Foreign rescue dogs not to blame for U.K adoption shortfall.

puppies in dog pound, starving thin puppies, stray puppies, cruelty in dog pounds

One of the many arguments put forward against the adoption of dogs from foreign lands is that it delays or takes away the chance of a home grown unwanted dog finding a home quickly. But this argument is a bit of a fallacy as it is more to do with our fickle and selfish approach to choosing a dog that results in at least 40,000 dogs remaining on the shelves at UK rescues centres each year. Unfortunately there are too few people looking to acquire or adopt for the right reasons i.e. providing a new life for a disadvantaged dog regardless of its aesthetic appeal, pedigree or the trend of the moment. Until we change our adoption preferences charities will never be able to easily find homes for every dog in their care.

One large UK dog charity admits they receive 13,000 applications annually but never have enough numbers of the desired types to meet this demand because most applicants are holding out for a particular breed or type. It is virtually impossible to persuade these potential adopters to ignore their preferred choice in favour of a nondescript stray that doesn’t appeal. Foreign strays have the edge over those that are overlooked because human nature being what it is we cannot resist a sad story and foreign rescues are perceived to be the saddest of all. But if you look at the figures involved in reality there should be more than enough potential owners to keep both sides of the foreign import argument happy.

Rescue sector only provides a small percentage of demand

The UK dog rescue sector only fulfils a small percentage of the annual demand for dogs and puppies and foreign rescues even less. I am no mathematician but looking at the numbers logically, the UK has an estimated dog population of 9 million and if you accept that the average lifespan of a dog is probably 11 years it means the UK requires a minimum of 820,000 puppies and dogs just to replenish those that die of old age. It has been variously estimated that 130,000 dogs are handed into UK animal charities as unwanted annually and if you accept their published success rates, 90,000 (70%) are probably rehomed. This leaves up to 40,000 less desirable ones remaining.

Even if 100% of UK unwanted dogs and thousands more foreign rescues were found homes each year they would still only satisfy a fraction of the demand. Therefore there should be room in the market to satisfy everyone in the rescue industry but it requires all dog lovers to play their part by not viewing dogs as accessories and lowering their exacting standards in choosing a dog.

The situation is similar in other countries such as the USA and Canada where the rescue market only provides a fraction of the demand but there is also opposition to foreign imports.

It is commercially bred dog and puppy imports that are causing the most problems not rescue dogs and this is the area where curtailment could be considered which would increase demand for more dogs from the rescue sector. Better still the ideal answer is to have a more responsible attitude to dog ownership and avoid dogs going into care in the first place.

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.