Thursday, March 10, 2016

The thin line between right and wrong

Can and should every dog be saved? That's a question every rescuer and animal lover should spend some time really thinking about. It's a very touchy subject in the animal loving world. All of the big hearted animal lovers of course want to say yes,  save them all ! Is that really accurate though, and is it fair? Unfortunately hearts aren't the only oversized things in the rescue world,  far too many egos fit that description as well.  This is an excerpt from a post that I came across recently for a dog in a shelter;  "Bares teeth, growls, barks and charges the kennel trying to bite the assessor through the kennel.
02/29/16 15:58 mucopurulent ocular discharge, muscle atrophy, lichneification, hyperpigmentation, alopecia of chest and abdomen. yeasty smell. suspect allergies." This describes a highly aggressive dog, a dog who, in my opinion, hasn't been properly cared for in a home environment. Is this dog truly aggressive or is it fear and confinement causing this response? That's where things get difficult. Most shelter workers and volunteers aren't really qualified to do assessments on the animals that come in to a shelter. There really isn't time to do a thorough assessment either, sadly most shelters are busy places.
In a "perfect " world, only breed or behavior specific rescues would be able to pull this dog. A qualified assessor would evaluate the dog to determine the likelihood of successful rehabilitation. The dog would then go to a very skilled foster with no other animals to begin the process of becoming adoptable, or even more ideally, the dog would go to a behavior correction training facility. The dog would remain there until all the undesirable behaviors are corrected and the dog can safely be placed in a home. Of course the final placement would need to be carefully considered,  this dog may never be suitable for a family with children, but it could be great in a working home. A qualified person needs to make this decision as well.
Sadly we don't live in a perfect world. Dogs are not always pulled by the most qualified or appropriate rescues. Most often these dogs are pulled by those with the biggest hearts or the biggest ego's . Neither of these scenarios is ideal for a dog like this. What happens if the dog truly is aggressive and the behaviors don't diminish outside of the shelter? This opens up the possibility of many bad situations.
No one wants to admit defeat and put a dog down. This is absolutely heartbreaking,  and a very difficult decision to make. First of all, you face the "critics" the people who will criticize and attempt to paint you as a bad rescue. We've all heard the stories of the "horrible" rescues who pull dogs and then have them euthanized. Rarely do we hear the whole story in these situations. We mostly hear a lot of negativity and condemnation from the computer critics and the arm chair experts. Some dogs truly can't be saved, that's just the way it is. They are too badly damaged for too long. Prolonged attempts to help them will prove too dangerous, costly, and ultimately futile. The cost of trying to rehabilitate an aggressive dog goes  beyond just financial, time, danger and frustation are all elements here. Plus, what about all the other wonderful,  highly adoptable dogs who are not pulled because the rescues have committed all their resources to saving a high risk dog? How many dogs die each day because of these scenarios?
I don't have all the answers to these dilemmas, I would love to save them all! Unfortunately my common sense and experience with dogs tells me that's just not possible. I would love to see more common sense and intelligent handling of aggressive dogs in shelters and the rescue community. Please get an ACCURATE assessment of a dog before you decide to pull it, and please have a realistic plan for it after you pull.