rescue dogsWhere do you go when you are looking for a dog? You could go to a breeder, get one from someone local having puppies, a pet store, a shelter or rescue.

Pet stores are not as popular as they once were due to the public finding out that many of the dogs come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are facilities that keep cage on top of cage of dogs that are bred over and over until they cannot produce anymore. Unfortunately, many of these facilities do not care about anything but the profit and keep the dogs in inhumane conditions. Many dogs lack medical care, are sickly, malnourished, and many die there. Loopholes in laws perpetuate the continuation of breeding facilities. In Ohio and other states, some Amish communities are also building a bad reputation for breeding dogs in deplorable conditions.

Shelters and Rescues

Shelters had a stigma of just having the unwanted dogs but many have taken great strides into being more in touch with the public and to showcase their great dogs on social media. Rescues are another great way to find your family pet.

About 6 to 8 million cats and dogs end up in shelters in the United States according to the Humane Society of the United States. About 1.2 million dogs are euthanized every year. In a 2012 article in The Columbus Dispatch, the number of dogs in Ohio’s county-run shelters is more than 100,000 annually. “The statewide average showed that 70 percent of the dogs were redeemed or adopted, and 30 percent were euthanized.” But “The euthanasia rates at individual county shelters varied tremendously.

Some dog wardens cautioned that it is difficult to compare urban and rural dog shelters because they take in vastly different numbers and types of dogs.” For example, “Lawrence County in southeastern Ohio euthanized 81 percent of its shelter dogs last year, by far the highest rate in the state. Carroll County in northeastern Ohio destroyed 1 percent, the lowest rate.”

Why Dogs End Up in Shelters and Rescues

The number one reason dogs end up in shelters is sheer overpopulation. There are more dogs than responsible families able to have dogs.

Many people choose not to spay and neuter their pets. Then they either purposely breed them or negligently let them wander, which leads to additional breeding. The term “back-yard breeder” is someone who purposely breeds a litter to try and make money off the puppies without properly taking care of the dogs and not doing any of the genetic testing. Genetic testing is very important for diseases that plague dogs.

You will hear people complain about how much a puppy costs initially but they don’t take into account the heath cost over the lifetime of the puppy. Back-yard breeding is what we are seeing with the overabundance of Pit Bull type dogs. Furthermore, people who breed Pits for fighting only further exacerbate the overpopulation epidemic. Pit bull type dogs have the highest euthanasia rate at 93%, as reported by a 2014 article by

Long Term Commitment

Another main reason dogs end up homeless is that many people do not do their research. They do not consider that getting a pet is a commitment for the lifetime of that animal and also what goes into caring for an animal. There is a monetary cost for care and time for training and exercise. Too many give up when their companion becomes too much work, inconvenient, or needs surgery/has a serious medical condition.

Other Common Reasons

  1. Lack of training or improper/fear-based training
  2. Lifestyle changes –  moving, new baby, allergies, health issues, biting, having too many other animals
  3. Sometimes the owner passes away and there is no one else who can care for the dog.

Stray and unwanted dogs may end up finding a home, but the majority of them end up in shelters and rescues.

Variety of Facilities for Stray and Unwanted Dogs

An animal control facility is necessary for the surrounding communities and can be run by a city or county. This facility is in place for stray or at large animals to reduce disease, overpopulation, and bites. They have animal control officers who help pick up animals and if they are lucky, they also have Veterinary staff. Funding is always a concern and some places have more than others. Some shelters, such as Akron’s own One of Kind Pets, is a privately funded facility.

Humane Societies typically take in abandoned or abuse cases. And then there are rescues. Most rescues are run by a group of dedicated volunteers. Rescues can be general or breed-specific. For instance, Paws and Prayers is an Akron based rescue that takes dogs and cats in need. Others like Greyhound Adoption of Ohio (GAO) are a breed-specific dog rescue. They get many dogs from the Greyhound tracks that can no longer compete. There are some very small rescue organizations where there are only a couple people doing what they can. There is even The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs catering to the older dog population.

So why are there so many different places? It’s the same answer…there really are this many animals in need of proper homes. Sometimes owners face legitimate issues and really have exhausted every resource, but many times people just dump the animal. They want to take it somewhere and be done. They don’t want to try and find a good home, try different training techniques or adjust their schedules.

If you are re-homing a dog, please be aware of unscrupulous people. In Akron there have been a number of incidents where someone will steal someone’s dog and then sell it to someone else who doesn’t know the dog was stolen. Sometimes the dog is stolen out of the yard or they work in teams while one person distracts you as the other steals your dog. Another, even worse fate for your dog, is that people pretending to be a great home take your dog and then use it for bait in Pit Bull fighting. Which is one more reason among many for harsher penalties for dog fighting.

Anything Wrong with Rescue Dogs?

There is a very common misconception that the dogs in shelters or rescues all have problems. Some do have some behavioral issues due to the original owners doing no training at all but most of these dogs can be re-trained. And positive reinforcement training is a great way to bond with your new companion.

Some of the dogs do have some health issues. Again, if vaccinations and regular Vet care was done in their first place, many health issues would have been taken care of. A common example is heartworm disease. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitos and by keeping your dog on heartworm preventative they do not get the disease. If someone doesn’t want to spend the money on the preventative, the dog can get heartworm, which is 100% fatal if untreated. It is also much more expensive to treat so some shelters do not have the funds to treat heartworm and the dogs might be euthanized. But more shelters are trying to treat heartworm positive dogs and find them homes.

Some people worry about serious health issues after they adopt a dog but that can happen no matter where you get a dog. Even routine care is going to cost money so you have be prepared to take care of your family pet. Some people worry about not knowing the background of a dog but sometimes the facility/rescue knows some or all of the background. Sometimes people want a certain breed of dog. 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreds and there are many breed-specific rescues. Small dogs and puppies get adopted the quickest in shelters. Some people can’t handle larger breeds or are renting with size restrictions on dogs. Most dogs are just happy to have a second chance at having a loving home.

With shelters you don’t always see the dog’s true personality since it is in such a harsh environment. Most rescues do foster homes and then they can get a better read on the dog’s temperament and personality to better match the right dog with the right family. Most shelters don’t have the resources to do that.

Challenges Faced By Shelters and Rescues

Money is the biggest issue for shelters and rescues. Budgets only go so far in shelters and they have a lot of expenses. And in rescues and shelters that are privately run, it’s even more challenging. The largest expense is typically health care. Often you hear people complain about the adoption fees but realistically, the health care shelters and rescues put into that dog is usually much higher than the adoption fee.

Rescues and shelters often have a “wish list” of supplies to help them help the animals. Not everyone can donate money but you can donate blankets, towels, cleaning supplies. Every place is a little different on what they can accept so make sure to check first. Another way to help is to donate your time. Volunteering is a great way to help out. Rescues always need volunteers and many shelters really can use help too. It can mean the difference of a dog getting some quality outside time and a chance to show their real personality.

What To Expect When Adopting

When an Animal Control officer brings a dog into a shelter, there is a 3-day hold before the dog is put up for adoption or euthanized. If the pet got loose this gives the owners time to find their pet and reclaim them. When you adopt from a shelter you can many times take the dog home that day. Shelters do not have the resources to screen applicants. There are also a pretty high number of return dogs coming back to shelter if things don’t work out. When going through a private shelter or rescue, there is a more lengthy process. When adopting from a rescue, there can be an initial application, a phone interview, a home visit, and calls to your Vet if you have current pets. Do not be discouraged about it taking longer if choosing a rescue. They do all this (almost always on their own personal time) to match the right family with the right dog. Yes, they are going to be more particular who is able to adopt through them too, but there is a significantly smaller amount of return dogs this way. Also, usually the dogs from a rescue are in foster homes. The foster home can get a better idea of the dog’s temperament and personality. In a shelter a dog may act aggressive or scared just by being in a cage. Not all rescues do everything exactly the same either.

Also in The Columbus Dispatch article, Ohio shelters vary in how they are operated and how they facilitate which dogs are “adoptable” or should be saved. One important thing their research showed was that, “How well a shelter performs in saving the most dogs reflects the outlook and philosophy of the individual dog warden, Granito said. The best ones promote adoption, welcome volunteers and visitors into their shelters, and work with rescue groups, thereby reducing euthanasia rates, he said.” One local example of this is how Summit County Animal Control works with Pay it Forward Pets who come in weekly to take photos of the new incomers and promote them on the SCAC facebook page.

Please consider saving the life of a shelter or rescue dog. When you open your home and heart to a homeless dog, you are saving two lives…that dog and the one who takes their place.

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