Rescue and Rehoming - The Rehoming Guide
(adapted from an article by the Chow Chow Club, Inc. Welfare Committee)
Not that long ago, you were thrilled to have a Siberian Husky puppy of your very own. You never dreamed you'd have to give him up someday. Even if you can't keep him anymore, your dog still depends on you to do what's best for him, just like he depended on you when he was a puppy. Now, more than ever, he needs you to make the right choices for his future.
Throughout this article, we're going to be direct and honest with you. Your dog is your responsibility. He has no one else but you to look out for his interests. It'll take effort, patience and persistence to find him the right home. He deserves your best efforts.
Finding a new home involves several steps. Before you start, there are some important things you should know...
Shelters and humane societies were created to care for stray and abused animals. They weren't meant to be a drop-off for people who don't want their pets anymore. Shelters take in many new animals each day. Let's face it - there won't be enough good homes for all of them. Even the best shelters can't boast much more than a 50% adoption rate. Only the youngest, friendliest, cutest and best behaved dogs are going to be adopted.
By law, stray pets must be kept several days for their owners to reclaim them. They may not be destroyed until that period is up. Dogs given up by their owners aren't protected by these laws. They may be destroyed at any time. Shelters don't want to kill all these animals but they don't have a choice. There just isn't enough room for all of them. Shelters today are so overcrowded that your dog could be killed the same day it arrives.
Being purebred won't help your dog's chances of adoption either — almost half of the dogs in many shelters are purebreds. In some shelters, many Siberian Huskies would not pass a standard adoption entry test. Your dog may be as good as dead when it walks in the door. If your Siberian is old, has health problems or a poor attitude toward strangers, it has no chance of adoption through most animal shelters.
Sending your dog to a shelter in hopes that he'll find a good home is wishful thinking. It's more likely that you'll be signing your Siberian's death warrant. A shelter is your last resort only after all your best efforts have failed.
Breed Rescue services are small, private, shelter-like groups run by volunteers dedicated to a particular breed. Most of them operate out of the volunteer's homes [SHCV Inc. note: including ours!]. Demand for their services is high - so high that your dog may be turned away for lack of room. A breed rescue can still help you place your dog by providing referrals to persons interested in adopting your dog. You'll have the most success if you follow the rescue service's advice and are willing to do your share of the work to find a new home.
Do you really have to give up your Siberian Husky? There's a big difference between being forced to give up your dog and wanting to "get rid of him". Search your heart for the real reason why your dog can't live with you anymore. Be honest with yourself. Your answer will probably fall into one of two categories: People Problems or Dog Problems.
In some countries, many landlords don't allow children either - but you'd never give up one of your kids if you couldn't find the right apartment. Affordable rental homes that allow pets are out there if you work to find them. Most people give up too easily. See the end of this article for suggestions that might help you find a house and still keep your dog.
As a puppy, your dog took far more of your time than he does now. A Siberian Husky doesn't really take that much time; his requirements for attention are often less than those of many other breeds. Grooming need only take an hour a week. Often a walk a day or a fenced area to run in can be sufficient exercise for your dog. Are you really that busy? Can other members of your family help care for the dog? Will getting rid of your Siberian really make your life less stressful? When they look closely at their lives, people often discover that the dog isn't cramping their style as much as they think.
If you got your dog as a puppy and he now has a behaviour problem you can't live with and haven't really addressed in earnest, you must accept the fact that you are at least partly responsible for the way your dog is now. You have four options:
Obviously the first option is out or you wouldn't be reading this article. You're probably most interested in Option 3, so let's talk frankly about that for a moment...
If you were looking for a dog and could select from all kinds of dogs and puppies, would you deliberately choose one with a behaviour problem? No, certainly not. And neither would anyone else. To make your dog desirable to other people, you're going to have to take some action to fix his problems.
Most behaviour problems aren't that hard to solve. We can help you with them if you'll give it a try. Think hard about Option 2 before deciding it won't work for you, because the only option you have left is number 4, having the dog destroyed. That's the bottom line. If you, who know and love the dog best, won't give him another chance, why should anyone else? Think about that. [SHCV Inc. note: If you would like assistance in solving your dog's behavioural problem(s), please click here]
If your dog is aggressive with people or has ever bitten anyone, you can't, in good conscience, give him to anyone else. Could you live with yourself if that dog hurt another person, especially a child? Can you deal with the lawsuit that could result from it? You stand to lose your home and everything else you own. Lawsuits from dog bites are settling for millions of dollars in damages.
Our society today has zero tolerance for a dog with a bite history, no matter how minor. A dog that has bitten — whether or not it was his fault — can be considered by law to be a dangerous dog. And to be perfectly honest, no responsible person in his right mind would want to adopt a biting dog.
No matter how much you love your dog, if he has ever bitten anyone, you only have one responsible choice — take him to your veterinarian and have him humanely put to sleep. Don't leave him at a shelter where he might be frightened and confused and put other people at risk. Don't pass your problem off to a breed rescue or another family who will be forced to make the same decision you should have reached.
As hard as it is to face, putting a potentially dangerous, biting dog to sleep is the only safe and responsible thing to do. It's the right thing to do. [SHCV Inc. note: If you find yourself in this position, we are willing to provide support for distraught owners who must make such a difficult decision]
[SHCV Inc. note: We will temperament-test any dog who is surrendered to the SHCV Inc. for rescue. If your dog does not pass this test, we are unable to accept it into our re-homing program.]
Before you do anything else, call the person you got your dog from and ask for help. Even if several years have passed, responsible breeders care about the puppies they sold and will want to help you find a new home. They may even take the dog back. At the very least, they deserve to know what you intend to do with the Siberian Husky and what will happen to it. If you can't remember the breeder's name, look on your dog's registration papers. If you got your dog from an animal shelter or rescue service, read the adoption contract you signed when you adopted him. You may be required by the contract to return the dog to that shelter. [SHCV Inc. note: If you obtained your dog through our rescue service, you are required to rehome them through us.]
To successfully find a new home, you need to be realistic about your dog's adoption potential. Let's be honest: most people don't want "used" dogs, especially if they have health or behaviour problems. Your dog will have the best chance if he's less than four years old, is healthy, friendly to strangers, obeys commands and adapts quickly to new situations [SHCV Inc. note: If only they were all like that!]. Look at your dog as if you were meeting him for the first time. What kind of impression would he make? Would you want to adopt him?
You already know that Siberian Huskies are special dogs for special people. Those special people can be hard to find. A lot of people interested in Siberian Huskies today have never had one before. They want a dog that will greet them with a wagging tail or will at least allow them to pet him. If your dog is aggressive to strangers or is "temperamental", finding him another home may not be your best option.
What kind of home do you want for your Siberian? A large fenced yard? Another dog to play with? Children? No children? Make a list of what you feel is most important for your dog. Then get real. No home will be perfect, of course, so you'll have to make compromises. What kind of people are you looking for? What will you be willing to compromise on? Once you have a firm idea of what you're looking for, it will be easier to plan your search and get the results you want.
Your dog will be much more appealing if he's clean, well-groomed and healthy. First, take him to the vet for a check up. He'll need a heartworm test if not currently on a preventative program, and vaccination if he hasn't one within the last 12 months. Be sure to tell the vet about any behaviour problems so he can rule out physical causes.[SHCV Inc. note: We require a current C5 vaccination for all dogs accepted into our care]
If your dog isn't spayed or neutered, do it now! Don't waste your time trying to sell your dog as "breeding stock" even if he's VCA-registered. Frankly, no reputable Siberian Husky breeder will want him unless he came from a well-known show dog fancier or racing kennel in the first place. The only kind of "breeder" who'll be interested in your dog will be a puppyfarmer or a dog broker. Brokers seek out unaltered purebreds for resale to puppymills or research laboratories. That's not the kind of future you want for your dog.
Spaying or neutering guarantees that your dog won't end up in a puppymill. It's the best way to insure that your dog will be adopted by a family who wants him only as a best friend and member of the family. If you can't afford the cost of surgery, check with your vet, local shelter or rescue group for information about low-cost spay and neuter programs that are available in some parts of the country. Having your dog neutered or spayed is the best going-away present you can give him. It may save his life! Give your dog a brighter future - make the appointment today!! [SHCV Inc. note: We will accept only de-sexed dogs into our care at the present time]
If your dog has never been tattooed or microchipped, this is a great time to do it. It's not unusual for newly-adopted dogs to get loose and become lost. A permanent ID will help your dog get back to you or his new owners.
Groom your dog. You want your dog to look beautiful and make a good impression. He needs to be clean and well-dressed! Get rid of those mats and tangles and give him a bath. Make sure he's neatly trimmed. If you can't do these things yourself, take him to a groomer. Get rid of his old rusty choke chain and buy a nice, new, strong collar and lead.
[SHCV Inc. note: If using our services please take a photograph of your dog for us to use in rehoming]
Set a reasonable adoption fee, if indeed you are asking for any money. The key word is "reasonable". You can't expect the new owner to pay you anywhere near the same price for a "used" dog as they would for a shiny new puppy. A reasonable range might be between $100-200, enough to help offset your advertising and veterinary costs. The placing of the dog with the right home should outweigh any other consideration. A donation to the local shelter might be a good idea as an alternative.
[SHCV Inc. note: The previous applies if you're doing all the rehoming work yourself. If using SHCV Inc. to rehome your dog, we will NOT purchase your dog from you. We are a non-profit club with no welfare support and to survive and continue to provide a rescue service we must charge you a nominal fee for our services]
Word of mouth doesn't go very far. Don't be afraid to use classified ads to advertise your dog. Done right, it's the most effective way to reach the largest number of people. It's easy to write a good ad that will weed out poor adoption prospects right away.
Your ad should give a short description of your dog: his needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number. The description should include his breed, colour, sex, the fact that he's neutered and an indication of his age. Hints: if your dog is less than two years old, state his age in months so he'll be perceived as the young dog he is. If he's over three, just say that he's an "adult".
Emphasize your dog's good points: Is he friendly? Housebroken? Well-mannered? Loves kids? Does he do tricks? Has he had any training? Don't keep it a secret but don't exaggerate either. Knowing his name doesn't make him "well-trained"!
State any definite requirements you might have for his new home: fenced yard, no cats, kids over 10, whatever. Try to say these in a positive way. For example, saying, "Kids over 10." sounds better than "No kids under 10.". If your Siberian Husky doesn't like other pets, say "should be an 'only pet'" rather than "doesn't like other animals".
Always state that references are required. This tells people that you're being selective and that you're not going to give your dog to just anybody. This statement will do a lot to keep people with bad intentions from dialling your number.
Never include the phrase "free to good home" in your ad even if you're not planning to charge a fee. If possible, don't put in any reference to a price at all. Any people calling you about a "free" dog won't be the kind of people you're looking for and may be people you'd rather not talk to at all. Genuinely interested buyers know they have to pay for a quality Siberian.
Your ad should look something like this:
"Siberian Husky: beautiful, young adult black and white male, neutered. Friendly, housebroken, well-behaved. Best with children over 10. Fenced yard, references required. Karen, 9123-4567"
Along with your local newspaper, advertise in all major papers within an hour and a half's drive. Schedule your ad so that it appears in Saturday's paper - the issue that's the most well-read and widely circulated [SHCV Inc. note: Or the Melbourne Trading Post]. Nearly every community also has small, weekly "budget-shopper" newspapers that offer inexpensive classified ads. Take advantage of them!
Don't be discouraged if your phone isn't ringing right away. Most people give up too soon. It can take a month or more to find a new home, so plan on advertising for several weeks. Put a phone number in the ad where you can be easily reached or use an answering machine. People can't call you if no one's home to answer the phone.
Newspapers are just one way to advertise. Take a good cute photo of your dog and have copies made. Duplicating photos can be done for as little as a dollar each at most photo shops. Make an attractive flyer on coloured paper that you can have copied for a few cents each. Attach the cute photo of your dog. Your flyer doesn't have to be expensive, professional or computerized, just neat and eye-catching. Since you're not paying for words, you can write more about your dog than you could in a newspaper ad. Be descriptive!
Post your flyers at grocery stores, department stores, vets' offices, pet supply stores, grooming shops, factories, malls, etc. - anywhere you can find a public bulletin board. If you have friends in a nearby city, mail them a supply of flyers and ask them to post them for you.
"First come, first served" does not apply here. You are under no obligation to give your dog to the first person who says he wants it. You have every right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new owner [SHCV Inc. note: We certainly do!]. Don't let anyone rush you or intimidate you.
To help you along, we've included a list of questions that we ask our callers. Make copies of this list and fill in their answers as you speak to your callers. If you like, you can also mail the application for your callers to fill out and return to you. Get out the list you made with your requirements for a new home and compare it to the answers the callers give.
Deceitful people may call you from a phone booth or give you a fake address. Ask for information that you can verify.
If not, suggest they talk it over with their spouse and call you back. The same applies to people living with a companion or roommate. When one person adopts a dog without the full approval of the rest of the family, the adoption often fails.
You'd be surprised how many people haven't checked with their landlord before calling you. If you have doubts, ask for the landlord's name and number, then call him yourself. Be cautious about renters, they're quicker to move than people who own their homes and movers often leave their pets behind. Remember, you're looking for a permanent home for your dog.
If your dog isn't good with kids, say so up front. How many children can make a difference depending on your dog's personality. A shy dog may not be able to cope with several children and their friends. Very young children may not be old enough to treat the dog properly. If the callers don't have children, ask them if they're thinking of having any in the near future. Many people get rid of their dogs when they start a family.
These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they've had in the past will tell you how they might treat your dog. The following answers should raise a red flag and make you suspicious:
"We gave him away when we moved."
Unless they had to because of unavoidable problems, moving is a poor excuse for giving up a pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there's a good chance they'll give yours up someday, too.
"We gave him away because he had behaviour problems."
Most behaviour problems - poor housebreaking, chewing, barking, digging, running away - result from a lack of training and/or attention. If the caller wasn't willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he probably won't try very hard with your dog either.
"Oh, we've had lots of dogs!"
Watch out for people who've had several different dogs in just a few years' time. They may never have kept any of them for very long.
Obviously, if your dog isn't good with cats or other animals and your caller has them, the adoption's not going to work out. Be up front. Better to turn people away now than have to take the dog back later. The sex of their other dogs is an important consideration. Usually adult, spayed females will do better with a neutered male than another female. Often, an adult neutered male can be with a neutered male or a spayed female without incident. Dog fights can be serious problems and one dog can hurt or even kill the other. We recommend that you don't put your Siberian Husky female into a home with a dog of the same sex unless you're absolutely sure they'll like each other.
This is not only important in determining whether or not your dog may get along with theirs, but it also gives some insight into what kind of owners they may be. It is healthier and safer to have spayed/neutered pets. Are your prospective owners the kind of people who recognize this? Are they breeding their other animals for profit? These are important considerations concerning the atmosphere of your dog's potential home.
Your dog will need daily exercise. Without a yard, how will he get it? Can the caller provide it with regular walks? If the yard isn't fenced, ask how he plans to keep the dog from leaving his property? Did the caller's last dog wander off or get hit by a car? If so, how will he keep this from happening to his next dog? Does he understand that our independent Siberian Huskies will likely run off if not contained or on a leash at all times? That they have a mind of their own and don't like to come when they're called? Does he know that keeping a Siberian Husky tied up can have a bad effect on the dog's temperament? Does he know that Siberian Huskies are often escape artists and may learn to dig/climb/jump out of inappropriate fencing and is he willing to correct any fencing problems should they arise? Or will he simply "get rid of" your dog when this problem occurs?
Although most Siberian Huskies love to be outside whenever they can, a whole life outdoors probably isn't what you have in mind for your dog. Dogs always kept outside are sometimes neglected, lonely and may develop behaviour problems. Constant unsupervised time outside may also lead to increased escape attempts and destructive behaviour.
Find out what kind of dog "personality" they're looking for. Many people are attracted by the Siberian's beauty but don't know anything else about them. They see the striking coat pattern, the "wolfy" look, the bright blue eyes and don't stop to consider the personality wrapped up in that package. They might not have the slightest idea what a Siberian Husky is all about and might not like its temperament and characteristics. If their expectations don't match your dog's disposition, the adoption's not going to work. Be honest about our breed's good and bad points. Is a Siberian Husky really what they're looking for or would they do better with another breed? Many rescues spend a lot of time helping potential owners decide that a Siberian Husky is not the right dog for their needs after all. It's better to know this before your dog is in its new home. And if you're giving up your dog for some of these reasons, what's to prevent the next owner from doing the same? Be honest with yourself and prospective owners.
Get the phone number of their vet (if they've had pets before) and two other personal references. Call those references! Explain that John Doe is interested in adopting your dog and you want to make sure he'll give it a good home. Ask the vet whether former pets were given regular medical care, annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were they in good condition and well-groomed? How long have they known this person? If they were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person?
Once you've chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, make an appointment for them to see the dog. You should actually set two appointments: one at your house and one at theirs. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there. It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back home with you if things aren't as represented, if you think there'll be problems, or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing.
If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on "neutral" territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog at home. They may be hostile toward the new dog or even start a fight.
If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview. You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the dog. Some allowance should be made for kids' natural enthusiasm but if these children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by their parents, your dog could be mistreated in its new home and someone could get bitten.
Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don't give them your dog. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn't seem quite right, even if you can't explain what it is, don't take a chance on your dog's future. Wait for another family!
After the interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide if they really want to adopt your dog. Make sure they have a chance to think over the commitment they're making. While they're deciding, get a package ready to send along with your dog. This package should include:
Set aside a special time for you and your dog to take a last walk together and say goodbye. We know you'll cry. Do it now, in private, so you're clear-headed when he has to leave. He may be confused about being left with strangers and you won't want your emotions to upset him even more.
There are some things you need to explain to the new family before they take your dog home: The dog will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new people, learns new rules and mourns the loss of his old family. Most dogs adjust within a few days, but others may take longer. During this time, they should avoid forcing the dog to do anything stressful — taking a bath, obedience training classes, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. — until he's had a chance to settle in. Tell them take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them. The dog might not eat for the first day or two. Not to worry — he'll eat when he's ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken dog may have an accident during the first day in his new home. This isn't unusual and rarely happens more than once.
Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. Here is a sample contract. Keep a copy for your records. A contract will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don't have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember - a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the dog to his new owners.
Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn't work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the dog back home if things don't work out the way you both expected.
Moving is the most common reason why people give up their pets. It doesn't have to be this way.
Most people give up too quickly in their search for rental property that accepts pets. Don't be too quick to jump on the first house you see. There'll probably be a better one available soon.
Widen your search. Most people only look as far as the classified ads. Many landlords list their property through real estate agents or rental associations rather than the classifieds. Take advantage of rental services that help tenants find houses. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers to keep an eye open for you. Many houses are rented via word of mouth before they're ever advertised in the papers.
A home that allows pets might be in a different neighbourhood than you'd prefer. It might be a few more kilometres from work. It might not be as luxurious as you'd like. It might cost a few dollars more. Are you willing to compromise if it means being able to keep your dog?
"No Pets" doesn't always mean "no pets, period." Many landlords automatically rule out pets because they don't want the hassle. Many of these landlords are pet owners themselves. Just because the ad says "no pets" doesn't mean you shouldn't go see the houses anyway. During the interview, ask the landlord "Are pets absolutely out of the question?" If he answers, "well....", you have a chance! Hint: You'll have better luck asking this question in person than over the telephone - it's harder for people to say "no" to your face. To encourage a landlord to let you keep your dog:
Bring your well-groomed, well-behaved dog to the rental interview. Show the landlord that your dog is well-cared-for and that you're a responsible owner. Bring along an obedience class diploma or Canine Good Citizen certificate if your dog has one.
Offer an additional security deposit or rental amount to be able to have a dog.
Bring references from your previous landlords and neighbours. Invite the landlord to see your present home to show him that the dog has not damaged the property nor been a nuisance to the neighbours.
In difficult times, people often have to move in with relatives or friends who don't like dogs. This doesn't have to be an impossible situation. Use a dog crate when you're not home or when your family doesn't want your dog underfoot. A portable kennel run can be set up in the yard for exercise and can be sold later when you have your own place and don't need it anymore.
Don't think you're being unfair to your dog by moving into a smaller place than what he's used to. Dogs are very adaptable, they can often adjust even faster than people. Where he lives isn't as important to him as who he lives with. He wants to be with you and he doesn't care where that is.
The above article was adapted from "When You Can't Keep Your Chow Chow", written by Karen Privitello, Lisa Hrico and Barbara Malone, Chow Chow Welfare League of NPD, Inc. (Thank you very much for allowing us to use this excellent article!) Permission to use this article should be directed to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The adaptation was done by Pike's Peak Siberian Husky Rescue in Colorado, which is no longer in existence.