The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

To The Rescue: Breed Clubs Are Helping Save the Day

By Tracy Libby

Purebred Dog Rescue

Breeders often get a bad rap—especially in the media and from animal rights activists—for perpetuating genetic problems and, of course, pet overpopulation. Granted, unethical and irresponsible breeders do exist. Yet, many excellent, responsible breeders have spent years not only breeding and improving the quality of their dogs, but also rescuing countless purebreds in need.

Although people have rescued dogs in one form or another since Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on April 10, 1866 in New York City, it's only within the last 25 years that purebred rescue has evolved into a formal network of organizations. Many believe the evolution of the organized rescue groups began in the 1980s with the rescue of track Greyhounds and the subsequent media blitz that ensued. Today, purebred rescue is widely recognized and accepted with the American Kennel Club Rescue Network linking to member clubs that are devoted solely to the welfare and improvement of that breed.

The majority of those doing rescue are volunteers—comprised of all sorts of people from breeders to pet owners, with each one bringing their own individual expertise.

The Numbers Tell a Tale

The AKC surveyed representatives of AKC-affiliated National Breed Clubs about their involvement in rescue. The results may surprise you.

  • More than 65 percent of the rescue clubs have more than 10 members actively involved in rescue and more than 77 percent of respondents have been involved in breed rescue for more than a decade.
  • More than 36 percent of the clubs have separate charitable 501(c)3 organizations designed to handle rescue efforts for their breed.
  • Forty-four percent of the clubs spend between $1,000 - $10,000 each year on breed rescue efforts, while 33 percent spend more than $10,000.
  • More than 77 percent of the clubs work with other, non AKC-affiliated rescue organizations to transport, foster, and adopt-out dogs.
  • More than half of the respondents said they rescue more than 60 dogs each year; 14 percent rescue more than 200 dogs each year; and 16 percent rescue more than 1,000 dogs yearly.

As far as the dogs rescued:

  • The majority of dogs are relinquished by the owners, while nearly 33 percent come from shelters or animal control.
  • The top reasons cited by owners for surrendering a dog include change of lifestyle, not the right breed for them, and lack of time to spend with the dog.
  • More than 75 percent of rescue clubs do not charge for dogs to be surrendered to their organization. However, some clubs ask owners to make a donation to be applied to the cost of care.

Education Is Key

Public education remains a core issue for rescue groups. It's integral to the success of rescue and the key to reducing the number of dogs surrendered to rescue groups, as well as animal shelters. Most clubs offer a variety of educational forums that are local in origin but universal in application. For instance, rescue groups participate in pet parades and maintain educational booths at shelters, feed stores, pet expos, and so forth. They educate the public concerning the unique requirements of individual breeds and the challenges associated with owning them. In addition, a growing number of parent clubs are now including educational booths and rescue parades at national specialties.

The internet has becomes one of the most indispensable education resources for rescue groups, with virtually every rescue organization providing global information in a cost-effective manner 365 days a year. For instance, Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, the national rescue organization for the Australian Shepherd Club of America, provides a web site that dispenses valuable information on the unique behaviors of Australian Shepherds, as well as how to choose a reputable breeder, and insight into why these popular dogs are being recovered by rescue groups and showing up in record numbers. They also offer training tips on every conceivable topic, ranging from how to deal with aggression to crate training to living with the breed's intense herding instinct.

Many rescue groups praise the AKC's Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, which allows owners of rescued purebreds to participate in AKC events, such as obedience, agility, rally, herding, and tracking. The program helps encourage owners to train their dogs for these events, providing a useful outlet for rescue dogs, and thereby, many believe, increasing the success of rescue placement.

The unfortunate catch-22 of recent successes in rescue is that as public awareness of rescue groups increases, so too does the burden on rescue volunteers. Despite their hard work, rescue organizations are facing new challenges and limitations, including increased financial and emotional burdens, lawsuits, liability, burn-out, and the cause-and-effect wave of increased public education and awareness.

Donations Gladly Accepted

The cost of purebred rescue is staggering. A large percentage of the dogs surrendered to rescue groups need—and receive—obedience training, temperament evaluations, foster homes, and a solid dose of love and compassion before finding permanent homes. Veterinary bills can be substantial, even for healthy dogs that require only current vaccinations, heartworm tests, preventative medication, and spay or neutering.

Some clubs hold raffles or sell logo-designed merchandise including t-shirts, caps, bandanas, and so forth. Many are supported by donations from those who love the breed or through adoption fees, which normally run between $100 and $300. Some clubs are set up with—a free service that allows shoppers to earn money for their favorite cause whenever they make a purchase online.

Financial concerns have forced many rescue groups to seek alternate funding sources, such as grants from foundations and donations from dog fanciers, to supplement their usual fund-raising efforts.

It's All About the Dogs

Maintaining one's financial and emotional sanity while performing the noble task of rescuing dogs can be challenging. Yet, volunteers remain steadfast in their commitment to provide a safe haven for unwanted, neglected, and abandoned purebred dogs. Perhaps the greatest reward is knowing they have saved a life.

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