Back in September 2018 The British Veterinary Association was urging animal lovers not to rescue dogs from abroad based on the health risk to UK pets but with animal charities continuing to bring thousands of stray dogs from overseas for adoption could this be doing more harm than good in regards to our UK charities?
Its not uncommon now to bump into a foreign street dog when out walking often having come from places such as Romania or Cyprus but lately I have noticed the increased debate as to whether adopting from abroad is really the right thing to do so I decided to investigate the pros and cons.
This is an honest blog on my part, as although I know a large number of gorgeous rehomed foreign strays, I struggle to understand not helping our own. Many argue we already have enough dogs in rescue centres in the UK searching for homes and I agree. The RSPCA stated in a leaflet back in 2014 that they as a UK Charity will not re-home dogs who have been imported from abroad as it takes up space for UK dogs needing homes. However, a quick search across the website and we can see a couple of dogs that originated from Iraq, Portugal etc.
But before you all judge me for writing this and whether it is right or wrong it is important to consider both sides of the story.
There is no hiding from it, trends are constantly changing but lately there seems to be more of a trend of people rescuing dogs from abroad and this is very much fuelled by social media and the increase in charities in the UK, Europe and America who specifically focus on the rehoming and rescuing of street dogs from around the world. Now this trend has certainly highlighted the animal welfare issues in other countries and this is a positive. It is important to be informed about the welfare issues of animals outside the UK and to have empathy and compassion about what goes on outside your own locality.
In some areas across Europe dogs live terrible lives at the hands of abusers and if some of the stories shared across social media don’t move you, I am at a loss to what will. Being aware of these welfare issues goes to question why isn’t it possible to provide aid, not just in rehoming and rescues but with educational projects, even fundraising? This surely would help address the root causes and perhaps enable them to have better neutering programmes for strays.
However many argue that not all street dogs live such terrible lives. I have been lucky enough to spend time with street dogs who live naturally with many others, are fed by the locals, are cared for by the council and vets, who are tagged, monitored and spayed/neutered. They can often be found sleeping in the shade of the trees or frolicking in the sea with their buddies. Does it then seem fair for them to be exported to live as pets in relative isolation; completely alien to the life they have known? In short, there is the argument that in some cases, the lives of street dogs really isn’t that bad and some may not need rescuing at all.
I think one question we have to ask is if the success of the larger dog rescue charities such as the RSPCA or Dogs Trust in the UK are victims of their own success. Their re-homing procedures have become stricter than ever. Many believe dogs are denied a lovely home simply because the adopters don’t meet the stringent criteria. Of course the criteria is important but there seems to be little leeway and this I feel encourages people to apply for rescues from abroad where not all criteria is so robust. Although many non UK charities have a comprehensive pre-adoption form, they judge each application on an individual basis taking into account the circumstances. Not all rescues importing foreign dogs are reputable; for some it can be a money making exercise by providing unusual looking dogs without providing any home checks or back up after the ‘adoption’ has taken place.
As someone who has lived their whole life in the UK I think its also important to realise that as a country we are not accustomed to seeing packs of dogs roaming the streets. So it often pulls on the heart strings when we hear stories of the dogs being rounded up and killed in large numbers. However, the UK still euthanizes dogs – it just goes on behind closed doors and is all too often swept under the carpet. A quick search enables us to see the scale of just stray dogs picked up by local charities across the UK. In 2016 although this is a 21% decrease from the previous years a whopping 81,050 stray dogs were handed in. This equates to 222 dogs a day. Of that number local authorities put to sleep over 5000 with 3,463 dogs being healthy as they struggle to care for the vast numbers of strays that are picked up on the streets every day.
So with all of that in mind there really is no right or wrong answer about the issue of bringing dogs into the UK for re-homing. It really is a personal choice, both by the charities importing rescue dogs and the individual adopter. What I have learnt in my search of right or wrong is that the issue of over population in the dog world, strays, street dogs, lack of education, over breeding, puppy farms etc. are similar no matter where you are in the world and raising the profile of dog rescue and welfare is a positive move.
I’m hoping this has made you talk and consider the measures we could take to alleviate the suffering of dogs both abroad and in the UK, let’s not try and make out we are perfect after all. Perhaps the new DEFRA guidelines and legislations need to be stricter with regard to breeding dogs in the UK! We have far too many dogs being bred for profit, pedigrees, designer breeds and even mixed breeds are commanding hundreds of pounds. Are we feeding a market for pets that, just like so many other commodities in the modern world, are part of a throwaway society? If fewer dogs were bred here, would we be able to provide more room for dogs subjected to cruelty from other countries? Could this kick start other countries into following suit on legislations for neutering and breeding? After all, in countries such as Spain, neutering of dogs is not common and neither is vaccination.
However you choose to rescue, it is taking a stand against cruelty to not only dogs but all animals. Abuse goes on everywhere but it is the charities that work so tirelessly on behalf of dogs, both here and in other countries that show there really is compassion in the world no matter where they are.
A sentence often seen across social media and even politics is that charity should begin at home, but in all honesty as long as the good achieved outweighs the cost, it surely make no difference if the dog you are helping is a mile or ten thousand miles away: because all lives are equal.