Dogs Trust Intake Policies Explained
We’re often asked about our policies regarding taking dogs into our centres. So here’s a comprehensive guide that answers the most common questions.
Our mission is to bring an end to the destruction of stray and abandoned dogs. We conduct an annual local authority survey to gauge the extent and whereabouts of the problem and concentrate our resources accordingly.
In order to achieve the mission, Dogs Trust takes a “prevention and cure” approach.
On the preventative side, we run large scale neutering campaigns to prevent accidental litters. Our microchipping campaigns aim to ensure that stray dogs can be returned quickly to their owners. Our Education programme is helping to create a more responsible attitude to dog welfare among tomorrow’s dog owners. We also work with local and national government wherever we can add value.
On the curative side, we run 19 rehoming centres across the UK and Ireland to save the lives of as many stray and abandoned dogs as possible.
Where do your dogs come from?
Our dogs come from three main sources – local authority pounds, other charities and handovers from the public.
Why is a non-destruction policy important to Dogs Trust?
A non destruction policy is central to our ethos.
We love dogs and we’re dedicated to saving those whose lives are at risk. Once a dog comes into our care, we treat him or her as we would a much loved family pet. We’re a dog charity – we’re here to save dogs, not to kill them.
What is a Local Authority Stray Dog Contract?
Local authorities have a statutory duty to look after stray dogs for seven days (five days in Ireland). After that, they can rehome the dogs, pass them to a welfare organisation or humanely destroy them. Some local authorities have their own kennels to care for these strays, others put the work out to tender and pay private companies or charities to do the work on their behalf. Charities can bid for as many of these contracts as they wish and they can be a lucrative income stream.
Does Dogs Trust have Stray Contracts?
We used to have many stray contracts but this came to an end some years ago. Whilst this means we miss out on a potential source of income, we believe that we can save more dogs’ lives by working in a different way.
Around 50% of dogs taken in by local authorities are reunited with their owners. These are mainly dogs that have slipped the lead or escaped from the garden and then been found by the general public or dog warden. We take the view that these dogs are not at risk of destruction (they are merely temporarily parted from their owners) and we’d rather the local authority look after these. By not taking in these strays, we effectively create more kennel space at our centres for dogs that will never be claimed by their owners – dogs which are at risk of destruction. So we will take dogs from local authorities once they have stayed at the pound for the statutory holding period without being claimed. We call these “Eighth Day Dogs” (or Sixth Day Dogs in Ireland).
So are your intake criteria "selective"?
Yes. By not acting as a “pound”, we are in control of which dogs come into our centres. But, of course, it does mean that we do not receive any payment from local authorities. However, the generosity of our donors means that we do not rely on money from local authority contracts – this gives us the freedom to save more dogs.
We prioritise dogs from pounds that have high destruction rates. We will work with local authorities and other charities to take in “Eighth Day” dogs that have not been claimed by their old owners. How many dogs we take in is dependent upon how much kennel space we have. We will also take “handovers” from the public when we have room.
Difficult decisions do have to be taken as we have finite kennel space. When taking in dogs, we generally look for those that have a good temperament and are not incurably ill. Curable medical conditions are not a problem.
We do not have breed specific policies but do seek to ensure that our centres do not become full of any one particular breed. If a rehoming centre becomes overwhelmed by a particular breed, it reduces the amount of dogs that can be rehomed.
A good temperament is important as we want dogs to share kennels wherever possible. This helps to maximise the numbers of dogs that can be saved. Dogs with temperament problems will also need to spend longer at our centres whilst they receive training from our behaviour advisors. And the longer they stay, the fewer dogs we are able to save. Dogs that present a serious danger to our staff cannot be taken in.
By ensuring that our kennels are fully occupied, we care for around 16,000 stray and abandoned dogs a year. If we had council contracts, we could still care for 16,000 dogs a year but we would be able to rescue and rehome far fewer dogs that are genuinely at risk of destruction - as a large percentage would be dogs that would be reclaimed by their owners.
Quite simply, we are trying to save as many dogs as is possible. If being “selective” means more lives saved, then selective we will be.
Is a selective policy responsible for your low destruction rates?
No. When Dogs Trust had local authority contracts, our destruction rate was the same as it is today – around 2%. The key was ensuring that we did not take on too many contracts. Whilst having multiple local authority stray contracts can generate a lot of money, it can also put intolerable pressures on a limited space resource – with regrettable results.
It should also be noted that, whilst most of our dogs are rehomed within a month, around 15% take over 6 months to rehome. These dogs tend to be those with behavioural or veterinary issues. If we selected purely perfect dogs, this would not be the case.
Why do you take "handovers" from the public?
We take handovers from the public where the original owners have died or are no longer able to care for their dogs. We do this as these dogs are at risk of being abandoned, surrendered to the local authority, or destroyed at the owner’s request. A handover waiting list exists at all of our centres and dogs will be assessed before being taken in. Priority is given to dogs most likely to be re-homed.
By law, all stray dogs that are found need to be taken to the local authority pound in the first instance. This is to ensure that owners have the best possible chance of locating their missing pets. This means that the law prevents us from taking in a stray dog found wandering by a member of the public - the dog has to go to the pound first. We are only able to take dogs from the pound if they are unclaimed by their owners.
Do you transfer dogs from Ireland to the UK?
Dogs Trust works in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Our mission is the same in both countries – to stop healthy dogs from being destroyed. We take the same prevention and cure approach in both countries.
We transfer dogs at risk of destruction from all parts of the UK and Ireland to whichever of our rehoming centres has kennel space available. By carefully managing this process, we can ensure that our rehoming centres constantly work at optimum capacity.
Will Dogs Trust build more rehoming centres?
We work hard to ensure that we maximise the numbers of dogs we can save. It is difficult to see how we can rehome many more dogs from our existing rehoming centres. So we plan to build more centres in the future. We have secured planning permission for a new site in Essex (which should open in 2014) and have started searching for suitable sites for other centres.
Building new rehoming centres is only possible thanks to the great kindness of those who give us donations or remember us in their wills. We are truly grateful to our supporters for their great generosity.