So one apparently simple solution would be for every branch or animal home to take one extra dog. (In terms of Cambridge that would represent us managing to sell about half a ton more second hand books, which is hard work, but do-able).
However it's not as straightforward as it looks. If there was an incident meaning 182 dogs had to come in tomorrow, it would be easy to appeal to all branches to work together to spread the load.
What's actually happening at the moment is more complicated and explains why "RSPCA generated" (giving priority for admission to welfare cases) didn't succeed in bringing about zero euthanasia of healthy dogs as everyone had hoped.
- Giving priority to animals who have to come in because their welfare is at risk (by refusing to take animals who are someone else's responsibility) inevitably means some kennel space is tied up for longer periods (because sick, injured or very thin animals have to recuperate before they can be offered for rehoming). This means there isn't a straightforward 1:1 gain in places for the priority dogs for each lower priority dog refused admission.
- Requests to take dogs in go up and down depending on the number of welfare incidents and in an unpredictable way. This means any given branch can't simply resolve to take in one more dog compared with the previous year; their local inspector might not need as many places or he or she might need twice as many.
- If the branch responsible for the area where a welfare incident occurred knew space was guaranteed elsewhere if they didn't admit a particular dog that would remove their sense that "the buck stops here". At present they know animals they refuse to take might have to be euthanased and it means they don't refuse unless they really do have no other option.
So any emergency short-stay kenneling or system for distributing animal intake might take pressure off individual branches without succeeding in increasing rehoming overall.
- If an inspector has a dog in need and the only available space is 500 miles away there needs to be an effective system to locate that space and then transfer the dog there.
It would probably be better all round to move shorter distances by a "chain" system before there is an emergency (i.e. branch A has space so takes some dogs from branch B who takes some from C and so on rather than moving an unlucky individual dog from Z to A).
- Branches without animal homes (like Cambridge) who rehome using a combination of private boarding kennels and foster homes may actually be more able to rehome the high-priority dogs if they do accept small numbers of the lower-priority ones but are selective about which ones.
This happens because:
- It's easier to recruit foster homes for small dogs but larger dogs are more likely to fall into the high-priority group (so there's no point refusing to admit a low-priority small dog if there's a detriment to the small dog without any corresponding benefit to the large one).
- If the branch only has a few dogs at any one time it's hard to maintain local interest in the branch as a rehoming organisation, meaning those dogs will be more difficult to rehome.