Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Didn't Someone Save This Dog?? The Answer...

Today my Facebook page was covered with pictures of this dog:
Dog #251018

Dog #251018 was found as a stray and held by a Good Samaritan for three days, then after getting into a fight with another dog in the home, was turned into the local animal control facility.  A plea quickly went out to local rescue groups to find someone to pull her.  Various people offered to donate to any rescue that pulled her to help with her vet fees, and she ended up with over $100 in sponsorship money.  Her picture was shared over 220 times and more and more people begged someone to please save this dog. 

Today there was even someone who offered to keep the dog until the end of June when she moves out of state, and someone else offered to board the dog if a foster home had not been found by then. However the dog could only be released from the shelter if a certified rescue took her.  And in spite of everyone's best efforts and good intentions, still no rescue had stepped up for this dog by the deadline, and she will now be euthanized. 

At this point, many people begin looking for someone to blame.  Why won't the shelter keep this dog longer?  Why won't any rescues step up?  The vetting cost is covered and there is a temporary foster home, so why will no rescue put their name on this dog and take responsibility for it?  Whose fault is it??

Dog #251018

Do we blame the shelter - an animal control facility who is not known for giving dogs any more time than required by law to find a home?  If the shelter gave her until Saturday could a rescue be found by then?  It's possible.  But if they waited until Saturday and still no rescue stepped up, should they give her another week?  And what should they do with the dogs who come in between now and Saturday?  If all the cages are full, where do they go with the new dogs? 

What about the dozens of rescues who routinely pull from this shelter?  Why did none of them step up?  There were so many people willing to help this dog, so the rescues didn't have to find funds for vetting or a foster home or anything - they just had to be willing to put their name on the dog to have her pulled and save her life!

As one of those rescuers who saw the pleas and still said no, I'd like to tell you why.  When the dog is only days or hours from being euthanized, everyone wants to save her life.  But then the excitement dies down, another dog comes along, and all of a sudden everyone is clamoring for someone to save that dog.  In the meantime, the first dog is sitting in a shelter or a foster home, waiting patiently to be adopted.  And waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Several of my foster dogs, such as Juno and Annie B, were pulled from this same animal control facility (I don't always say no!)  They also had sponsorship money and people begging a rescue to save them.  So now they're saved, but because of their issues, they haven't been adopted.  They take months or years to find permanent homes, and in the meantime that takes away foster home space from more adoptable dogs that could be saved. 

Dog #251018 was a dog-aggressive pit bull mix.  She was not going to be easy to adopt out.  In fact, I have been fostering a dog similar to this one for over three years and still haven't been able to find him a home.  Ziggy now lives in my basement, with minimal human interaction, because I can't trust him around the other foster dogs I have upstairs.  In spite of years of training, earning his Canine Good Citizen certification, attending adoption events, being featured in magazines and new shows, and being shared all over the Internet, he still does not have a home.  I am not being picky with who adopts him (far from it), but very few people are willing and able to adopt a dog-aggressive pit bull, and there are so many of them out there already that finding a home for one - especially one that is already "in a foster home" - is very difficult. 


Ziggy the Adoptable Dog
 There's one more reason that we stay away from dogs who have a foster home offer from someone that hasn't fostered dogs before.  Many people see a sad picture of a dog and feel an instant desire to help.  That same desire is quickly overcome by frustration when the dog comes into their home as a foster and they realize the dog isn't house-trained, loves to eat couches, and picks fights with their own dogs.  The majority of time a temp foster steps up to take a dog they feel sorry for, within a week they will be contacting the rescue saying they can no longer foster that dog.  And then the rescue who took responsibility for the dog once again has a difficult-to-place dog and nowhere for her to go.  This is why we urge people who want to save a dog to foster a dog that is already in our rescue.  Then we can tell them more about what the dog is like, and if they find out that the frustrations of taking in an untrained rescue dog outweigh their desire to help, we also have a place for that rescue dog to go back to.  The rescue I volunteer with has many wonderful foster homes who take in these difficult-to-place dogs (like the foster home who has Juno right now) and they make it possible for the dogs to live.  Unfortunately we don't have enough foster homes like them to be able to save dog #251018. 

Do you wonder why the animal control facility would only release dog #251018 to a rescue group instead of an adopter?  Two weeks ago we were at an adoption event and a young girl showed up.  She had a cute black Husky mix with her that had been about to be put down at another animal control facility near the one where dog #251018 came from.  She saved the dog's life, but when she got the dog home, her parents said she couldn't keep him.  The animal control facility had not had the dog spayed or neutered, so we took in the dog, got him neutered, heartworm tested, microchipped, and all those other things responsible rescue groups do before adopting out dogs.  Then we found him a home with a wonderful family who was prepared to add a dog to their life.  He was one of the lucky ones, but so many others don't have that luck.  They either end up at another animal control facility (or back where they started) and end up being euthanized, or they are given away and never get any medical care or a home where they are properly cared for.  They may end up with owners who aren't responsible and the dog may injure another animal or a human, or the dog may be sold to research or used as a bait dog in a dog-fighting ring.  There are a lot of bad things that can happen to dogs, and if a shelter takes a high-risk dog like dog #251018 and gives her away to anyone who wants to save her, she'll more likely end up suffering more before being killed. 

So if it's not the rescue group's fault for not saving her and it's not the shelter's fault, who do we blame?  Sometimes I'm tempted to blame all the people who say "someone should do something!" but don't do anything themselves, but truthfully it isn't their fault either.  And in fact most people DO do something, whether it is fostering, volunteering at a shelter or rescue group, or donating.  They are the solution to the problem.  So who does that leave? 

Do we blame the owner because they didn't care enough about this girl to go looking for her when she got lost? Or maybe they dumped her, figuring someone would find her and give her a good home. Did they know she'd end up sitting scared and alone in a shelter and then be killed? Did they care?

I don't like to blame anyone without knowing the full story - and in almost every case, we don't know the full story - so I'm going to choose not to blame anyone, and instead to focus on finding a home for Ziggy, and all the other dogs that also need homes.  I hope you will join me in saving dogs whatever way you can.

33 comments:

Jen Kapeller said...

Well explained Lori - this is the side of rescue that the "public" needs to see and understand. Kudo's to you!

Dog Foster Mom said...

Thanks Jen! I was a little worried about sharing it so i really appreciate that! :-)

Rebekah said...

Excellent post. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Sara said...

Exactly! There are a lot of great dogs who need homes, and as rescuers we need to make tough choices. We need to only place dogs responsibly, and sometimes that means that certain dogs can't be placed or take a very long time to place. It's never easy.

Lori Burkhardt said...

Excellent commentary. Thank you!

beth green said...

Nicely said. My motto is do what you can when you can. Wish we could save them all. Wish there weren't so many needing our help. Very sad situation and reflection upon our society in general!

www.grandmasmad3ringcircus.com said...

I know we can't save them all, but these stories are so sad! It has to be heart breaking for someone as
close to the situation as you.

Thanks so much for sharing

Barb's Cats and Quilts said...

Ditto to what everyone else said. Nice job.

Ruth Elledge said...

Terrific article, Laurie!

Dexter said...

Excellent post. A lot of sadness, but rescue organizations and foster homes can only do so much.

You're spot on that people see a cute face, get all excited, then move on to the next cute face.

If an organization can pour resources into one dog aggressive dog who might not get adopted v. half a dozen well tempered dogs with some medical issues, they sometimes have to choose the path that does the most good for the most dogs.

There isn't anybody to blame here.

Mango Momma

Anonymous said...

I am a foster mom for Pit Bulls & extra large breeds for a local rescue. I fully agree with everything you said. It's just a lot to try to explain to people and most still don't understand or don't care enough to get the whole picture. I have to say NO a lot even tho I never want to. I'm a realist . Laura

acd6pack said...

I too agree - very well written and it is the often misunderstood and not realized truth.

As you wrote, we all must do what we can. I really didn't want to add another dog right now (we're trying to sell the house) but...we got a foster. Why? Because we want to help and the rescue had nowhere for Twiggy to go.

Mango Momma put it very well in her comment also.

Tough decisions but rescuers have to be tough.

Anonymous said...

This post will probably not sit well with this community who is devoted to fostering and rescuing dogs in need, but I have to ask, why is it more humane to keep Ziggy locked in a basement rather then having him euthanized? If a dog is aggressive towards other dogs such that it cannot have normal social encounters, if a dog bites people, that dog should be should be euthanized to protect the dog, and society as a whole. Remember, it is just a dog, not a god. You ask why does this happen? It happens because we have too many dogs and not enough good homes. It is due to indiscriminate breeding, with no thought for the puppy's future, breeding for financial gain, and breeding from carelessness and ignorance. It comes from teaching dogs to fight other dogs, to encourage their natural prey and fighting drives. If I were to foster dogs, I would take only dogs that had the potential to enter polite society. I would rely on a behaviorist for advise. I would not take on a dog that was dangerous to my dogs or to people in my house.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, and so true! This is something that NEEDS to be told, because people just don't seem to get it.

However, I do think their is a blame, and that all starts with the person who irresponsibly bred their dogs and sold them for money with little thought or care as to where they would end up. It's also the owners fault for not caring about the poor girl. The people who create these dogs/dump these dogs that end up in shelters don't know what it's like when WE are the ones in the room watching them get put to sleep and comforting them in their last moments.

At the end of the day though, pointing blame won't solve the problem. Taking ACTION solves the problem. Not every dog can be saved but we need to focus on the dogs we can save...rescue never ends, their are always dogs in need.

Dog Foster Mom said...

Thank you all for your comments! Anonymous #2 - I struggle with those same questions every day regarding whether or not it is fair to Ziggy to keep trying to adopt him out when he has to live in less than ideal conditions while he waits for a home. As rescuers this is a decision that we do deal with and take very seriously. I have made the tough decision to euthanize a dog who was dog aggressive (you can read about my guy Jupiter here: http://www.dogfostermom.com/search/label/Jupiter) I miss him all the time but I know I made the best choice for all involved. I've debated the same with Ziggy (http://www.dogfostermom.com/2011/02/failing-ziggy.html) but we've worked with several trainers with him and his situation is very different than Jupiter's. First, Ziggy prefers not to be around other pets, but he can safely be around pets as long as closely monitored. Even if he shows aggression it would not result in another animal being seriously injured, unlike the situation with Jupiter. So he is not a risk to society or to other pets, and he has no people aggression at all. And while it is hard to think of him in the basement alone all day, he really does not seem to mind it. He always goes to his "bachelor pad" as we call it, whenever we ask, and never shows any signs of being unhappy. I can go down to spend time with him and he completely ignores me - he really doesn't seem attention starved. It's hard not to feel sorry for him for not having his own family, but as long as he seems happy it doesn't make much sense for me to euthanize him. I hope that helps answer some of your questions. :-)

Anonymous said...

I blame irresponsible breeders trying to make a quick buck. I see the suffering all the time of stray dogs and feel the pain and fear in their eyes. This article was written very well. Every dog I rescue comes to my house until owner can be found or a new home. I fear for my dogs with every pup that come in but I can't leave any animal in need. I wish more people who claim to dogs would step up and help more.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I'm glad you shared, I've fostered one time, it was a very bittersweet experience, and I'm not sure I have the strength to do it again as I grew very attached to the little girl, but could not offer her the best forever home. So many people don't understand the rescue world, and it fantastic that you shared.

Wildlife Rehabilitator said...

Oh thank you thank you thank you for putting everything into words that I wanted to and could not!

Stella said...

Thanks for saying the things that need to be said, no matter how tragic it is. I've said that if all else fails and a dog or a cat, etc., can't find a home or a rescue, it probably is for the best to euthanize. I would not want to live in a cage 24/7, that's not living. A dog is a pack animal, loving and loyal and very lonely if isolated, which may be the cruelest treatment of all. I would rather see them at peace than at cruel hands that would mistreat and abuse them. There are so many that need caring homes and although I don't believe in throwing any of them away like trash, I do believe that in the end it may be the best thing for them - if humanely euthanized with someone caring beside them.
FB has been a wonderful tool to save animals, but if you're not on a mission to tag, share, donate, rescue, foster, adopt, transport, then it might be better to take a step back. The best first step is to go to an animal shelter, visit them, walk them, pet them, they would love all of the attention that you can give them. And above all keep spreading the word and sharing their pictures and stories, and maybe all of us together who keep trying to save their lives will be rewarded with caring people and homes for them. I really feel it is a sin to put healthy animals to sleep, but a kindness should they be suffering. We can't save them all, but we shouldn't give up trying either. Thank you for allowing me to comment.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Having worked in a shelter and having known many rescues and fosters I appreciate you sharing this. It is far too easy on an emotional issue like this for people to throw blame which at the end of the day gets us no where.

Kolchak Puggle said...

What a heartfelt post about a very real problem. It's so sad to see this happen, but rescue's face this problem all the time. Thank you for sharing it.

dale said...

Why is he always n the basement if he wouldnt kill another animal?? I c where u said he likes it that way. ..Doesnt make to much sence to me I dont get it... the only dogs that I know of that doesnt like being loved on by people r the ones that have been abused before and they r terrified of people ....

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Our rescue for senior dogs is always being asked to take a dog because the shelter or a group of volunteers with the shelter has found a foster willing to help. We are often criticized for saying no, but we use only our own trained and experienced fosters for exactly the reasons you mentioned. They are already committed to our cause, and they know what to do when an older dog shows separation anxiety or aggression or a serious health issue. Except for the most extreme circumstances, our fosters are willing to go the distance with our dogs, serving as a hospice home if the old dog develops health issues that make him unlikely to be adopted and working through behavioral or emotional issues.

But I am sad about the circumstances of Ziggy's life. We do not believe in "no-kill" without quality of life, and a basement is not a quality existence, at least not for the long haul.

Have you advertised for a foster home with no resident dogs? Or considered boarding where he would be exercised and handled a good portion of the day? We have used these options over the years, and they are life savers.

Media coverage for Ziggy might bring you some help, too. Of course, you may well have tried these options, and I am certainly not criticizing or challenging the decisions you make based on first-hand knowledge of this particular dog.

There IS blame to be assigned, but it probably does not really matter in the long run. Shelters that release dogs without spaying or neutering share a large part of the blame. Rescues that operate irresponsibly and without regard to the long-term safety and happiness of the dog share some of the blame. Facebook posters who do little beyond criticize the work of serious rescuers and shelters share part of the blame as well. Irresponsible owners, a public that turns a blind eye, there are many to blame and few to help. And there is plenty of blame to go around without assigning it to one particular individual or group.

Thank you for posting the hard facts about why some reputable rescues say no to fosters and pledges and what is often the hysteria that surrounds rescue in the social media.

J. Marsh said...

I think it has gone on for so long that we accept that it's up to volunteers etc. to foot the bill. Government in the final analysis is responsible for the safety of it's people with respect to animal control. How they fund it and what value they place on it is a result of the voter. I guess it's easy for the government to do the minimum and count on compassionate people out there to pick up their slack. We need to demand that these issues become important election issues. Tax deductions would help on a variety of issues. The end of conflicting state, local and association laws would help. Animals being included in disaster recovery budgets would help. Government enforcement would help. I've seen many posts this week, "oh, don't worry they'll never enforce the law."....so the laws that could help get ignored. If abandonment could be enforced, how many less animals would be on the streets? Pet owners are the largest group of voters in the United States, add to that people who love animals but don't own pets....yet we don't have political power. Could it be as easy as standing up at the next political gathering and asking, "What is your proposed budget for animals?" If the government is truly doing their job, then the private shelters, rescue groups would have openings for those special need animals.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I know a disabled woman who, at this very moment is in a serious bind because she took a young dog who was going to be killed, had demodectic mange. She worked hard to get this girl healthy - and now she is being threatened with eviction. Yet all those folks who scream and cry "save them" are unable or unwilling to do anything. She truly loves the dog - but CAN NOT KEEP HER. She will eventually wind up having to take her back to a shelter or lose her own home........

Anonymous said...

There are so many sides to every story. It's easy to jump to conclusions and try to place blame, but the truth is that many try their best to help and there's no perfect solution to every situation. It's sad, but not every animal can be saved.

dustypooch said...

Thank you for your eye opening article. I work with a rescue group and a majority of our dogs are pit/pit-mix. They are very hard to adopt out due to their label of being aggressive. Everyone wants to adopt the little cute ones. Sometimes a decision like euthanasia is the only thing left. Unfortunately, there's just not enough room at the rescues and fosters to save everyone. I pray everyday for a better life for all those abandoned pets.

Dog Foster Mom said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!
Dale - I've fostered over two hundred dogs and have never met a dog like Ziggy before. He has no fear issues but also doesn't like to be petted or touched. He loves going on walks, and learning obedience or new tricks, and he's the most food obsessed dog I have ever met, but he really is not interested in people unless they have food or take him on walks. It is seriously weird - we've trained him (with food rewards) to accept petting from people but he never seeks it out. He also wouldn't kill another animal but would try to start a fight over resources (food, toys, space, etc) pretty quickly so he can only be around other animals if very carefully managed. He has free run of the entire basement with a dog door to his own private yard, so it's not ideal but it's better than being caged all the time and as I said, he doesn't seem unhappy with it. I want him to have his own home more than anything, but until that home comes along I'm doing the best I can for him.

Anonymous poster after Dale - Thanks for your comment! I appreciate any suggestions for trying to get Zigster a home. I have tried to find a foster home without other pets, but no luck yet. Usually once they know he's hard to adopt people don't want to foster him! And boarding would be pretty expensive - our rescue group doesn't board dogs except for occasional short-term emergency situations, and I don't think we could afford to board a dog for years (keeping in mind I've been trying to find him a home for over 3 years already). He has been on the local news (FOX) as well as local cable channels. He's been advertised all over the city (he has his own business cards) and on the Internet with his own website (www.adoptziggy.com) and his own Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ziggytheadoptabledog) with his 1200+ friends. He has been to adoption events and won awards at local events like the Pet Expo which has thousands of potential adopters. He's been in the pet section of People magazine and on several blogs (there is a full list on his website). So I'm grateful for any ideas on how to get him a home, and will do whatever I can to make that happen!

Valerie said...

Dog Foster Mom, Can I please use some of what you wrote on my new website? I need to revise it to fit my needs, but I would credit you as the writer and link your website. Thanks, Valerie Henson, Austin, Texas. Pack Team 4 Street Dog Rescues packteam4.org

waterstork said...

As a foster mom I am crying my eyes out for rescues. They daily make the tough decisions that they cry about when done. It is Terrible to be the one that leaves that unadoptable dog to die in the shelter. Our Rescue tries to balance the adoptable with the "Project" adoptees. A hard to place dog may take out one of your most experienced foster parents for a long time. In this time these parents could have rescued 5 dogs. It is a horrible, horrible decision to make.

Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago I found a stray pitmix, running in traffic, scared to death and injured. I snatched him up and took him to the vet. They said he had been used as a bait dog. As an amstaff mix momma, I was familiar with the stereotypes that go along with having a "pitbull type" dog and was always quick to dismiss them, my baby is crazy but he is not aggressive in the least. I can honestly say I didn't think seriously about dog fighting, I thought of it as something that didn't happen close to me. Seeing this poor pitiful boy's wounds, all at different stages of healing, broke my heart. I cried for two days trying to figure out what to do with him. I ended up being able to foster him out through my local animal control (there are some angels there!), he's laying at my feet right now and I'm overwhelmed by his trust in me. I pray to God I can find him a good home. Thank you for everything you do, you are a truly special person. Prayers for Ziggy as well.

Anonymous said...

To so many in rescues they are not just dogs to us. That insulting to say to someone who cares for the dogs who sees the hard times and has to make hard decisions on which dog gets pulled out of the pound. Its not just a dog. That is a living creature who doesn't deserve to die just because they don't like other dogs. Dogs dislike other dogs just like people dislike other people.

P Petry said...

I've been in animal rescue for just over 30 years, your post was spot on, thank you for writing it and sharing it and thank you for all you do.