Perhaps you have your heart set on adopting a certain breed. You've visited Gastineau Humane Society for six months and haven't found it. You've talked to breeders, but their puppies are too expensive or they don't meet your expectations of a responsible breeder. Do you know there's another adoption option - breed rescue?
This can be a rewarding choice for several reasons. One, you're offering a home to an abandoned animal. Two, purebreds usually come with known characteristics. And three, most rescue dogs are mature, housebroken, past the chewing and wild puppy stage, and may even have some previous training.
Dogs arrive in breed rescue for many reasons. A family might be undergoing a change with a new baby, a move, death or divorce. Sometimes a home isn't truly prepared to meet a dog's needs for exercise, training and care. Families, unable to pay bills, may abandon a dog at a veterinary clinic, boarding establishment or animal shelter. These are not necessarily problem dogs and may have ended up in rescue through no fault of their own. Others may have been rescued from puppy mill raids, are strays off the street or were dumped at an animal pound. Talk at length with the rescue group about a dog's background before you adopt.
Formal breed rescue organizations are usually comprised of volunteers with in-depth knowledge of their specific breed. In addition to seeing that a dog is neutered/spayed, vaccinated and given a physical examination, they evaluate temperament, behavior and training issues. The dog is then placed with an experienced foster home until its permanent home can be found. Foster homes are a good source of information on a dog's household and public manners.
Expect a lengthy interview and questionnaire process. Rescue groups do not want to see one of its charges, which have already been abandoned once, playing revolving door through multiple homes. They work hard to ensure their dogs go to "forever" homes the first time.
Once dogs are in their new permanent homes, breed rescue continues to offer guidance and support for any questions or behavior issues that may arise. Local dog lover, Lin Davis, who two years ago adopted Rhodesian Ridgeback rescues, Moz and Ari, marvels at the dedication of the rescue groups she worked with both in Idaho and Anchorage, and the hours they devoted by phone and e-mail to helping the new family work through any issues that cropped up with the two dogs.
The bad news is that we do not have any formal rescue organizations in Juneau. However, there are volunteers in our community who evaluate dogs, conduct home visits or help with travel arrangements on behalf of out-of-town rescue organizations. Your veterinarian, dog trainer or a member of the Capital Kennel Club of Juneau may be able to suggest someone to contact locally for the breed in which you're interested.
Kathy Buss is a local volunteer who assists Greyhound Pets of America, http://www.greyhoundpets.org, in placing rescues. The process she enters with prospective adopting families is similar to what you can expect in working with a local liaison and out-of-town breed rescue. She said, "If you are interested in adopting a rescue greyhound, I spend time chatting, asking what you know about the breed, why you're interested, and what you need from a dog. Afterwards, I explain breed rescue's expectations of you. After this initial meeting, if you are still interested, I make a home visit, along with my own Greyhound rescue, Ginger, to see if there is a fenced or a 'fence-able' yard and how you interact with Ginger. If you are still interested and meet our criteria, the adoption process begins. A fee pays for the spay/neuter operation and vaccinations. If for any reason, the dog doesn't work out, you return it to me."
A few caveats are needed. Every breed rescue organization is run differently depending upon the individuals who staff it. Check with them at the outset to see if they accept adoption applications from out of state. Some will only place dogs within their local area.
Determine whether the organization is legitimate. Some are not, and may be breeders who misrepresent their dogs as "rescues." Indicators for reputable organizations are nonprofit status and how well they screen prospective homes and monitor the dog's well being after it is placed.
Breed rescue organizations within Alaska:
The American Kennel Club Web site provides a more extensive nationwide list at http://www.akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm.
http://www.petfinder.com allows you to search breed rescue groups, humane societies and animal control agencies nationwide for dogs by breed, age, gender and location.
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