1995 NAIA Purebred Rescue Symposium

1995 NAIA Purebred Rescue Symposium

Report on the 1995 NAIA purebred rescue symposium

By: Patti Strand  Date: 12/9/1995 Category: | Canine Issues |


About six dozen purebred rescue advocates gathered at the Holiday Inn Lakeview in Clarksville, Indiana, on March 16 to discuss the vagaries of working in purebred rescue efforts. The speakers were tops in their fields of rescue, shelter operation, and pets-and-people interactions. Two dozen breeds of dogs were represented as were the cat fancy and several humane societies.



The role of shelters

Sharyn Middleton of Multnomah led off the morning with a discussion of the historical role of shelters in dealing with unwanted pets, placing special emphasis on the development of approaches that invite community involvement. The strengths of a successful program include bringing the dog fancy and the animal welfare community together for the benefit of the animals in the shelter; an adoption policy that seeks to screen all incoming animals; place healthy and sociable animals in appropriate homes; a requirement that all adoptees be sterilized; a follow-up program for all animals that leave the facility; and a willingness to refuse an animal to those individuals who are not deemed good risks by the adoption counselor.

Multnomah uses adoption satellites and coordinates efforts with local purebred breeders. The decline in numbers of dogs handled and therefore in numbers of dogs euthanized has been impressive; Multnomah is in the enviable position of not having enough animals to meet the demand for adoptions.



Rescue dog behaviors

Gary Clemons DVM followed Middleton with a presentation on behavior problems in dogs adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups. Clemons is a small animal practitioner in Cincinnati, Ohio, and host of Pet Talk, a weekly radio show to answer pet owner's questions.

Clemons talked first about medical problems that can influence pet behavior, including hip dysplasia and other arthritic conditions; allergies, especially those that cause secondary skin and ear infections; and parasites. Then he hit the behavior problems, both those that cause the dog to end up in the shelter and those that manifest as a result of the shelter trauma.

"Neglect may be one of the leading causes of many of the behavioral problems we currently see in dogs," Clemons said. "If they are never exposed to small children or strangers or never taken from their homes or yards, they can develop 'fearful-aggressive' tendencies. When a small, active child finally corners such a dog or a stranger reaches for the collar, he often bites out of fear. Shelter, here we come."

Other problems of rescued dogs include food-guarding, perhaps triggered by early malnutrition; destructive behavior based in boredom; and rage syndrome, an often misunderstood condition.

Dog temperament affects behavior; dominant-aggressive and submissive-aggressive dogs can become biters if their owners don not deal appropriately with their temperaments from the beginning.

Clemons' solutions included selection of breeding stock with good temperaments; education of new pet owners by breeders and veterinarians; and cooperation between breeders, veterinarians, training clubs, and shelters.

[ More on Clemons' talk]

Chow Chow rescue coordinator Vicki Rodenberg began her discussion of working with shelters by saying that shelters beg her to take Chows because they don't want to handle the breed.

She went on to suggest several reasons why animal shelters might be uncooperative with purebred rescue groups, including a perception that rescue groups are elitist; complaints that rescues skim off the most adoptable animals; and failure of rescue groups to follow-up with reports on dogs adopted through the shelter or to show concern for shelter problems.

Rescues can change the attitudes at shelters by presenting themselves as professional groups, offering assistance with education packets, referrals, etc.; assuring that each animal will be sterilized before placement in a new home; maintain your cool and be polite and well-mannered in all communications with shelter; and make donations of money, time, or blankets, bowls, etc. to help the shelter.



The human side of the equation

Alan Beck, director of the Center for Applied Ethology and Human-Animal Interactions and professor in the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, wrapped up the morning session with a look at the human-animal bond and hints on establishing personal guidelines for helping animals without burnout.

Keynote speaker Ken Marden, a member of the American Kennel Club Board of Directors and an active participant in German Short-Haired Pointer rescue, delivered his brief remarks during lunch, wrapping up with the presentation of rescue awards to three symposium attendees.

Marden spoke about the need for education: "We must educate breeders about their lifetime responsibility for all the dogs they have ever bred. Responsible breeders are ones that will take back and attempt to place any dog which, for whatever reason, can no longer be cared for by anyone who has purchased a puppy from them. Enforcing codes of ethics from local or national clubs will help, but we somehow must encourage breeders to screen buyers more carefully, provide buyers with a ton of information, and insist they train their puppies at least through basic obedience.

"Educating the general public is even more difficult and complex," Marden continued, and he urged everyone to speak to civic groups and youth groups, make use of AKC education materials, and host education booths at shows and public events.

"Education of shelter personnel is equally important," he said. "Shelter personnel are under constant stress. We can help them by making them realize we can foster dogs out of a shelter situation, make a more complete evaluation of what the dogs' problems are, often correct those problems, and find adoptive homes where the dog will have a long and happy life."



Breed club and AKC input


Nancy Campbell opened the afternoon session with a discussion of the potential and pitfalls of national breed rescue organizations affiliated with a breed club. She emphasized the need for a national rescue coordinator to have the support of the club and the authority to act on the club's behalf in various rescue activities.

National rescues should be professional, Campbell said. They should establish a set of protocols, publish an attractive and informative brochure, review rescue with club members at national specialties, be aware of legal liabilities and provide insurance coverage, establish a funding program, recruit volunteers, and educate the public, humane societies, animal control and new owners.

William Hughes of the AKC told the participating rescuers how they could use his department to deal with backyard or commercial breeders who produce many litters each year with little or no concern for the animals. AKC investigates breeders on complaint and by the number of litters they produce, Hughes said. AKC can suspend only those who violate registration and identification rules, but his investigators can report kennels with substandard conditions or animal neglect to local humane agents.

Registration papers are voided if the dog enters an animal shelter or rescue group, Hughes said. Papers should never be given tot he adopting family but should instead be returned to AKC with a note saying that the animal has entered a shelter or rescue.



Legal aspects of rescue

Cindy Goodman, an attorney involved in Siberian Husky rescue in Georgia, discussed contracts, incorporation, insurance, and other legal issues affecting rescue groups.

"Unlike governmental agencies which may have limited liability or immunity from liability, private groups have exposure from many sources," Goodman said, "the public, previous owners, foster homes, rescue workers, new owners, governments, and the parent organization. Rescue organizations can face criminal as well as civil charges."

Goodman provided an outline of advantages and disadvantages of establishing separate rescue groups and for connection with an established group; structural requirements of such groups to meet government requirements; the need for policies and a code of ethics; well-trained volunteers; knowledge of local and state animal laws; and agreements for each step of the adoption process from a release by the dog's owner to a foster family agreement and the final adoption contract.

Goodman's five rules for avoiding charges of negligence:


  1. Do not exceed authority of a private group
  2. Act within the organization's articles of incorporation and bylaws
  3. Document everything
  4. Don't cut corners
  5. Operate sensibly.




NAIA's first Purebred Rescue Symposium was an unqualified success according to those 47 participants who filed evaluation forms.

A smattering of responses follows:

  • "A#1, very informative, educating, motivating."
  • "Beneficial and interesting."
  • "It gave me lots of new ideas that I can use."
  • "An open exchange of usable ideas that rescue groups can benefit from."
  • "Very inspiring -- keeps me going."


Generally, respondents enjoyed the opportunity to network with each other and to discuss ideas that have worked or failed in other areas.

Two of the participants made reports to their breed clubs; extracts from those reports are included in a sidebar.

All in all, participants were anxious to do it again. Many wanted two days; some suggested additional topics. So we'll do it again. For two days. In March 1996 at Raleigh, North Carolina.


About The Author

Patti Strand's photo
Patti Strand - NAIA President

Patti is a recognized expert and consultant on contemporary animal issues, most notably responsible dog ownership and the animal rights movement. She often appears on radio and television and her articles on canine issues, animal welfare, public policy and animal rights have appeared in major US news publications and in trade, professional and scientific journals. Patti and her…

All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |
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