Animal Rescue intake policies explained

Bull terrier type dog, unwanted dogs, intake policies,

It is that time of year when animal rescues the world over brace themselves for a rush of unwanted and abandoned animals, but how easy is it to part with a pet? In this modern era of disposable pets, the acceptance of unwanted animals by the larger independent and national animal rescue charities has become an extremely complex operation.

Should unwanted animals be turned away because they do not fit the right profile?

They have been forced by our reckless pet ownership to use animal profiling and retail business practices in order to cope. They have to aim for a quick turnover by maintaining a balance of products (animals) to satisfy the whims and needs of potential customers (adopters) and measure their success by the amount of merchandise they shift. This is particularly so with dogs.

This means that for many owners it is no longer a simple case of fronting up or telephoning your local rescue and expecting to have your pet accepted for rehoming. It can be a long process or you may be refused altogether if your dog does not fit the required profile.

The continual overpopulation of dogs and cats in most countries forces rehoming rescues to be “selective” in what animals they accept as they cannot afford to take in too many animals that “clog up” their kennel space such as the old or sick, those with severe behavioural problems and unpopular breeds such as Bull Terrier type dogs.

Understanding the world of Selective and Non-selective intake policies.

Most professional organisations have a mission statement and what is called an intake policy on their website. These lay out the ethos of the charity and govern the circumstances under which they will accept or refuse to take in your pet for rehoming. These are normally a selective or a non-selective open door policy. Some charities try to use the term non-selective to their advantage in the compassion stakes by highlighting it in their literature, decrying others for not doing so.

The U.K. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is one charity that follows a “NON-SELECTIVE” policy and states that:“Our open intake policy is increasingly rare in the animal rescue sector and it’s at the heart of everything we stand for”, but still accepts that this is “subject to space”.

Our mission is to never turn away a dog or cat in need of our help. Subject to space, we will open our gates to all dogs and cats in need of care and shelter and we will do all we can to either reunite them with their owners or to rehome them into loving new homes”

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home mission statement.

Acceptance by animal profiling

Rescues strive to maintain a balance or varied choice of breeds which are appealing to the whims of adopters. They accomplish this by refusing the difficult ones and concentrating on the young, healthy, well behaved and attractive breeds that provide a “quick turnover” with the least outlay and cost, referred to by some in the industry as the “desirables“. Organisations which have a selective policy either make a judgement on the telephone or by a suitability selection interview whereby the owner brings the dog in to be assessed.

Yorkshire Terrier puppy, desirable breed
Understandably, desirable dog types are far easier to rehome, but what about the less desirable.

When refusing an animal most charities helpfully put details on a waiting list, often never to call back, and give owners a list of telephone numbers, websites and addresses of other rescues that might be able to help. In reality these are generally full as well and when contacted commonly try to refer owners back where they started It can become a frustrating nightmare merry-go-round to part with a pet.

No Kill policies and the fate of undesirables

By using these strategies, U.K. charities have the luxury of not killing healthy unwanted animals and would not dare do so as it would be suicide for them. But local authorities do still kill an estimated 2,000 stray dogs each year which generally passes almost unnoticed as does the fate of those turned away from rescues.

Unfortunately charities in most other countries which suffer from huge populations of stray, roaming and unwanted dogs and cats only have two options: either leaving them to their fate or to euthanise many of them to make room for others. And this happens in many or our well regulated civilised countries such as the U.S.A where an alleged 2-3 million dogs and cats, representing 36% of those handed into rescues, are killed each year, many of them healthy.

Although these shelters and staff are declared evil and heartless, the guilt solely lies with the irresponsible owners who put them in this situation and society’s failure to get on top of the problems.

If being ‘selective’ means more lives saved, then selective we will be

A year or so ago I read an interview with a executive of a dog rescue who summed up the present situation quite succinctly: “priority is given to dogs most likely to be rehomed, and when taking in dogs, we generally look for those that have a good temperament and are not incurably ill. Those with temperament problems have to stay longer for training and the longer they stay the fewer dogs we can save and those that pose a risk to staff are not accepted. Good temperament is important as we want dogs to share kennels helping to maximise the numbers of dogs saved. If being ‘selective’ means more lives saved, then selective we will be. We are in control of which dogs come into our centres. We do not have breed specific policies but do seek to ensure that our centres do not become full of any one particular breed.

The major issue that arises with these polices is the fate of the unpopular, difficult and elderly dogs which are refused, the undesirables so to speak . In many ways the whole system seems biased against them and yet they are possibly the most vulnerable to ill-treatment, abandonment or being passed on to unsuitable owners via social media and arguably most in need of compassion and help. So should charities be more concerned about the future welfare of those turned away.

In fairness most rescues do their upmost to accept as many animals as possible, but in reality find themselves fighting a losing battle and for this reason can only pick and choose. Charities the world over cannot be blamed in anyway for whatever decisions they may make in order to cope with our selfish attitude to pet keeping. Until the time arrives when we make serious attempts to solve irresponsible ownership once and for all, the demand for space for the unwanted will sadly never decrease and tens of thousands will spend the yuletide in cages.

Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.