As British viewers took in the upsetting scenes from the BBC’s Panorama documentary on the number of healthy dogs being put to sleep, we have to question what the solution could be to this growing, alarming problem. Throwing money at the problem isn’t a solution, clearly, so what can we do to stem the tide of Britain’s unwanted dogs?
In January of 2007 I launched the dog adoption website DogsBlog.com.
Ruby: one of the many bull breed dogs to have found homes via DogsBlog.com
The aim was simple: to provide a completely free service that could be utilised by rescues and people who wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter.
Now, three years on, and (time of writing) 10,217 rehomed dogs later, DogsBlog.com has managed to assist in the rehoming of an average of 8 dogs per day.
It’s been a great joy to have found a way to help rescues and to help dogs. But it comes tinged with sadness. As the battle isn’t being won. In fact, as fast as 8 dogs find their way in to new homes, more than double that are going straight back in to the rescue system.
What is abundantly clear to me is that simply throwing lots of money at this problem is not only not going to help us fix it, it could actually be making things worse.
The smaller rescue charities are so hard hit. As, unlike the ‘big name’ animal rescues such as Battersea, The Dogs Trust, The RSPCA et al, they really have very little to work with in terms of financial support.
But, I have observed, they tend to work doubly hard to get the dogs in their care out of the door and in to new, loving homes at top speed.
They don’t have PR departments. Media buyers. Highly paid chief executives. But they DO make every single use of every promotional avenue available to them.
Let’s take Battersea, for example.
Battersea are listed as a rescue on DogsBlog.com. But, for 3 years, they haven’t added a single dog to the site.
Now, bear in mind – DogsBlog.com is 100% FREE for charities. We do ALL the work. We pay people to add the dogs, to promote the site and to keep it online under the heavy strain of more than 200,000 visitors per month, accessing millions of page views.
Battersea, who have conceded they are losing the battle to find homes quick enough for a number of dogs in their care, informed us three years ago that they were ‘reviewing their strategy’. Since then, they haven’t made use of the website that is no 1 in the UK for the term ‘dog adoption’ or ‘adopt a dog’. The site that has found homes for more than 10,000 dogs – at a cost of not one single penny to ANY of the rescues.
Obviously I can’t answer that myself. But it’s frustrating to then watch a documentary where the charity is clearly struggling under the sheer weight of numbers – as are MOST animal rescue organisation – knowing that they have simply opted NOT to make use of a free, successful avenue by which some of their dogs could have found new homes. Even if it’s ONE dog, it’s still ONE dog.
The issue, I fear, is that smaller rescues/charities don’t tend to spend too much time dwelling on ‘online strategy’. They see a gift horse offering them a free opportunity to find homes for their dogs and they say ‘Yes please!’.
We have to accept that we need a radical change of thinking if we are to fix the problem of record numbers of dogs going in to rescue centres.
The millions and millions of pounds that are donated are not actually addressing the route causes of the problems. Which are:
1) Why are people allowed to indiscriminately breed dogs, register dogs and sell dogs on a whim?
2) Why are people allowed to obtain dogs without being remotely competent to own them?
3) Why are people so quick to give their dogs up for increasingly trivial reasons?
4) Why are puppy farmers allowed to continue their vile trade in misery without legislation to prevent them?
5) Why do we have dog laws that demonise certain types of dogs and make them appealing to the exact sort of people who will exacerbate the problems?
Until we actually accept that we simply aren’t getting it right when it comes to dog abandonments, irresponsible supply and production of dogs and the legitimising of BAD breeders, we can expect more of the same, and worse.
We need a fresh approach and we need it fast.