Tackling the fur-phies about rescue dogs

Erika Jackson reports on the myths and misconceptions which deter pet owners from giving animals a much-needed home

Every year, an estimated quarter of a million healthy animals, mainly dogs, are killed in Australian pounds – and the main reason is people’s reluctance to adopt abandoned pets.

Despite publicity about the benefits of giving a home to rescue dogs, many Australians continue to acquire pets from shops, passing up the opportunity to save a life. Fewer than half of the approximately 33,000 animals in the care of the NSW branch of the RSPCA in 2017 were eventually rehomed, according to a report by the organisation.

According to an RSPCA spokesperson, Jordan Murray, widespread and persistent myths and misconceptions about dogs in pounds and shelters play a big role in deterring people from adopting them.

Australians are the biggest per capita pet owners in the world, yet they are also abandoning animals at increasing rates, while adoptions remain stubbornly stable.

Mr Murray says: “Many people assume that RSPCA and other shelter/rescue dogs have behavioural, medical or physical impairments. This just isn’t true. Many dogs we see are happy and healthy and just looking for a happy, safe home.

“Some animals that we do see may need a little extra TLC, but every animal that is adopted is matched up with their perfect home.”

Rocky’s K9 Rescue in Sydney is one of a number of shelters that take in dogs facing euthanasia in overcrowded pounds, then try to rehome them. Rocky’s Kerrin Lee agrees that negative stereotypes are a major obstacle to more people adopting dogs.

“So many people think that rescue dogs are all disobedient and unaffectionate and cannot change,” she says. “I’d say that’s one of the main reasons people avoid rescue altogether.

“While some rescue dogs do have issues, the majority of dogs that I have had have not had major issues; they have been lovely, sweet, beautiful dogs.”

According to Mr Murray, the biggest misconception is that there are no puppies awaiting adoption in shelters.

“Many people do not expect animal shelters like RSPCA to have young animals or popular breeds, but we often do. We see hundreds of puppies adopted from RSPCA NSW each and every year.”

Rescue dog from Rocky’s K9 Rescue: Photo supplied

He says the rise in the number of dogs entering RSPCA shelters shows there is a need for better public education.

“It’s all about educating the community. This is one of the main reasons we like to feature a variety of animals that are available for adoption, to showcase the variety, and that there really is a rescue dog for everyone.”

Ms Lee says: “If people were more informed about rescue dogs, they would realise that they are no less deserving. They aren’t a lesser dog because they are a rescue.”

– Erika Jackson @erikaajacksonn, editing by Kathy Marks