Owner Surrender cf Shelter Rescue
Discussion of rescue intake direct from the surrendering owner compared to intake from an animal shelter. Why it's usually better to accept a surrender from the owner rather than let the owner dump the dog into a shelter and then have to rescue the dog out of the shelter.
Owner Surrender compared to Rescue from Shelter
To some Rescue people, the concept of "rescue" usually implies taking an animal out of an animal control facility or other animal shelter facility. However it can also mean accepting the surrender of an animal directly from the surrendering owner. Over the last decade or so, as the general public has become more and more aware of dog rescue and breed-specific rescue groups, more and more owners seeking to place their dogs are contacting the Rescue instead of dumping the dog at the shelter, and more and more shelters are keeping lists of rescue groups and trying to divert dogs and cats towards such direct surrender to an appropriate rescue group.
In my view, direct owner surrender has many advantages and is likely to be an "everybody wins" situation. The dog especially is likely to be better off.
Note : a third possibility is that the owner contacts the Rescue asking for help in placing the dog direct from their home into the adoptive home, without the dog being fostered by the rescue. I discuss this separately in Doing Referral Placements
Advantages to the Rescue of direct owner surrender
- Because you get to talk to the owner, you have the chance to get a much better "history" on the dog. You get the owner's description of the dog's personality and behavior, including any training that the dog has had, any known commands or other cues, and any behavior problems.
Now it's true that owner's sometimes, even often, have a view of the dog's behavior that differs a lot from the view that would be formed by a more dog-savvy person or a more skilled trainer. Owners often think their dog is badly behaved when the reality is that the dog is untrained, underexercised, badly managed, etc etc. So usually the owner may make the dog sound worse than he really is. However occasionally owners will fail to mention a serious problem or a previous bite, believing that knowledge of this would cause you to refuse to take the dog ; these same owners are even more likely to conceal this important information when surrendering the dog to a shelter.
You can get the owner to tell you the important aspects of the dog's health history and to arrange for the vet to transfer medical records to you or to your vet.
You may also learn who the dog's breeder is, enabling you to ask the breeder for help in fostering or for help with expenses of rescue. Responsible breeders will take over the foster care if possible or will contribute to expenses.
- You get to meet the dog in a home environment, either that of the surrendering owner or that of your own home. The behavior of a dog in a home environment is less stressed and more reflective of that dog's normal behavior than would be the same dog's behavior at a shelter. You can also have the owner demonstrate to you any training the dog has or any typical behaviors.
If you see the dog at the owner's home, you may also spot aspects of the environment or management style or owner body language that have contributed to any behavior problems. Eg if the dog is reported to be an escape artist, the observation that the fence is quite low (relative to the dog's physical jumping abilities) or has gaps in or under it could very well be highly relevant. You might also see that the dog has been living as a backyard exile, a situation that often causes or exacerbates problems.
If the owner brings the dog to your home, you won't see the dog's former environment, but you will get to see the interactions between dog and owner. Notice escpecially if the owner is afraid of the dog. Also notice owner body language that could be causing problems.
- The timing of the intake might be arranged for your better convenience (if owner is not dead set on getting dog out of the home ASAP) and often owners are willing to bring the dog to your home, sparing you a long or difficult drive.
- Because the dog has not been in the shelter , it won't have contracted an infectious disease or parisite there (which does not mean that it won't have pre-exisiting health issues that the owner may or may not know about) . Thus your own dogs won't be exposed second-hand.
- You may be able to get the owner to make a donation or pay a surrender fee to your Rescue organization.
- You may be able to educate the owner about responsible dog ownership generally and about avoiding similar problems in the future. A lot of your ability to educate owners will depend on your people skills and your tactfulness. Any enlightenment you can spark in the owner can spare future pets from misfortune, possibly by sparing them from being acquired by this person.
Advantages to the surrendering owner
- The owner gets to take more responsibility for the pet's welfare. Having taken some responsibility , they may be less likely to be impulsive in the future towards another pet.
- Whatever education you are able to get accross will benefit the owner in any future relations with animals. Maybe they will start on the road to becoming a more capable and responsible owner or maybe they will recognize that they are not cut out to be a pet owner or not suited to this breed or species of pet.
- They have more confidence that their pet will not be killed and will ultimately get a better home than they were able to provide. Granted that most owners who turn their dogs in to a shelter probably are trying hard to maintain the belief that of course their pet will be adopted (despite all factors that might suggest the contrary, such as disagreeable behavior, expensive illness, old age, large size, shelter overloaded with similar pets, etc), they have to be awfully out of touch with reality not to realize that any pet entering a shelter has a very real risk of being killed there.
Advantages to the Shelter that would otherwise receive the dog
- The shelter has one less intake, thus can take better care of the animals that they already have. Reduction of intake numbers reduces infectious disease risk and costs of dealing with same. Reduction of numbers means better chances for adoption and lower kill rate for those animals who are there.
- The shelter may also be aware that as an experienced breed specialist your rescue can do a better job of evaluating dogs or your breed and evaluating and educating potential adopters than the shelter can do. Also your rescue may be better able to advise the adopter post adoption.
Advantages to the Dog
- The dog is spared the substantial emotional stress of being in the shelter. Usually dog's cortisol levels, a biologic indicator of stress, are very high the first 4 or 5 days in the shelter. After that some settle down. In long term sheltering, most dogs will deteriorate behaviorally .
- The dog is spared the infectious disease risks that are inevitable in the shelter. Generally the risk of infection increases with every day spent at the shelter, even when the shelter uses the very best available means of prevention. For shelters that don't use good prevention, the risks are of course even higher.
- The dog is spared the risk that the shelter will evaluate him as "unplaceable" due to either health or behavior reasons, which can result in the dog being killed.. Legally a shelter is allowed to kill owner surendered dogs immediately upon surrender if they deem the dog unadoptable, especially if they deem the dog "dangerous". Some shelters will permit a recognized rescue to take a dog deemed unplaceable, but some will not do so and will simply kill the dog.
- The placement is likely to be far better matched between dog and adopter. (Note : many shelters are required to place dogs on a "first come , first served" basis. Some do little or no adopter screening or education. Some are legally unable to refuse to adopt a dog to an obviously inappropriate home. Please don't blame the shelters : they are often handicapped by local laws or policies dictated by local government. They are also handicapped by budget limitations.)
On the other paw :
Nowadays some shelters have very good resources and very high placement rates for healthy well behaved dogs. Some have good budgets and have their own veterinarians, their own behaviorists and trainers, and many volunteer workers. Some have modern facilities that provide a much better environment for the animals than the old prison-like shelters. Almost all shelters have access to outstanding and well researched information on infectious disease prevention and management and on environmental and mental enrichment for sheltered animals, thanks to the advent of Shelter Medicine programs at Vet Schools (pioneered by the Shelter Medicine program at UC Davis). Some run training classes for adopted dogs and have post adoption behavior consultation and help available for adopters .
In short, it is possible that some shelters actually can do as good or better a job of fostering and placing this dog than you would be able to do. So always consider what your current circumstances and abilities are. In some cases if the dog is already in the shelter, and if the shelter does have the resources to keep the dog for a substantial period and has evaluated the dog as being highly adoptable (friendly, healthy, attractive, etc), then you may consider offering to send your waiting adopters direct to the shelter rather than taking the dog out of the shelter right away. If I am dealing with a shelter manager that wants to first make this effort, but who will promise that the dog will NOT be killed and that they will turn the dog over to me if it does not get adopted reasonalby soon , then I may agree to send some of my pre-screened adopters to them. That can work out well. I did this just last week (at a time when one of my own dogs was undergoing a series of serious medical treatments, taking me away from home much of the day), and the dog was adopted right away by one of "my" adopters.
Still if you are going to end up with this dog anyway, it's better to "eliminate the middleman" and get the dog direct from its owner rather than wait for the owner to dropt the dog into a shelter and then try to bail the dog out from the shelter.
Related topics :
- Doing Referral Placements : discussion for Rescuers of how to help owners place their own dogs themselves by providing referrals of pre-screened adopters.