Getting Rid Of The Rescue Dog’s Bad Reputation
I find no greater joy than coming home to my 41.7 kilo bundle of love and fur. Speak to any pet owner and they will tell you the same thing. First it’s your heart, then it’s your couch and lastly, say bye bye to your bed. Once you bring a pet into the house, it is near impossible to imagine a home without them.
Adopt don’t shop. A slogan, a hashtag, a motto that needs to be promoted and ingrained into our minds.
When looking for a new pet, people have a tendency to overlook the litany of animals in shelters and foster care, heading straight for the $4000 pure breed on Gumtree. Mixed breeds are looked at as second class, creating an overflow in shelters and foster groups. Speaking to Sonja a foster carer from Fetching Dogs Rescue it ‘s made very obvious that people need to be better informed about the animals in shelters and foster care. There needs to be a more open dialogue about why these animals are surrendered and, that they are not inferior.
There is a large and endless list of reasons why animals are surrendered. For most people, time and money is a large problem. Not all breeds are suited to everyone’s lifestyle. Unless you have a spare couple of hours a day and plenty of room, maybe a mastiff is not ideal. A smaller less energetic bundle of joy may be the thing you need. Another reason why animals are commonly surrendered, is the owners inability to keep up with training. Training is absolutely vital for any animal and, unfortunately people take this for granted. Disobedient dogs are generally the result of a lack of training and socialisation. Sonja expressed this through a little analogy saying:
“If you want well-mannered and educated children you have to teach them how to behave. It’s the same with a dog. If you want a well tempered and obedient dog, you have to teach it”
She also didn’t shy away from discussing animals that have health and behavioural issues, commenting that most often than not, they are the result of being raised in a dreadful environment. At no fault of their own but at the hands of the owner, these animals are denied the chance at a loving and full life.
There has been an increasing amount of groups dropping the prices of their rescue dogs. Not limited to smaller council run shelters, organisations such as the RSPCA have hosted weekends where rescues are adopted out for only $29.00. Although this might seem like a great idea to promote adoption it can also work against it. These prices devalue the animal, adding to the stigma that shelter dogs are defective and second class. “It’s a double edged sword” says Sonja, because although it does ground the negative stigma it also does it’s job and encourages adoption. These extremely low prices are a great opportunity for low income earners and pensioners to introduce a new member to their family.
The first important lesson that must be taught, Sonja says, is that these are lives not a commodity.
“People see them as money makers”
By people treating animals as commodities they have more reasons to exploit and mistreat them.
Our best chance at reducing the negativity surrounding shelter and rescue dogs is through education and awareness. Starting with programs in schools and communities, we need to start teaching people about adoption and different breeds of dogs. People also need to be aware of proper training techniques and methods. Support from government bodies in the form of funding, Sonja says is very limited. Rescue groups and shelters will never be at the forefront of the agenda. However the government can make some significant changes in regards to legislation regarding backyard breeders and puppy mills. She points out that if it was harder for people to get a dog through either place, they would turn to shelter and rescue groups. Advocacy is vital. Essentially give a voice to the voiceless.
Some advice to those looking for a pet. Research is key. In order to break the cycle of dogs needing to be re-homed, people need to look into breeds, maintenance, training, temperament and size. Not all rescue and shelter dogs are older in age or have behavioural problems. As Sonja points out “there are plenty of puppies in shelters”. Rescue organisations provide support to the owner the whole way through. Their priority will always be with the dog and, they do a copious amount of research before handing a dog over to the potential owner. The adopters are not left high and dry either. Organisations like Fetching Dogs provide adopters with the dogs medical records and full checks, advice on training, temperament, as well as microchipping and vaccinating them.
“We have a Facebook page for people who go through our organisation… They can ask questions upload photo… We’re there as a support system”
At the risk of sounding like a crazy dog lady, my rescue is genuinely the light of my life. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. If not for the full 15 years then for a short few months through a foster program. At the end of the day, rescue dogs deserve love to.
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