Working in animal rescue is rewarding. Seeing dogs that have been abandoned, abused and neglected grow and flourish into happy, healthy little personalities is such a joy. But, it’s hard work. Owen and I work exclusively with Bull breeds, and they’re strong, single-minded creatures, and we’ve fallen in love with every single one that we’ve fostered. We did our best to make sure that they were looked after and prepared to go to their forever homes the best dogs that they could be.
We found out today that our most recent foster dog, Clay, has ended up in a pound, abandoned by yet another owner. As heartbreaking as that is, it gives us a perfect opportunity to talk about how we can stop things like this happening in future, and the shared responsibilities of owners and rescuers alike.
We had Clay as a foster dog for a couple of months. He had some training issues, sure, and suffered severe separation anxiety which made him destructive if left alone, but it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t handle, and certainly nothing that a good, stable home wouldn’t fix. He got along perfectly with our two dogs, Tonks and Molly, and we knew he’d make a perfect pet if given a chance.
Stephanie, the force behind Pit Bull Rescue Cyprus (PRC), worked hard trying to find Clay his perfect forever home, when a man named Markos, and his business partner Costas, who own and run an EU funded farm in Limassol came forward. They came to Steph with plans to extend their farm, talking about taking on rescue animals, becoming a kind of sanctuary where school kids could visit, play with the animals and have day camps etc. They even said there were plans to develop a dog hotel, so visitors to Cyprus could come and visit with their animals, with swimming pools for dogs and people to keep them cool in the scorching summer heat. It sounded like the dream home for any dog.
Steph was diligent in screening his potential new owners. She is often wary of homing to businesses as it is difficult to prove ownership, but any fears on that front were quickly allayed. He would be co-owned by the two men, and would be looked after during the day by both of them. When they weren’t on the property there was a couple who lived on site who would look after the animals in their absence.
With everything in order, we said goodbye to Clay, and with happy tears sent him to his new home.
If anyone has adopted an animal from a shelter or worked in rescue, you’ll know that adoption packages are part and parcel of owning an animal. They don’t generate profit, all they do is help the rescue recoup some of the many costs that go into rescuing animals. The price of an adoption fee is usually the amount that would cover neutering a dog, and that’s what the money usually goes toward. Clay was still to be neutered, so an appointment was made and the adoption package left with the vet.
With much prodding from Steph, and a missed appointment, Clay was finally brought in to be neutered. He was brought in by employees of the farm rather than the owners themselves, and they’d also sent the dog that they already owned to have the operation as well.
After the operation, the two men claimed that Stephanie had offered that the charity would pay for it. Not only had Clay been neutered that day, but so had their other dog, which had no connection to the charity at all. Steph was expected to pay for it out of pocket. After days of arguing back and forth, the bill was settled it in part. As far as I know, the rest of the amount is still outstanding, leaving the charity once again racking up a vet bill.
A few days ago, she was tagged in a post by a friend who keeps an eye out for Pit Bulls in local pounds, to see if the charity can take on the case. Imagine her surprise when the dog in the tagged post turned out to be Clay! She recognised him straight away, and thus began the saga of trying to find out how our perfectly happy Clay had ended up in a cage, awaiting death alongside the other dogs who are the fallout of irresponsible pet ownership.
I’ll save you all the ‘he said, she said.’ Long story short, it seems that the couple who were caretakers at the farm left, taking Clay with them and dumping him at the pound. Both men now refuse to accept ownership, and any further attempts at correspondence have been ignored while Clay is still sitting in a kill shelter in Limassol.
PRC has a network of volunteers supporting them. We all have day jobs, and the number of people it takes to rehome a dog is astounding. In Clay’s situation, he was rescued from his previous owner who was going to sell him on a Facebook group known for being a source for bait dogs. There was a small army of volunteers involved in home checks, collections, lifts from one end of Cyprus to the other, dog minders for when life meant we couldn’t be home with the dogs all day, vets who gave their time, and even volunteers who monitored messages and made phone calls to try and make sure he went to the best home possible. It’s hard work, and mostly thankless. But we do it because we love the dogs, and they deserve a chance at life.
Screening potential owners is difficult. There is always some element of trust involved, and it’s difficult when we feel that trust is violated. We feel we’ve failed the dogs by putting them into situations that they have no control over, but ultimately, there is nothing to be gained from playing the blame game.
Responsible dog ownership has to be learned, and Clay’s situation is a perfect illustration of that. He’s been in two homes now who have let him down. There is no point in publicly crucifying the people who adopted him. Their actions speak to ignorance, rather than any intended cruelty. But this ignorance is the exact reason why we need to highlight situations like this, and hopefully, make sure it never happens again. Clay is a good dog who deserves better. A dog is for life. Give them love, and they’ll love you back unconditionally.
Let’s take this opportunity to have a serious and frank discussion about rescue and adoption. It’s easy to jump to naming and shaming, but ultimately that does more harm than good. A public outing won’t make someone change their ways but offering support and a willingness to get to the heart of why people act the way they do just might.
When you rescue a dog, you have a support network of like-minded individuals who have the dog’s best interest at heart. Any of us can be contacted for help or advice if the dog gets too much or you find yourself unable to cope alone. Help is available before abandoning a dog; you only need to ask.