"Surely any home is better than staying there?"
These will be familiar words to anyone involved in rehoming rescue animals, particularly about the pets staying in a rescue centre for a while. The implication is that rescues are either being too picky about the proposed new home, or too specific about the needs of the animal. Unfortunately, rehoming is not that simple.
The recent Channel 4 programme Animal Rescue Live – Supervet Special highlighted some of the issues we all face. Animals can end up waiting a long time for their forever homes for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is their breed or behaviour, other times their colour or their age and often - particularly with the older animals - it’s their medical histories.
It was interesting to see that despite around 1.4 million viewers a night, a good number of applications and the persuasive charms of the Supervet Noel Fitzgerald, Animal Rescue Live was still unable to find homes for some of the longer stay residents. There was Sasha the three-legged American Bulldog, Clyde the slobbery Dogue de Bordeaux and Buttons the brain-damaged rabbit who must be rehomed with his rabbit ‘carer’ Bramble.
And there are animals just like Sasha, Clyde and Buttons in rescues all over the country who are going to take a bit longer to rehome.
Take Zen, for instance, an eight year-old Staffie cross who has been with National Animal Welfare Trust for a year. Any one of his traits: older, darker colour, bull breed, requirement to be an only pet, start to make him more difficult to re-home. Yet he is an active, clever, sociable dog who will make a great companion for someone.
He has had some interest thanks to the personal pleas of TV dog trainer Jo-Rosie Haffenden, who managed to get his story shared on Facebook more than 700 times, but because we have some strict requirements for the ideal home, Zen is still waiting.
Sometimes the decisions we make about a suitable home for an animal like Zen - decisions based on all the information we have about a dog, coupled with the on going assessments carried out by our experienced staff – might be challenged because the ‘problems’ are not always visible. On Animal Rescue Live, who didn’t fall in love with Sausage, the African Grey parrot with a penchant for colourful language?
The rescue was very clear that she should not be rehomed to a family either with children or with visiting children because of her language. Because her ‘problem’ was very visible, no one quibbled with that restriction and immediately understood the issue. Problems like those of Zen’s are a little more subtle.
Of course we desperately want to rehome all our animals, but equally we don’t want to fail Zen and believe he deserves his next home to be a permanent one.
And we know it might take a while, which is why National Animal Welfare Trust adopted the Open Paw programme, to provide the animals in our care with the training and stimulation they need to reduce stress levels, and help them present well to potential owners. We regard our kennels as the best place the animals could be until the right owner comes along.
Thanks to the support of people like you who believe animals deserve a second chance, no matter how long it takes for it to come along, we are able to wait with dogs like Zen.
This summer the wait was finally over for Mole, our Lurcher from Cornwall, who went home to his new owner after eight years at the centre. Gorgeous one-eyed Max – who appeared in Petplan’s sponsorship ads for Animal Rescue Live, finally left Watford after four and half years in kennels. These moments make us weep with joy, and offer hope for others like Zen.
Please help us celebrate Still Waiting Week by sharing our animals’ stories through the next seven days. You never know who may be reading them.