Unwanted Dogs of Britain – Who Cares? 

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100This isn’t the first time that Holidays 4 Dogs has written about this subject, but unfortunately the issue of unwanted, stray and abandoned dogs never goes away.  Perhaps the most poignant time for the case of the destitute dog is just after Christmas and just hours into 2015, the first unwanted dog arrived at the doors of Battersea Dogs Home in London. In fact, ‘Wrinkles’, as the six year old Staffordshire bull terrier was named, was one of fifty dogs arriving at Battersea between Christmas and New Years day – quite incredible.

Thankfully over the years, the public profile of dog rescue and re-homing has steadily grown and the U.K. is lucky to have strict welfare laws that support the lives of animals and pets that is sadly lacking in other countries. Nevertheless, the problem of unwanted dogs in the U.K. remains an issue that seems irresolvable and is all too often so easily swept under the carpet by a society that encourages the idea of disposable everything; including dogs.

Although, the role of popular television programmes about dog rescue centres has helped to educate people about the realities of unwanted dogs, this perhaps doesn’t go far enough towards addressing the fact that there are simply far too many dogs being bred in the first place.  Rescue dog numbers are not just made up of stray street dogs or cruelty cases; there are also many pure bred dogs, and now significantly purposely bred ‘designer’ cross breeds, such as ‘cockerpoos’ and ‘puggles’ who are finding themselves at the door of rescue centres. Limping dog

Despite high profile campaigns, the unwanted and stray dog population is relatively invisible to the public and also seemingly to bodies such as the kennel club, who would appear to distance themselves somewhat from the elephant in the room.

The figures relating to the unwanted dog population in the U.K. make for unsettling reading.  The most recent statistics Holidays 4 Dogs could find, come from the Dog Rescue Federation, which summarises figures from their report showing that in 2013 there were over 116, 000 stray and abandoned dogs dealt with by local authorities across the U.K.  Of this number, 53,000 were reunited with their original owners, leaving 62,500 unclaimed, almost 10,000 of which were put to sleep over the twelve month period.

Perhaps because it is less usual to see stray dogs roaming British streets, many people believe the problem is not really that desperate, but these stark statistics paint a very different picture.  Across Britain, hundreds of high profile dog rescue centres as well as hundreds more small animal charities, struggle to do what they can for the steady stream of unwanted and abandoned dogs and puppies.

Charities such as the Blue Cross have been dealing with mistreated animals since 1897 when a group of animal enthusiasts set up the, ‘Our Dumb Friends League’ to address the welfare issues of working horses on the streets of London.  Now, they deal with thousands of pets each year, including hundreds of stray and unwanted dogs.

As well as many breed specific rescues, there are also many more smaller charities that deal with rescue dogs and I am sure that readers will know of several in their own locality.

Max out walkingUnfortunately, there are a myriad of reasons why people abandon or give up their dog.  Social, cultural and economic changes can all impact on how dogs end up in rescue centres.  According to the Telegraph in 2011, 345 dogs were being abandoned every day due the financial squeeze on households brought about by the recession.  Even today, many cases of dogs being put into the care of rescue organisations is because many people have to sell their property and move into rented accommodation where dogs are not permitted.

Another key element is today’s, ‘throw away society’. Sadly, the purchase of a pet in modern times is seen as the acquisition of yet another commodity and unfortunately the down side of the high profile of pet rescue means the public are under the illusion there is a dogs home around every corner, ready to pick up the pieces when the novelty wears off.  With cuts to council resources, local authorities have limited budgets to deal with stray and unwanted dogs which means they cannot afford to keep dogs for longer than fourteen days.  There are many rescues that try to do their best for these ‘pound’ dogs by finding foster or kennel places for them when their 14 days are up – but sadly they can’t save every one.

In an impact assessment carried out by DEFRA in 2011 the cost resulting from irresponsible ownership amounted to annual cost of 57.5 million to local authorities and welfare organisations and thus under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs is set to come into force in April 2016.  While this move remains highly debatable in terms of whether having your dog chipped constitutes responsible ownership, it nevertheless highlights the fact that the problem is great enough for such radical government intervention.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100The stark truth is that there are too many people breeding dogs, the worst affected breed currently being bull breeds and ‘designer’ cross breeds; likewise, there are too many people allowing their dogs to roam or abandoning them altogether and too many people are buying puppies and dogs before considering one of the thousands of dogs in rescue centres that are desperate for a new home.

Every dog lover can help the cause by spreading the word about the virtues of owning a rescue dog, donating to welfare charities or volunteering to help out local dog rescue organisations.  If you are thinking of getting a dog, please read our other Holidays 4 Dogs article about how to go about taking on a rescue dog.

Sources:  Blue Cross; Charity Today [on line]; ChipMeNot.org.uk; Dog rescue Federation (U.K.) [on-line]; Save the Strays.co.uk; The Independent [on line]; The Telegraph 2011 [on line]

A. Gordon.