Know the signs of animal cruelty, and understand what you're getting into when you adopt an abused dog
Photo by Flickr user Simon.1
I have had people proudly say to me that the rescue dog they have recently adopted has been abused. Do you know what that means? Are you capable of working with an abused dog?
Does abused mean taken a from home where an elderly person was not able to adequately care for a dog? Did the dog get enough to eat? Was it up to date on its shots? Did it live in an environment where it was one of many many pets?
The people who proudly say to me, "My dog was abused" cannot answer these questions — I ask, but none of them know the answer.
In the case of a toy breed — was it not properly socialized? Was it living with an elderly person who never got out and now the dog is afraid of everything people, other dogs, cars? Was the dog rescued from a puppy mill? People cannot answer.
Deb Kern of the Humane Society of Huron Valley helpfully gave me their guidelines for recognizing animal cruelty.
"You can be our eyes and ears. If you live in Washtenaw County, please report suspected animal cruelty right away by calling 734-661-3512. Animal cruelty can take many forms.These are a few of the things that we will investigate and prosecute for:
- Emaciated dogs chained to a fence, or left in the freezing cold with no shelter
- Companion animals left abandoned in a home or apartment
- Sick or emaciated animals not receiving proper veterinary care
- People fighting dogs or anyone using stray dogs as bait for their fighting dogs
- Anyone that knowingly or viciously harms an animal or neglects medical attention needed
- Anyone keeping animals in unhealthy or deplorable conditions
- People leaving animals in locked cars in hot weather regardless if the windows are cracked or not.
I can tell you that in some hoarding cases where people have way too many cats or dogs, depending on each individual case, we may or may not prosecute. This is a call that the investigators will make," Kern added.
Recently I was called to a home where a dog was adopted by people, Sam and Anne (not their real names), who were inadequately prepared to care for a dog, never mind one who had been improperly cared for (that's why it wound up in the shelter). They have three small children under the age of 6 years old.
They adopted an adult German Shepherd. “Yes,” Sam proudly proclaimed to me, “this dog was abused.”
Sam acknowledged that he had never had a dog. He does not take his dog to training classes. But I was called in as this misplaced dog had jumped through a window to attack a passerby and the pedestrian's dog while they were walking down the street.
Fortunately the person and other dog were not harmed. I examined the German Shepherd for abrasions and found it to be receptive to me touching its body and looking in its mouth.
I did not know how old the dog was; it appeared to be anywhere between 3-7 years old. When I looked at its teeth, they were worn down. It was my impression that the dog had been chewing on something very hard — perhaps a chain?
This a perfect example of not doing your homework or research. People who rescue dogs have their hearts in the right place, but not every dog is for everyone.
When I was head adoption counselor for our Greyhound rescue group, the sentiment was always the same: "I want to help these dogs." Our job was to inform those who wanted to adopt.
We gave the history of a dog's life on the track. These dogs — even though they are adults — are not house broken, and do not know how to climb stairs or walk on linoleum floors. The dog does not know what a sliding glass door is; they don’t know it is a door that they cannot go through when it is closed. A fenced yard is required.
We cautioned that if a door was open that these dogs would take off. I don’t care how fast you run — since it is their job to race — a human cannot compete with a dog that runs up to 45 miles per hour. By the time we realize the dog is out the door, it is too late.
The second interview would be a question and answer time where the prospective client asks us any questions.
Before you decide to share your home with another living being, please do the following:
- Ask questions of the adoption agency
- Go back for more than one visit
- If you have children, bring them along
- Ask if the dog sheds — a lot?
- Consider finding out if you are allergic to dogs
- Ask yourself: Are you a high or low energy person? A couch potato? A jogger who wants a high-energy dog?
- Be prepared. Do as much as you can to learn how to care for your new companion.
We were very thorough at the Greyhound rescue. Some people were offended by all of the questions — to them it seemed excessive. Our philosophy was this: These dogs had a tough life, and we didn’t want to place one in a home that would not be right for the animal and have the people return the dog — again.
And just in case you think I am being too thorough, please keep in mind that not all shelters are no-kill shelters. Unwanted pets are euthanized every day. It is easy to be impulsive, but isn't that how so many dogs wind up in shelters?
Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training (www.inharmonydogtraining.com) in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-645-4707. Julia provides individual training for dogs and their owners, and also conducts dog training classes at Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.