2012-10-03 / Columnists
Pets pets pets
At times the most desirable purebred dog in a public shelter is more vulnerable than an inconspicuous dog. Everyone who sees the Basset puppy wants him. “Everyone” is not equipped to handle him. Years ago, purebred rescues operated like an underground railroad, without the cooperation or knowledge of shelter management who felt all dogs should be “up for grabs.”
Breed rescue volunteers, on the other hand, believed the dog’s best interest had to come first. Since the general public had already failed the impounded purebred, the next placement should be with the intervention of those who cherished and understood the particular breed and would do all possible to ensure that this dog never surfaced in the shelter system again. It has taken time to change the municipal attitude that purebred rescue is not snobbery and that placing dogs properly is not first come, first served like issuing boat slips. Now some municipal shelters contact purebred rescues. Groups like LI Golden Retriever Rescue (LIGRR) are proactive calling town shelters weekly in search of Goldens.
The 170+ AKC recognized breeds have varying rescue needs. Scottish Deerhound or Komondor people rarely have to mobilize the troops. Other breeds are too overwhelmed to keep up with “ requests for help. The more popular the breed, the more likely scores will appear as surrenders or strays. Depending on the part of the country, Labs, Beagles, Coonhounds, even Chihuahuas are frequently discarded. There is an overabundance of Pit Bulls and Rottweilers in LI and urban shelters. They tend to appeal to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Once at the shelter, they often linger. Landlord and home owner insurance restrictions make them harder to rehome. Therefore, it is unfair to say that one breed rescue is better than another. The laws of supply and demand affect purebred rescue too.
Fran Prince gives back to the breed she loves. She is a volunteer with the French Bulldog Rescue Network (FBRN). Rising breed popularity has its downside. Fran notes, “Aging baby boomers that are doggy down-sizing are attracted to Frenchies.” Even though these wide-eyed pups are adorable, cute can be a curse. AKC registrations of Frenchies have increased over 400 percent in the last 10 years; yet this figure doesn’t reflect the bogus pedigrees of the many pet store Frenchies supplied by puppy mills. Far too many are eastern European or Russian imports with genetic defects galore. Many pet store French Bulldogs have iffy temperaments, skin allergies, elongated palettes and spinal problems- the result of irresponsible breeding. Too many wind up in rescue because whim buyers cannot cope.
As a breed ambassador at dog shows and while walking her own dog in NYC, Fran educates the public about Frenchies. She stresses that her breed is not suited for the first-time owner. As Fran says: “Frenchies are basically compact Bulldogs- stubborn, opinionated and hard to housebreak.” Fran and FBRN emphasize how important it is to purchase a pup from a reputable breed. Their website (The Wrong Pup.Org) exposes devious tricks of the commercial puppy importer trade, and legal steps taken to end these abuses.
Similar to other breed rescues, FBRN has a comprehensive foster care system for the numerous Frenchies in their care. Rescues are placed in foster homes throughout the US until their medical and temperament issues are under control. A committee interviews prospective adopters and reviews applications. Fran does home checks in the metropolitan area. FBRN places dogs with a contract that includes a lifetime return policy. Adopters pay an adoption fee that helps the non-profit recoup some of their many expenses.
Purebred rescues know the behavioral quirks and health issues common to their breed. Some breeders make room at their kennels for fosters. Often these networks take on special needs cases that require extensive veterinary procedures or training. Several years ago, “Don,” an unruly marking and barking English Pointer pup, the reincarnation of Westminster’s Sensation, appeared at Oyster Bay Shelter. If he had been adopted from there based on his Adonis looks, “Don” would have boomeranged. The Pointer Rescue Organization found a perfect foster home for him in Ithaca where “Don” learned basic obedience, house manners and respect for felines over several months before going to his permanent home. Certain breeds are not for the novice dog owner. Giant Schnauzers require huge grooming and training commitments. HT-Z Giant Schnauzer Rescue, with its founder in Colorado, worked like a precision team when placing “Reynolds,” a stray that surfaced at Babylon Shelter.
Sharpei rescues are accustomed to dealing with skin fold infections and entropion; Golden Retriever rescues with hip dysplasia and cancer and Saint Bernard rescues with heartworm because so many of their neglected waifs have spent their lives outdoors. LIGRR and Boxer Angels have taken numerous shelter dogs with complex health problems. These dogs get the proper TLC, even acupuncture, when in seasoned hands.
Sometimes a breed organization is hit with a flood of dogs all at once. Animal hoarding has a way of flying under the radar until the situation is out of control. In 2008, Santa Fe Animal Control raided a woman’s home at 3 a.m. seizing 67 neglected Afghan Hounds (along with 25 debilitated parrots). Thirteen puppies succumbed to suspected parvo; the survivors were filthy, matted and under-socialized because they lived in isolation in the desert.
The Afghan Hound Club of America Rescue and regional chapters sprang into action transporting the rest at the New Mexico pound all over the country. Seven were flown to a LI kennel for triage. Afghan fanciers from the metropolitan area spent a week calming, grooming, vetting and loving our traumatized Hounds before dispersing them to foster homes along the northeast.
A month later, the most withdrawn of our seven, a domino named “Edgar Afghan Poe,” became the latest sighthound love of my life. From the moment he arrived at the airport plastered to the back of his carrier, we had an instant, cosmic connection. Edgar joined our household four years ago. Edgar “needed” me; a veteran Afghan owner, and that’s what purebred rescue is all about.
Babylon Shelter Adoption List (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Mostly mixed breeds, “not that there is anything wrong with that,” including “Prince” #12- 538, a tall, dark and handsome Lab mix, and “Dutchess” #2-299, a lovely Siamese mix who arrived at the shelter in July nursing her kittens. More dogs: “Peaches”- pintsized Pit; female Chihuahua mix; “Layla” - Shepherd mix pup; “Onyx”- patient, brindle Pit.