Monday, 8 March 2010

Top 5 misconceptions about Dogs Trust and rescue dogs

I've been at Dogs Trust nearly two years now, and in that time I've learned a few things about the animal welfare world that have surprised me. I now know a lot more about rehoming and the way that animals are handed in and found new homes, and also a lot more about dogs (I hold my hands up: I have cats!). So it doesn't surprise me that a lot of what was new to me is also new to our supporters.

I thought, therefore, I'd take the time to clear up a few myths and misconceptions that seem to hang around Dogs Trust and rescue dogs. If you have any to add, please comment away!

1. A visit to a rehoming centre is depressing

Certainly there'll be at least one resident who tugs at your heartstrings, but - and I can only speak for our centres here, but I expect it's the same at most organisations - rehoming centres are not, essentially, depressing places. They're light, airy, positive spaces. Some of our older centres do have the old metal bar type doors, but for several years now we've moved to glass doors as these are more calming for the dogs. The newer designs are often at an angle, too, so that people can see lots of dogs at once but the dogs can't see each other.

All kennels are heated, and most contain two dogs which keep each other company and are littered with beds, toys and other comforting bits and bobs. They have freely accessible indoor and outdoor areas for wandering about and there are big outside spaces and training areas for their full daily exercise and play. Yes, there's no doubt about it, it does move you to see so many dogs in need of a new home. But the stickers and pictures attached to the kennels, friendly staff, bright yellow surroundings and general well being of the dogs mean that it's not the distressing event it sounds.

My husband had never been to a centre so I took him along for an afternoon in Harefield. "I didn't realise it was going to be so lovely," he commented. "It's a really positive place, isn't it?". It's not the first time I've heard that from a first-timer at one of our centres!

Oh, and if you'd like to see what Harefield is like for yourself and can't visit, check out Sarah-Jane Honeywell's video about rehoming that was filmed on the site.

2. All rescue dogs have problems

Dogs come to Dogs Trust for a huge variety of reasons. Common ones include financial crisis, a change in family circumstances which means that the dog won't get the attention he / she deserves and moving with no possibility of the dog coming along. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but shows that very often the reason dogs come to us is nothing to do with the dog or the dog's behaviour.

We also get strays and lost dogs handed on from Local Authorities and other organisations. But being a stray doesn't mean that the dog automatically has problems. Hubble, the so-called ugliest dog in Britain, was abandoned but also had the sweetest, friendliest and most trusting temperament of any dog you could hope to meet.

On the flipside, of course some dogs come with attendant issues, some easier to train out of them than others. Some dogs are nervous of newcomers so show themselves off badly in kennels, or bark anxiously. Dogs referred to as special often need a bit of extra care as they've been with us for six months or longer, and of course our Sponsor Dogs are generally dogs that find it tricky to get a home. No matter what, we'll never put a healthy dog down.

Because every single dog is different, all rehoming at Dogs Trust is done on an individual basis. We try to find the right home for that dog, matching them to the owner that suits them best. If you're a first time dog owner that needs that extra help to choose, we'll be there for you. And all owners of Dogs Trust dogs get access to support from our staff for the rest of that dog's life.

3. You can't get puppies from a rescue centre

For obvious reasons, puppies are in high demand. We sometimes have people thinking we don't have any because not many appear on our online search; it's simply that they come and go rather quickly! We do take in litters of pups and we have looked after many a pregnant dog that has given birth in the centre (and been promptly neutered when the pups are weaned).

Puppies are, however, a big undertaking. There is a lot to consider when rehoming a pup and we'll be just as careful to match the right dog to the right owner when they're tiny as at any other age.

4. You can't rehome if you have young children

That, as with most things at a rehoming centre, totally depends on the dog. Dogs Trust has no blanket policy on younger children as every dog is assessed individually for their suitability with children. The search might take that bit longer in some cases; however, there are plenty of dogs that come in from families who have children and have lived with infants and toddlers. Assuming they're otherwise suitable for the home, they will be considered.

In some cases - where otherwise appropriate - the centre might recommend the family goes for a puppy, that can be socialised around young children from the start. Your best bet is always to give the centre staff as much detail as possible so that the right choice can be made.

5. The dogs are free!

They're not, but here's why not. Our rehoming fee is around £80-£100 (it varies across the UK), but there are good reasons why we ask for it. All dogs that come from a Dogs Trust centre go home with the following benefits:
  • They're neutered (or have a voucher for neutering at no further cost if they're too young)
  • They're microchipped
  • They're vaccinated and vet checked
  • They're insured for four weeks with PetPlan
  • They come with lifelong support from the centre when it's needed
You even get a collar and lead and a pre-adoption talk to help you get started on the right footing.

Feeding a dog in a centre for a week costs £2.50. You can probably imagine what the other running costs like heating the kennels, vet care, staff etc add up to. So the adoption fee helps us keep helping other dogs long after you've taken your lovely new addition home.


I hope that helped answer a few questions and maybe made you think about coming to visit one of our centres soon! There's lots more information about rehoming on our website, too.

By the way, 'me' in this post is this person here. I write most of the posts at the moment, but you'll sometimes see Lo pop up and we're hoping for some more folks writing soon, too.
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