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The Perils of Placing Marginal Dogs or Let's Euthanize All Imperfect Animals

Posted by on Jun. 25, 2013 at 8:51 AM
  • 81 Replies

I am infuriated over this article. Not only were Rosie's owners irresponsible (you allow a high prey-drive dog with issues to be walked by someone other than you or your family members?), but they do not look at the REAL problem that needs to be solved:  overbreeding and the fact that there are too many dogs in shelters -- period. THAT needs to be addressed.

And then the guy says his neighbor is "playing the victim" - Dude, your neighbor WAS the victim. No playing needed. So he won't ever adopt from a shelter again.  

http://www.animalsheltering.org/resources/magazine/sep_oct_2003/the_perils_of_placing_marginal_dogs.html

Rosie was a loving, beautiful dog with doting owners, but in the end, her predatory instinct made her too dangerous for habitation in human society. Her attack on another dog was the last straw for her owners, who vowed never to adopt from a shelter again.

Rosie was a loving, beautiful dog with doting owners, but in the end, her predatory instinct made her too dangerous for habitation in human society. Her attack on another dog was the last straw for her owners, who vowed never to adopt from a shelter again.

 

Back in 1998 I had been volunteering with shelter dogs for a couple of years and was firmly convinced that there was a home for every dog out there ... somewhere. With training, work, and love, we could fix them all!

 

A beautiful young pit/lab mix was returned to the shelter for growling at one of her new adopters. I asked my friend Mindy to take Rosie in for a few days, observe her, and see if this was something workable.

She and her husband John fell in love with Rosie and decided to adopt her. There was never any growling at people in this home, but it quickly became apparent that Rosie had no skills whatsoever around other animals. In fact, she was a little scary. No fear, they just wouldn’t let her around other animals. I got to spend time being really happy about “saving” another dog from those evil pound people who just wanted to kill her, and went about my merry way.

Fast forward to five years later. I’m in a different country and have learned a lot, been to many conferences, and worked with some of the best in the business. Over these years, judging by the sporadic contact I’ve had with them, my friends have put a lot of time and work into Miss Rosie. Hired trainers. Dog walkers. Tried various methods, from cookies to choking. Rosie was always a dream around the house but a nightmare when in prey-drive, and no one, myself included, had the ultimate answer for that one, aside from management.

We know management always fails at some point. Here’s the e-mail I got from John recently, shared with his permission:

“Hi Trish,

Hope all’s well with you and with your pooches.

I thought you might appreciate knowing that Rosie is no longer with us. Having been through this kind of thing with Chinook, I think maybe you’d understand.

It wasn’t the two skunks or the flying crow she nabbed out of the air or the tail she bit off that squirrel. It wasn’t even the three cats of the same house she killed in our yard, the second one she slew in full view of our neighbours—the cat’s owners—from their balcony.

The last straw was when our dog walker was walking Rosie on her leash about five weeks ago along Nanaimo Street. A little cocker spaniel stuck its head out from under the gate and yapped at Rosie. Big mistake.

With lightning speed Rosie had the little dog by the head and yanked it out under the gate, tearing the gate off its hinges. By the end of it the little dog survived (thank God) and I had Rosie at the Granville Island vet for a date with the blue juice. Mindy was in Ontario for her grandfather’s funeral, so the task lay on me to find a good vet who’d do the task. A lot of places simply won’t euthanize a physically healthy animal.

I found a young, very compassionate vet at Granville who heard my long story of Rosie and read my letter from the trainer, Scott. Dr. Clancy agreed to do it. He was very impressed with Rosie. She was obviously very healthy, well trained, loving. When the moment came I told her it was alright (what a big lie!) and she gave me that trusting look. The doctor pushed in the plunger.

Rosie stood up, slipped off the table into the arms of Dr. Clancy, and by the time he placed her back on the table she was gone. It was as if someone passed a hand over my face and when done, Rosie was gone and another dog was lying there. A damn good-looking one, I might add, but it wasn’t Rosie.

Anyhow, we offered to pay the owner of the cocker half of his $550 vet bill. But, he’s feeling victimized so he rejected our offer of half, and he’s suing us for the full vet bill and gate repairs to the tune of $785.

Anyhow, we’ve done our social responsibility with reject pound dogs so we hope to get a puppy in an upcoming litter of Hungarian Vizslas, which are a rust-coloured, short-haired pointing dog. Good-looking, friendly, predictable. Oh, yeah. And expensive.

So, Trish, there you go. Such a sad tale. We loved that dog so much, but there was nothing we could do in the end to prevent this denouement. It’s a great relief actually, but it’s a little like losing a family member—well, nowhere near as bad, but sort of that way. I know you’ve been through this too.

John B.”

I might add that over these five years my views on placing marginal dogs have changed ... a lot. I’ve come a lot more in line with Sue Sternberg’s philosophy that shelters should be where people come to get the best dogs, not to become expert trainers or to have their bank accounts drained.

Look what I managed to accomplish by “saving” that one dog. John and Mindy have told me that they will never adopt a “reject pound dog” again. Do you think their neighbors will? Their family? Their coworkers, who have heard the Rosie stories all these years?

How many shelter dogs will now die because I got greedy over one dog that I thought should be saved, in another city all those years ago?

One Viszla breeder is happy with me, that’s all I’m sure of.

I’m facing this dilemma again with my current foster pup, who is very people-shy and has immune problems, and I just found out he has severe hip dysplasia. He is not a danger to society in any way, but do I dare send him out to become someone else’s “project”? If I do, will he be an advertisement or a deterrent for people thinking of adopting shelter dogs?

It’s humbling work, this.


Trish McMillan is a dog trainer and shelter volunteer. Her essay first appeared as a posting to Shelter Trainers, a Yahoo message board, and is reprinted here with her permission. As for John and his family, although they love their socialized and friendly four-month-old puppy, they still miss Rosie and her endearing “confident sense of belonging in the family.”

 

by on Jun. 25, 2013 at 8:51 AM
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Replies (1-10):
lga1965
by on Jun. 25, 2013 at 8:57 AM
What a disturbing.story. A Pitbull is scary . They do have a predatory makeup no matter what the pitbull fans say. There is no way I would have one. A Pit-Lab mix is not good either,particularly in a home with small children. I have rescued cocker spaniels and a beagle,all wonderful dogs.
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Seasidegirl
by Gold Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:11 AM
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 I have had 4 German shepherds. Two of them very high prey drive. One of them VERY wary of people and could have been considered dangerous to people. There would have been "reasons" to euthanize all of my shepherds according to this article, even the one with zero prey drive (because he was nuts).

But rather than kill dogs like this, I think people need to recognize what they're taking on and be responsible. No way in hell have I ever let anyone other than me and my husband walk our German shepherds. NO WAY. Doofus should have adopted him a mixed Golden retriever or something rather than now vow (I think he's using his old dog as an excuse) to never adopt from a shelter.

Funny thing is that with my 4 German shepherds and a shepherd mix, the only biters (of humans) I've had in my house were my husband's old cocker spaniel (who regularly bit him) and our Aussie mix (don't dare try to take trash from him).

Quoting lga1965:

What a disturbing.story. A Pitbull is scary . They do have a predatory makeup no matter what the pitbull fans say. There is no way I would have one. A Pit-Lab mix is not good either,particularly in a home with small children. I have rescued cocker spaniels and a beagle,all wonderful dogs.


 

yourspecialkid
by Platinum Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:12 AM
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 What a sad turn of events.  I don't think walking the dog was very responsible.  She needed a place with a big fenced yard.

The owner is a jerk.  He should have paid every penny of the damages without hesitation.

We went to a family festival this past weekend..tons of people and lots of kids.  I was surprised by the number of people with pits.  They easily outnumbered all the other breeds.  There were no incidents, but people need to be much more vigilent with this breed.  Their bite is different and much more lethal.

 

nuclear_sugar
by Jaye on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:20 AM
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He offered to pay for half of the damages that his pet was wholly responsible for? How noble of him.

Sad story. People should not adopt anything unless they have the desire and means to care for it properly and keep it away from the neighbors' cats.
Roxygurl
by Bronze Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:25 AM
The letter makes him sound cold and heartless. Ugh.
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Luvnlogic
by Silver Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:25 AM
So sad for all involved :( We have rescued 3 of the 4 dogs we've owned. All from puppy age and all lab mixes who we felt held the least risk of aggressive behavior because we have kids. People really need to be careful, but NOT stop rescuing. Placement of marginal dogs should be highly scrutinized to ensure the new owners are as prepared as one can be to deal with the specific challenges of each dog. But, in the end, if a dog has proven to be unmanageable by an expert, they should not be sent out into someone else's home and care.
Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:38 AM
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The owner sounds like an arrogant ass. He hired people to care for and walk HIS dog. Seriously? Why even adopt a dog if you don't have the time to care for it...

I have two shelter dogs and that is what we will always adopt after these two pass on...
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Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:40 AM
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Did you know that science has proven Cocker Spaniels to be the world's meanest breed? Yup.

They are one of the MOST aggressive and mean breeds in the world.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/05/25/2579884.htm#.UcmdbWS9Kc0


Quoting lga1965:

What a disturbing.story. A Pitbull is scary . They do have a predatory makeup no matter what the pitbull fans say. There is no way I would have one. A Pit-Lab mix is not good either,particularly in a home with small children. I have rescued cocker spaniels and a beagle,all wonderful dogs.
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Kate_Momof3
by Silver Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:47 AM
1 mom liked this

 I agree with the writer of this piece. It was irresponsible of her to encourage an asshat and his wife to adopt such a high maintenance dog.

For every Rosie, there are probably hundreds of good endings. It's too bad that the Rosie's (rather than her owners and the shelter who adopted her out) are the ones who make it harder for the good ones. Again I agree with the author here: she did shelter dogs, especially pit mixes, a terrible disservice.

Any dog, regardless of breed, that has a history of aggression shouldn't be placed in the suburbs. There are people who are willing to take them far away from temptation and work with them. Unfortunately there aren't enough.

Is euthanasia for those dogs the answer if they can't be properly placed? It's sad, but I think it is.

UpSheRises
by Platinum Member on Jun. 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM
Shelters need to do a better job of matching dogs with people and recognizing that some dogs just arent find a family who meets their needs. Its a sad reality.

I have 3 dogs...I freaking love dogs...I plan to have a whole pack when I move up north. Some dogs cant live in the world we've created, we have to accept that.
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