A UK Rescue dog Romanian Rescue Dogs
One of the most frequently asked questions and ‘justifications’ that we are forced to give is why we ‘bring dogs over from abroad when there are so many dogs here in pounds in the UK’. This controversy over foreign rescue dogs baffles us for a number of reasons.
We believe that if you truly love dogs, no organisation working hard to save them should be ‘controversial’. Here we share the five main reasons we rescue from abroad – and several home truths which we hope will help people to understand and enable them to cultivate a fresh perspective on dog rescue here and abroad.
1/ Borders are man-made
Firstly, a dog in need is just that, no matter which part of the planet he or she was born. Countries are a concept. As humans we have defined portions of the planet and split them into territories…dogs don’t see that. Neither do we. We will take dogs in need no matter where they are from, and what they have been through. We actively help dogs who without places to go such as ours would almost certainly die in the unspeakable horror of ‘kill shelters’ in Romania and Bulgaria.
2/ British rescue breeds are ‘undesirable’
Most people won’t rehome a Staffie. This is a fact. Yet many of the most desperate dogs we receive pleas for are Staffies, bull breeds, dogs that many people visiting our rescue refuse to even be in a room with, let alone consider welcoming into their family. To be clear – we do rescue desperate death row cases in the UK – but for those who point the finger it’s important to state this.
As our followers know, we rescue desperate cases from the UK as well as from around the world and the reality is that there are nowhere near enough homes for dogs in need but there are even fewer homes out there for Staffies. If we emptied as many of the UK pound kennels as we could it would undoubtedly almost all be Staffies. They would then live here unwanted for years and we would be at capacity and unable to save any more. I adore Staffies and would happily live with a rescue full but we have to use our capacity and time to save as many lives as possible and that means making choices no one should have to make. The UK rescue problem is, put simply, a Staffie problem. The lack of homes for them is a huge issue, along with the over breeding and the cultural problem created by the media. We do our best to try to change people’s opinions on Staffies where we can, but it’s not going to change fast as it appears ingrained in many and something desperately needs to be done to control the breeding of them to help alleviate the problem.
Maybe people’s anger and confusion about why we would choose to save foreign dogs comes from overwhelm due to the problem of too many dogs here in rescue. I totally get it when you see all the Staffies dying in the pounds here and feel powerless to save them yet see people bring over beautiful fluffy dogs (who would have died in a pounds in Cyprus) – as it seems crazy – but we have come to realise the reason why, after many years of learning about people (and dogs).
The people who rehome the fluffy dogs were NEVER going to have gone to a dog’s home and rescued a Staffie. Believe me, we make it very clear that if anyone likes Staffies we will always promote them and home them and if we don’t have one suitable we’ll direct them to other rescues. This is because there are too few homes for staffs and so it’s important that these homes are not taken up by other dogs who have more chance of being homed to those who won’t take a staff. It’s a ridiculous balancing act to try to ensure as few lose out as possible as sadly that’s as good as it gets in rescue. This is the devastating reality. In Cyprus there’s very few bull breeds in the pounds, same as Ireland (hence Dog’s Trust getting variety from over the water too).
Many of the people who criticise us on social media wouldn’t rehome a breed like a Staffie – many actually contributed to the crisis here in the UK through buying their dog from a breeder – something which is wholly unnecessary given the surplus of deserving dogs who need a home.
3/ A new perspective = new homes
Through our innovative new way to run a rescue (kennel free) we are creating a new market for rescue dogs. We have changed the format of the traditional rescue centre and are challenging he image of the traditional rescue dog (a dog with ‘issues’). We are not taking homes from those who would ordinarily go to the local dog pound, we are creating homes for rescue dogs with people who would not have gone to rescues before.
We are not taking homes from dogs here in the UK, as many claim. Instead we are creating a new market for rescue dogs. We are trying to (and achieving) an increase the number of people who will take on a ‘rescue dog’ – to change the image of the rescue dog from the Staffie to one of any type you choose – because the reality is that even though the UK has huge issues with the number of dogs in rescue. 99 per cent of these are poor staff types but if you want a rescue, the kind you want will be there, just maybe not in this country. These dogs stand no chance of being rescued in their own country, therefore anything other than going and funding breeding is a positive. It should be encouraged, not slammed.
4/ Our rescue is unique
We run a group dog rescue – this is often more suited to foreign dogs who are more used to pack environments and, in general, cope better than UK dogs. We use our foreign dogs to help rehabilitate the UK rescue dogs and make them more social and therefore homeable. It is even questionable whether this would work with just UK rescues, as street dogs often have much fewer issues than any of the UK dogs we take in, but that’s a whole other blog…
5/ There is a bigger issue to address
It surprises us that people can be so angry about the way we run our rescue, yet fail to feel our frustration at the wider issue – a crisis of dogs building up in pounds and rescues whilst people continue to insist on buying from breeders. There are never going to be enough homes for rescue dogs so it comes down to numbers. Saving as many lives as possible.
Our mission to succeed in making a big difference on dog rescue for the future, for change to happen for the image of rescue dogs and to rebuild people’s trust in ‘the rescue dog’, we must offer variety in rescue. To do this we look at pounds further afield, though obviously the dogs there are just as deserving and in need. We see no sense in judging the ‘worthiness’ of a dog needing a rescue space based on where they were born. This is ironic given that so many people judge rescues based on their breed and where they come from, yet feel anger towards us for doing the best we can.
Dogs Trust choose to go to Ireland and bring over truckloads of non-staffs to fill up their centres here each week. Either people are unaware of this or it doesn’t worry them as much because it’s just over the sea. Either way, it appears to be more acceptable to people than going further afield and bringing in ‘immigrant dogs’.
Challenging the overall perspective of rescue dogs from overseas
The astounding lack of compassion for the ‘foreign dogs’ that we experience isn’t just limited to the ignorance of some but is widespread throughout rescues in the UK and even, somehow more sadly, a lot of vets.
The dogs in shelters or on the streets in Eastern Europe have some of the toughest existences of dogs anywhere in the world. They suffer the cruellest treatment and indescribable abuse at the hands of people. They stand no other chance and they will die too – same as the dogs over here. A very tiny proportion get saved. But the real question is why should we save one life over another based solely on the place the dog was born? This is as ludicrous as saying that one dog is worth more than another. But people do, and so the justification continues. Hopefully this blog will help educate those who criticise those of us saving foreign dogs.
What we have been very successful at is changing the perceptions. Through our Daycare 4 Dogs centre, where we have matched and rehomed hundreds of dogs of all kinds to customers, as second dogs etc – and these guys are our best adverts. The majority of these people probably wouldn’t have considered a rescue for all the usual and valid concerns of not knowing how the dog would get on and the inadequacies of UK kennel systems for matching people to dogs.
A fresh approach to dog rescue
There have always been rescue dogs in need of loving homes. And yet over the years numbers have increased, not reduced. For us it’s important to challenge perceptions and start to reverse the trend, to make rescuing the norm as opposed to purchasing. To do this we need to take a different approach.
Many times we hear people won’t get a rescue because they can’t face going to the dog’s homes as it’s just too upsetting. Dogs Trust are well aware of this and have spent billions on making their centres more pleasing on the eye and clean and a seemingly happier place to visit – and they’ve had great success getting people through the door as a result. But what we are doing is even better. You get to see the doggies in a ‘normal’ environment, watch them interact, cat test them, and have as much home from home interaction as possible. You get to see where these dogs live, unaware that they are ‘rescue dogs’ waiting for homes. It’s a place where dogs are free and happy and no one needs to feel bad for them. Instead they enjoy their experience here, which is something I’m sure not many who have been to a standard rescue can say.
Perhaps most importantly of all we are creating choice. Our success rate is high. When people visit us we want to be able to match them up with a dog that is right for them and their family. There are too few homes out there for the number of dogs of course – so we want to make the right match for each. We are not about pushing our longest stayer on people or one of our harder to home dogs. Instead it’s about making the right match for a good experience to promote our rescue and rescue dogs in general. We want to have a variety of energy, size, coat type, age etc so that we can best match people. Balancing this with us saving those ‘most in need’ is the hardest part because they are always black dogs or brindle Staffies. If we took only these we wouldn’t be able to get as many dogs homes – in fact it would drastically affect numbers, and sadly that’s what it has to come down to.
A change in perception and attitude towards all dogs is needed
We urge anyone reading this to look deep within and consider the role they may have played in the rescue crisis. If you are angry that we don’t rescue more dogs from the UK, ask yourself if you have breed prejudice. Would you rehome a Staffie? Would you overlook a black mongrel in favour of a golden Labrador or fluffy little poodle?
It interests me that the Yulin meat trade dogs have support here and many want to help save these dogs. Somehow this appears to be seen as acceptable, even amongst those ‘against’ foreign rescue dogs coming into the UK. This is probably because of the media attention showing the undeniably horrific situation they face. Maybe it’s just the lack of media attention on the reality of the pounds that we have seen in Cyrpus, Romania, Bulgaria etc – is why people cannot make the connection? Who knows – but it really becomes hard for us to conceive the argument to draw boundaries of where dog rescue should end.
Our aim is to save as many dogs’ lives as possible, no matter where they come from, and to try and change perceptions or the rescue dogs, encourage people to rescue and create variety. The issue is not us saving dogs from abroad it’s the issue that we have such a massive problem with Staffies (my personal favourite breed) here in rescue in the UK due to over breeding. That issue needs to be tackled, or this issue will never end. Breed prejudice must be tackled. Preference to buy from breeders rather than rescue must be tackled. Any criticism aimed at rescues is simply a deflection of attention on the wider, more important issues at hand.
Foreign dogs are not ‘damaged goods’
As we touched on above, foreign rescue dogs have an unfair reputation as ‘difficult’ or ‘damaged’. Now the fact that inadvertently we have learned that foreign dogs can often make the best pets is another blog altogether…
People trust our dogs and our dogs are our best adverts. This is not because we ‘cherry pick’ the dogs we take – we still ensure we take those other rescues don’t want and who stand less chance than the others but we’re also changing perceptions and in our rescue environments dogs can thrive and learn to be ‘normal pets’.
For us the foreign or UK rescue dog thing really isn’t the issue it’s the fact that breeders continue to breed and add to the problem and people continue to funding breeding. Abroad it’s that governments don’t sort neutering campaigns and it’s left to small independent rescuers like Street Hearts BG that we work with. It should never be an issue where a dog was born – we should all be fighting for the necessary changes so dogs everywhere don’t continue to suffer in rescue.
If you would like to rescue we would love to see you here and introduce you to our wonderful dogs. Please get in touch if you are interested in visiting – or would like to help in some other way via fostering or donation.