living crisis, this was a double blow for dog welfare as dogs were relinquished to shelters or abandoned at an alarming rate.

A huge rise in unwanted dogs post pandemic

On top of this and in many cases connected, relationship and family break down, homelessness, and debt all contributed to people having to give up their dogs – which left the shelters struggling with the sheer number of unwanted animals, many who had never been properly socialised.

The XL Bully ban with its rushed legislation only adds to the difficulty the Rescue Centres face and the pressure on staff and volunteers to look after the sheer number of dogs in their care is immense. At the “State of Rescue’ APDAWG meeting this month we saw fantastic examples of shelters innovating to meet the demand by providing more ‘in home’ support to those about to surrender their dogs or by utilising fosters more to avoid kennel blockages. As heroic as their endeavours are I can’t help but think we need to get a message across to people, a message that they need to hear.

One of the speakers spoke about how some members of the public felt they had an ‘entitlement’ to get a dog (or any other pet) regardless of their ability to provide the creature with a suitable home. We also heard how puppy mills are still plying their miserable, cruel trade in spite of increased public awareness on the subject. Maybe people believe that getting a live animal is like purchasing a car? They look at the brochures, the types, the sizes, the speed and sportiness and select something to suit their lifestyle. Dogs however are not always faithful to breed traits and more evidence exists that the way they are raised is more influential than any genetic factors when it comes to behaviour. They don’t come with guarantees so if it doesn’t work out what then? What’s the backup plan? It’s quite inconvenient but dogs are not disposable commodities – who knew?

How do you get people to see what they are contributing to?

I don’t have the answer but Service Dogs UK is proud to use dogs from rescue and those dogs have been consistently showing how wonderful they can be!

We took Poppy and Deputy, our Ambassadogs (rescue dogs of course!) on the train and to the meeting where they were perfectly behaved throughout the whole event. It was wonderful to meet up with Steph Atkins from Assistance Dogs Europe and I am optimistic that following our ADI Conference in Zagreb, more and more assistance dog organisations will begin to utilise dogs from ‘rescue’ on their programmes. I have been in conversation with many such organisations who are keen and I was really pleased to discuss this with Danny and Bronte from Support Dogs UK who are seeking too increase the amount of dogs from rescue that they use on their programme.

There is no shortage of dogs, the rescue shelters are full! These dogs are innocent victims of circumstance, they are the Covid, cost of living crisis and relationship breakdown collateral damage.

Give Rescue Dogs a Chance

But … many can be wonderful assistance dogs, they can be fantastic pets! They just need a chance, training, time, love, guidance, patience, consistency and commitment. And … if a person is not willing to give this to any dog, should they even have a dog at all?

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