Time for questions about dog rescue


The article below caught my eye while I was reading the Saskatoon Star Phoenix this morning at breakfast. I agree with John Gormley that importing dogs from California to meet the demand in Saskatchewan for particular breeds is not “rescue”. It’s a commercial trade. The rescue of retired racing greyhounds… that’s rescue. But maybe we shouldn’t have greyhound racing. Then we wouldn’t have to rescue the dogs in the first place.

To me the problem is not dogs in shelters being euthanized (sorry, killed). The problem is irresponsible owners who do not spay/neuter their animals. Want to be a responsible pet owner and demonstrate your love of dogs and cats: sterilize your dog. Period.

12 Dec 2014 The StarPhoenix JOHN GORMLEY

Generally unafraid of leading with my chin, even I tread carefully and with trepidation toward a certain issue capable of igniting great indignation and, for some, unquenchable rage. The topic: dog rescue. First, some ground rules: Dogs are wonderful and not to be abused. But they are animals, not humans.

There are many good, generous, smart and kind people involved in matching abandoned or neglected dogs with responsible owners who will care for them, and many in the rescue movement are a valued complement to animal shelters like the SPCA or Humane Society. And rescue groups are often helped by caring professional veterinarians and others who ensure that animals are spayed/neutered, immunized and computer chipped before being bought by responsible owners.

But the passion, enthusiasm and, frankly, obsessive over-the-top behaviour of some in the rescue community has been firing up the spidey senses lately. It’s everywhere. Just Googling the words “dog, rescue, Saskatchewan” generates 130,000 hits.

So the other night on Border Security, the engaging Canadian reality show, an importer of “rescue dogs bound for Saskatoon” was stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border because her trailer and SUV were too small for the dozens of pit bulls and other dogs she was importing into Saskatchewan from the States.

Foreign dogs in local dog rescues — what gives?

Many of the dozens — and there are dozens of “rescues” in Saskatchewan — take in only local dogs or many irresponsibly bred and abused dogs from Northern Saskatchewan (a despicable story on its own).

But others do import dogs. One boasts on its website — in addition to cutesy biographies like the pup “rescued from death in the nick of time” — that it ships dogs into Saskatchewan from “high-kill shelters throughout California.” At this point you may wonder why America’s most populous state needs to have dogs shipped to a Canadian province one-fortieth its size.

Another local rescuer confided that when she “rescued” a chihuahua from California “a lot of people asked for them,” so now she ships in “rescue dogs” from there to satisfy demand here. At this juncture, a vocabulary break might be helpful.

Unless you rush into a burning building to get that dog or pluck it from a raging river, you haven’t rescued it. You’ve been given that dog or you bought it. The Saskatchewan “rescuer” importing chihuahuas from California is not a rescuer. She’s a dog broker — a saleswoman satisfying consumer demand. Even the word “adopt” is emotionally deceptive. You adopt children. You buy or are given animals.

“Rescue,” observes one purebred dog owner friend, is the new social status symbol, conferring moral superiority upon the buyer — it feels better to have rescued than to have bought.

To be polite, some in the dog rescue crowd are rather invested in dogs. To be less polite, they are absolutely dog-obsessed and prefer the company of canines to humans. This is where importing “rescue” dogs becomes more about the dog rescuer than anyone else and it’s designed to play into the popular myth that we have a problem with “pet overpopulation.”

Leaving cats out of this — there are huge feral cat population problems — dog over-population is not an insurmountable issue inside many cities which have effectively promoted spayneuter programs. While socially dysfunctional and poor communities often have unwanted dogs — Saskatchewan’s north certainly does — many reputable small breeders have been squeezed by animal rights activist campaigns that target commercial dog breeding and create the perception that only sales from animal shelters and rescue groups are acceptable. This can lead, according to lawyer Nancy Halpern, also a veterinarian and New Jersey’s former director of animal health, to “retail rescue,” where the demand for dogs through rescue channels can result in animals being imported, sometimes from uncertain, unethical and commercial “puppy mills.”

There is one more nagging concern in all this talk of “pet rescue.”

What if just a tiny fraction of the time, effort, money and heart that went into dog rescue was put into “rescuing” young kids in the inner city? Imagine the possibilities. The sad part is that for some people — bananas for all things dog rescue — a dog will not phone at three in the morning when a family member beats them up or takes their stuff.

All a dog will do is love, unconditionally. And this makes the dog rescuers feel better. About themselves.

The SPCA and Humane Society, which do challenging work, openly admit that one day they would love to put themselves out of business.