Sunday, February 8, 2009

RSPCA home-checking

Anyone who has felt offended by the checks we do before placing animals for adoption or fostering should read two news stories which broke over the past few days, as they show the kinds of situations home-visiting is designed to prevent.

The first comes from the US
Prosecutors said Chambers placed only six of the 28 dogs he received from the animal group, and three died from injuries that appeared to have come from fighting. Two other dogs were put down by police, and at least one dog that Chambers said had been adopted was found at the pound, according to court records. (via the Pet Connection blog). More on this story here.
Best Friends, the animal welfare group who placed the dogs, do seem to have interviewed Chambers and tried to get some background information about him, but it doesn't appear that anyone independent actually went and looked at his facilities to check that they were suitable. I think some of the comments about them are a bit harsh, as they probably did find that dogs who had been used to living in a "free range" domestic situation weren't happy being kennelled long-term and that was why they were so anxious to move them on for rehoming.

The second is a desperately sad illustration of why we ask apparently obsessive questions about whether the household will include small children (including ones who visit regularly), and what arrangements will be made to ensure that they will never be left alone with dogs.

Neighbours say the baby was asleep in his basket on the ground floor of the house when the dogs attacked.

They heard screams shortly after midnight as Wilson ran into the street shouting for help. They went into the house to find Jaden still being mauled by the dogs.
Dogs are large-mammal predators who would kill animals much larger than themselves in the wild. Even quite a small dog is capable of doing a terrible amount of injury. Normally our own dogs are socialised to us and would not harm us. BUT:
  • Babies may not be recognised by a dog as belonging to the same species as adult humans.
  • When babies or small children are only intermittently in a house they may not be seen by the dogs as part of their "pack" (wolves don't have grandmothers or step-mothers), and this may create a particularly risky situation.
  • If a dog has been accustomed to behaving as a dominant member of the family he may resent children who don't behave in a "respectful" manner.
  • A child may quite innocently do something which causes a dog to bite in fear - for example by falling onto a sleeping dog.
Bottom line: small children must not be left alone with dogs (and it must be remembered that an older child may not be in danger herself, but may not be capable of protecting a smaller one).

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