Should we be adopting imported rescue dogs?

Dog in kennelMore and more it seems rescues in the UK are importing street dogs from places such as Spain and Bulgaria, but within the dog world there is some debate as to whether this is the really the right thing to do.  Holidays4Dogs investigates the pros and cons of importing and adopting stray dogs to the UK.

There seems to be more of a trend lately of people rescuing dogs from abroad and this is seemingly fuelled by social media and the upsurge in charities in the UK, Europe and America that deal specifically with rescuing street dogs from all over the world.  Since 2012, all dogs entering the UK have not needed to enter 6 month quarantine so importing dogs has been easier.

Many argue that there are already enough dogs in rescue centres in the UK searching for homes and indeed, the RSPCA state in an updated leaflet (2014) that they will not re-home dogs imported from other countries since this takes up space for dogs needing homes from the UK.  However, since then, the RSPCA branch in Brighton advertised several dogs that originated from Portugal as well as Ireland.

Before making snap judgments about what is right or wrong when it comes to adopting dogs from oversees, it is important to consider both sides of the story.

If nothing else, highlighting the plight that some dogs suffer in other countries can be no bad thing.  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 back yard.

dog in kennel 2By being aware of welfare issues in other countries it is possible that aid could be provided, not just in terms of rescue and re-homing but with educational projects and fundraising which helps to address the root causes and perhaps provide money for neutering programmes.

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.

It is certainly not enough to hand over a dog and walk away; on-going support and commitment from both sides is crucial to the success of re-homing dogs from abroad.  It is important for would-be adopters of foreign dogs to make sure they are dealing with a registered charity that have people based in the UK who will provide support and back-up.

In some areas of Europe dogs live terrible lives at the hands of abusers and anyone would be heartless not to be moved and appalled by some of the stories that are circulated via social network sites.  However, there are others that argue that not all street dogs live such terrible lives.  Many are captured from a rich social life, living naturally with many other dogs, only 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.

In some ways perhaps the success of large established dog rescue charities such as Dogs Trust in the UK are victims of their own success, as it were.  Their re-homing procedures are strict; some would argue far too stringent which means many dogs are denied a home simply because the prospective adopters don’t meet such strict criteria.  For example, many charities won’t re-home dogs to people with children under 5 or people who live in apartments.  Of course, these points are important but in many cases, there seems to be little leeway and this may encourage people to apply for rescues from abroad where sometimes criteria is not so robust.

That said charities such as Silver Paws Dog Rescue have a comprehensive pre-adoption form for prospective new owners to fill in, but they do not have a set criteria or arbitrary rules such as minimum fence height.  They judge each application on an individual basis taking into account each people’s different circumstances.

Adopting a dog from abroad is very different because unless the dog is already in a foster home in the UK you will be unable to meet the dog beforehand.  Many rescues put up videos of the dogs ready to come to the UK, but even this is a difficult way to judge a dog, despite the fact that reputable charities will do their utmost to assess dogs both before they travel and once they are in a foster home in the UK, if applicable.

All the dogs that go through Silver Paws Dog Rescue are thoroughly health checked and vaccinated for Rabies as well as UK required vaccinations.  They are treated for parasites and worms and any existing conditions are treated before the dog travels to the UK.  They will also have pet passports and be micro-chipped. If at any point the original adopter is no longer able to care for the dog, this particular charity will take the dog back and place the dog back into a foster home, or to a new permanent family.

There really is no right or wrong answer about the issue of bringing rescue dogs into the UK for re-homing as it is as much a personal choice of the individual adopters as it is for the charities that choose to import rescue dogs to Britain.

But the issues of over population in the dog world, strays, street dogs, lack of education, over breeding are similar the world over and raising the profile of dog rescue and dog welfare in general has to be a positive move, since if nothing else, it stimulates people to talk and consider what measures could be taken to alleviate some of the suffering that we put some dogs through, both here as well as abroad.

In the UK we are not accustomed to seeing packs of dogs roaming around our streets, raiding rubbish bins and causing mayhem; but neither do we see the work of dedicated animal lovers abroad who have to watch these dogs being rounded up and killed in enormous numbers.  However, the UK still euthanises dogs – it just goes on behind closed doors and is all too often swept under the carpet by councils and dog rescues themselves.

Rescuing dogs, however you choose to do it, is taking a stand against cruelty to dogs – all animals in fact.  Perhaps there should be stricter regulations with regard to breeding dogs in the UK?  There are too many dogs being bred for profit, pedigrees, designer breeds and even mixed breeds are commanding hundreds of pounds, feeding a market for pets that just like so many other commodities in the modern world, are part of a throw away society.  Perhaps if fewer dogs were bred here, there would be more room for dogs subjected to cruelty from other countries.  Perhaps other countries would follow suit with new legislation on neutering and breeding; after all, in countries such as Spain, neutering of dogs is not common and neither is vaccination.  All the reputable charities I have looked at (and there are many) neuter all of their rescue dogs and all have adoptive contracts.

There is some appalling abuse that goes on everywhere but seeing the charities, who work so tirelessly on behalf of dogs in other countries, shows that there is compassion in this world, compassion for all dogs, no matter where they are.  Whether or not charity should begin at home is a philosophical question, but some would argue that as long as the good achieved outweighs the cost, it makes no difference whether you are helping a dog a mile away, or ten thousand miles away – it then becomes a duty, not charity.  More importantly perhaps, the same applies to people too and it is only such discussion that helps people to stop and think; because all lives are equal.