1 Do you like dogs?
If yes, go to question 2, if not go away. This post is not for you.
2 Do you have a dog?
If yes, go to question 3. If not you can hang around on probation.
3 Is/are your dog/s rescued?
If yes, you may be interested in this post. If not, hmmmm.
Here then, is the promised controversial post about rescues v bought pedigree animals.
In which I aim to dispel a few myths and no doubt create a few more.
Most of my experience is with dogs, so I’ll stick to talking about dogs, although the post applies equally to cats in particular, other animals, and birds. The principles are the same.
As we’ve just homed another rescue dog, it’s a timely post, in which I can reflect about why we did, and what it entails. And equally interesting are people’s comments about our new pup.
Since our last dog died we’ve had just one dog – Pippa – for some six years. We haven’t been a one-dog family since 1989/90. After that we always had two, or often three.
For non-dog, or one-dog people, two is no more work than one. The only problem with more than two, is the number of hands required to walk more dogs. Probably not so difficult with smaller dogs but when you have a Labrador, a cross setter/Lab, a GSD, a cross GSD/husky it isn’t wise to walk more than two powerful and energetic dogs at once.
Rescuing in Spain
A few posts ago, Clare asked if there were any Spanish rescue shelters. There are. But they aren’t like British ones. And when I looked it up on the internet it all seemed very complicated. Some of the shelters are virtual, so you look at a photo, arrange a visit and see one dog. I find that mentally difficult. If I went to see a dog and didn’t want it, I would feel as though I was rejecting it. Which would be true. Much easier to wander round a rescue kennel and say, yes, we’ll have that one.
And I am so not into home visits. We’ve signed agreements to have those before, but no-one ever turned up. What are they meant to do? Check you have a secure garden? A clean house? Sufficiently affluent? A television? A sink in the kitchen? (We don’t have the last two – and the state of cleanliness varies). It’s like prying social workers. And you could pass the test and still chuck your dog out on the street if you couldn’t be bothered to walk him or her. This was common practice in Spain when we first came, although increasingly more Spaniards in our pueblo are walking their dogs on leads. Originally we were the only ones in the village to do that.
Prying dog social worker asks: ‘Where does your dog sleep?’
Owner: ‘Inside of course, here’s his blanket/rug.’
Dog social worker leaves, owner washes blanket/rug, retrieves hidden chain and chains up dog outside.
Home visits are fraught with difficulty. Checking potential owners must be a nightmare for shelters too. I just don’t really want to get involved with that. With four rescue dogs to my name, living long and healthy lives, I don’t feel like being checked over either.
So we decided to by-pass the rescue shelters. There are normally enough stray dogs wandering around to be picked up anyway. Until we want one of course.
First step, ask neighbours if they knew of any unwanted dogs. You don’t get anywhere in Spain if you don’t open your mouth.
A friend of one of the son’s had some dogs up the back and was happy to get rid of one. That came to nothing. A woman walked past with a pup and had another to give away. Heard no more from her either.
So when we went to our vet Pedro for Pippa’s arthritis tablets (Cox 2 inhibitors, Cimicoxib) we looked at his noticeboard. Plenty for sale but also some for free. I sent a text to a woman but got no reply.
Next time I went to see Pedro, I left my email and ‘phone number for him to pass on to anyone wanting to home a dog. Not long after, I received an email from Rocío about the abandoned pup she had found. ‘He needs a family to love him. If only you can give him an opportunity,’ she wrote.
We said we would take him but it couldn’t be straightaway. If someone else wanted him before we could take him, then we said that would be ok. Dog needing a permanent home was the priority, not our wants, it didn’t have to be us, there would always be another one, and indeed there was.
Pedro emailed me with details of a Shar Pei cross. Looked more like a scruffy terrier to me, but and a big BUT, how much do looks and breed matter? I explained that we’d given a commitment to Rocío but said if that didn’t work out, we would take the cross.
A month later we received another mail from Rocío, we were in Spain that weekend and she brought the 4/5 week old puppy to see us. And as regular readers know, the rest is history, and so is my exile in Spain looking after said puppy.
The frontier issue
Pippa’s passport has never been asked for on either side. Can’t say I’m fond of jabs but it is a necessary evil. Both Gib and Spain were rabies free countries. I say were, because this year, a case of rabies happened in Spain in Toledo. A pit bull came back into Spain from Morocco and bit five people, none of whom had died, last thing I read. While mainland Spain was rabies free since 1975/78, the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa have occasional cases, due to being next to Morocco. France has also had isolated incidences of rabies – again due to dogs coming back from Morocco and illegally imported. Source for this – El Pais.
We know someone who bought a pedigree puppy for a small fortune, a black Lab. It arrived in Gib from Portugal, was smuggled in by the seller, and had no jabs, no chip, no papers, and on top of that it was ill.
Another neighbour bought a Yorkie – easy to take on ‘planes apparently. Paid £500 and had to pay as much again to the local vet as soon as she’d got it because that was ill too.
I mention these two cases to point out that pedigree pups are not necessarily more healthy than street dogs. Nor do they always come with the correct papers.
The other week Partner was discussing the issue of bringing dogs/pups into Gib without papers. A few Gibbos told him about dogs that had been put down when Customs had found them. Hearsay? Don’t know, but not a risk I was prepared to take.
Different ways to home dogs
Let’s get into the nitty gritty, and start with the hierarchy. In my case the bottom of the heap gets priority. Abandoned, dumped, unwanted dogs. Strays. Street dogs. Call them what you will but when I was a kid it was popular to throw them out of car windows while speeding on motorways.
I mentioned this to someone and he’d only recently heard of it. Given that he’s only three years younger than me he must have led a sheltered life in a cave. People normally drive away from home to get rid of an unwanted animal (assuming they don’t knock it on the head or drown it) so that a young dog/pup can’t find its way back.
If it’s very young it doesn’t matter, as here in Spain it will just die in the full heat of the sun anyway. Or in a rubbish bin. Or wherever. Rubbish bins are popular places to dump dogs in Spain. We know a British couple whose daughter found puppies in a plastic bag by the bin. She took them home and they kept them, along with their other dogs.
Next in the hierarchy are dogs in rescue shelters. Some keep dogs for life, hence they are often full if no-one wants to home the dogs. Some kill them after a certain amount of time, for example Battersea Dogs Home, Britains most famous shelter, kills thousands of dogs a year, nearly three thousand in 2009.
Recent figures for 2012 say the charity (it’s a not-for-profit and receives no government funding) cared for 5221 dogs and 2760 cats in 2012. The euthanasia rate is 28%, so more than 1 in 4 animals gets killed. The really sensible Dangerous Dogs Act (irony, in case anyone hasn’t got my sense of sarcasm) means that dog legislation officers visit rescue kennels to decide which dogs are illegal and should be killed. Battersea is campaigning against the legislation as they say that more than 90% of the ‘dangerous’ dogs that are killed pose no threat to anyone, and breed-specific legislation for dangerous dogs is flawed.
Here are some sensible words:
A dog’s behavior is related to its owner’s behavior and how he or she trains the dog, and not any certain breed, she added.
“Evidence supports the theory that the genes responsible for physical characteristics are in no way related to the genes that contribute to behavioral characteristics,” Ms. Keating said. “The most violent dogs I have ever met are the ones owned by complete idiots with anger management problems.”
Read more at the Toledo Blade
Our GSD Prince was a cross between a street dog and a rescue. Although we had got him from a shelter he had been found on the street more than once and had been in and out of the shelter. Poor dog. He had dysentry when he was picked up before we homed him, he’d been scavenging out of rubbish bins.
Deteriorating up the hierarchy we have pet shops and puppy mills. I walked past a pet shop in our local Spanish town to see a British woman and her pals tapping on the window to get the cute puppy to move in its tiny cage. It has a bad enough life being caged up for 24 hours a day without some moron tantalising it. And no, I didn’t say anything. Not much point with people who are so thoughtless and unfeeling.
Someone told me he’d not realised they existed until he saw a TV prog. Um, where have you been? Another cave dweller. I might not have heard about them until this century but if you mix in any dog circles on the internet they soon come up pretty fast.
Most of us prefer some breeds to others. I’m no different to anyone else. When I was younger I so wanted an Afghan, a Borzoi, a Saluki, an Irish Setter. I loved the elegant racy appearance. Paddy was the nearest I got. Cross setter/Lab/maybe spaniel. We think. He was so fast he looked like he was flying. He thought he could as he liked to chase birds. Snowy is another hound group dog as Podencos have greyhound ancestry.
And when I’m not drooling over hounds and gundogs, I’m lusting after working dogs – just all of them. Well, maybe not Corgis.
So in the UK, if you want to rescue a specific breed it’s not exactly difficult. Greyhound, GSD, Ridgeback, Collie, presumably a whole range of others, they are just the ones I’m personally aware of. Greyhounds in particular, as we knew a woman who did a lot of work with rescue greyhounds. A bit like Podencos, they are often dumped once past their point of usefulness, in the case of greyhounds in racing, for Podencos in hunting.
But like all rescues, breed-specifics have their stigma too. People are worried that they are dumped at the breed rescue shelter because the dog is flawed, dangerous, barks, chews, isn’t house-trained, doesn’t like other dogs, cats, kids, whatever. And so, our person who wants a nice dog of a certain breed hot foots it off the breeder because pedigree puppies are the bees knees. And they don’t really want second hand goods that might mean a little work. It clearly escapes their notice that all the dogs in the breed specific rescue shelters will have come from … pedigree breeders.
At the top of the list in my hierarchy, we have pedigree breeders. Although I consider them to be a small notch up from puppy mills. The only difference being that dogs/puppies are better looked after. In most cases.
I have got into numerous arguments about this before so I will forestall some of the obvious comments.
1) Breeders do it for love not money (or love of money). Well if they like breeding puppies so much, why don’t they keep all of them? Not just the odd one or two? Or give them away and ask for the money to go to rescue shelters?
I have been told that after vets’ bills and numerous other unidentified costs that not only do they not make a profit by selling the pups, they incur a loss.
Somehow I find that hard to believe. At a cost of hundreds of pounds per pedigree pup, or maybe thousands, a litter can produce anything from £500 to a few grand.
Total cost for bringing up rubbish bin puppy at four or five weeks old? Cents. A few euros for bix and some goats cheese and yoghurt. No vet bills for either me or Rocío apart from jabs which any new owner would have to pay for anyway. No Royal Canine specially-formulated puppy food. Just the same bix that Pippa eats.
We had a feral cat who gave birth to her kitten in our workshop. I don’t think she spent a lot at her vet either.
2) Breeders have really healthy dogs and the puppies have good temperaments. Really? Remember the two ill pedigrees in Gib I mentioned earlier?
Healthy pups from breeders will also explain hip dysplasia in GSDs and breathing problems in overweight dogs/bulldog breeds. For example. There are more. Stupid ridiculous breed standards.
No doubt, the healthy pups from breeders myth also explains why my rescue dogs have all lived into double figures, with Paddy in his mid teens.
Great report here about ‘the price of a pedigree puppy’ and the health issues.
As for temperament, see later comparison in Part 2 re bought peds and rescue.
3) You will get a ‘better’ dog from a breeder and one that ‘meets your requirements’.
Get out of it. That one isn’t even worth refuting.
To be continued in the next post.