by Gail Whitford
Previously published in
The Wolf Hybrid Times
Wolfdog rescue is a subject we all need to think about seriously. Most people don't realize the extent of the problem. I surely didn't when I hit the internet nearly 4 years ago. These past 4 years have been truly enlightening. A number of individual wolfdog rescuers and rescue organizations supplied the statistics, and some other information included in this article. Many of the stats were averaged for ease of reporting.
Why do we need wolfdog rescue? Why is it important? The 4 rescue facilities polled reported that they get between 2 and 15 rescue calls and emails per week, per facility. Individual rescuers(6) reported from 1 to 12 calls and emails per week, all from people who wanted to be rid of their wolfdog for one reason or another. Wolfie reported that she once got 26 rescue calls in a week. That's a LOT of people in a year wanting to "dump" their animals.
Rescue organizations reported calls and emails coming from all over the country. Individual rescuers found that calls and referrals came from the local area, the emails from around the nation. Most rescues/rescuers got about 1/2 the calls and emails from internet lists or websites, and 1/2 from local referrals, such as Animal Control and dog rescue groups.
What reasons do folks give for wanting Timber placed elsewhere (often "anywhere, just get him out of here!")?
Here are the top ten:
3. New baby, or not safe with kids
4. Containment problems/escapes
5. Illness/death of owner
6. Prey drive/not safe with other pets
7. Challenges/temperament problems
8. Other behavior problems combined with lack of knowledge
9. Neighbors/regulations prohibiting wolfdogs
10. Destruction, can't afford the animal, not their animal
What does much of that boil down to? If people told the absolute truth: "The animal is inconvenient, and I don't have the time or motivation to deal with these problems and/or the animal's behaviors." A great example of the throwaway mindset of many in our society today. If they had purchased from a responsible breeder, it would have been stressed that this is a lifetime commitment, with a contractual requirement that the animal be returned to the breeder should the buyer be unable to keep it. Maybe the buyer didn't listen, or didn't believe what they were told? Many behavior, family structure, and relocation problems could be easily solved IF the owner chose to invest the time and energy.
If the animal was purchased from an irresponsible breeder, which the majority are, the buyer may have received little to no factual information about raising the animal. It's easy to blame the owner for all of the problems, but lets lay that blame where it really belongs - very often at the feet of the breeder. It takes two to tango, and thorough screening could have prevented many of the difficulties.
Many people wanting rescue help seem to believe their animals to be of much higher content than they really are. Of the animals needing placement, an average of 60% (reports ranged from 10% to 95%) seem to really be wolfdogs rather than mixed breed mongrels that the owners mistakenly believed to be wolfdogs. All respondents said that a majority of people reported the content of their wolfdog as much higher than it actually was.
One very important aspect
of rescue is to assist the owners in finding ways to remedy the problems
- help them keep the animal and live happily with it. Sadly
the rescuers reported only an average of 25% cared enough and received enough assistance to keep their animals. Most had already decided to give up their wolfdog before they called or emailed. Nothing was going to change their minds. The rescuer also needs to determine if the animal SHOULD be left in the home.
Kinda like being a social worker sometimes.
If the owner cannot be helped to live peacefully with the animal, an adoptive home must be found. Rescue animals often come with mild to severe behavior problems. Once a bond has been established with the first Pack(family), it is extremely difficult for the wolfdog to transfer that bond to another person or Pack. Individual rescuers reported a fairly good average on placement of those they worked with or fostered - 60%(range from 20% to 90%). One rescuer reported that only about 1 in 30 applicants for a rescue animal had acceptable facilities and knowledge to be considered as an adoptive home. Do rescuers try to place all of the wolfdogs no longer wanted by their owners? That would be nigh onto impossible with the tremendous number of calls and emails coming in. Choices must be made. Many are not placeable due to severe behavior problems. What happens to those not placed/not placeable? Most are euthanized. Sometimes that is the most humane decision.
Rescue facilities/sanctuaries also try to help place animals they do not take in. Some claim to have a very good record of outside placements, others refer those they cannot take to other resources.
A question that should
have been asked the rescues/rescuers is, "What is the average age of wolfdogs
coming into the rescue system?". It was not on the poll. My
educated guess would be that the majority enter rescue at sexual maturity,
age 18 months to 3 years. That is when many wolfdogs begin to test boundaries, and seek a more alpha status within the pack. Many who have made it through their animal's puppyhood, just cannot handle the more adult changes in their friend. Those changes can take vary from mild defiance, all the way to a full out challenge. At that point, the remedy often sought is rescue.
There are 1 or 2 internet bulletin boards where people can post their animal(s) up for adoption. It is then up to the owner to screen the adopters. Hopefully they do a good job screening, or those animals could end up as incident statistics that effect us all.
What does it take to qualify for adopting a wolfdog? One needs to be open to answering questions of all sorts, much like when seeking to adopt a baby. The first placement needs to work, as the problems often intensify in subsequent rehomings. Questions will often be about your lifestyle, family structure, pets, housing (rented or owned), acreage, and containment. Some of the most important information is your prior experience with wolfdogs. Contact the rescues/rescuers for more information about adopting.
Okay, Timber is so unsocialized that he cannot be placed in a home. There are always rescue facilities/sanctuaries waiting to take him in and house him for life. Right? The unfortunate truth is that the reputable rescue facilities/sanctuaries are full, "maxed out". W.O.L.F. has 42 permanent residents, Wolf Rescue Center 11, Where Wolves Rescue 40, and Candy Kitchen 76. There just are no openings. So what do we do with all those wolfdogs whose owners are calling/emailing at an alarming rate of 6 or 7 per facility/rescuer per week? Let's see, that would be 60 per week, X 52 weeks - an average of 3,000 calls/emails per year just to our 10 respondents. Not a very pretty picture, is it?
What is the root cause of the incredible need for rescue? The overwhelming response from the rescuers/rescue facilities is: greed, status seeking, lack of education. Too many people breeding who don't know what they are doing, don't screen buyers properly, don't educate buyers, misrepresent the animals, and are after the almighty $$$$$$. As one rescuer stated, "There unmistakably is an overpopulation problem! There simply aren't nearly enough good homes for the staggering numbers of wolfdogs being produced." And another, "If I have to have XX animals then there are way to many unwanted wolfdogs. That's not COOL!!! So spay/neuter, place your puppies in homes with people who want pets, not with other breeders!"
Solution to the problem?
Here's my famous (or infamous) bathtub analogy. The bathtub represents
the world of the wolfdog. The faucets represent the breeders, and the drain
represents the rescues/rescuers/sanctuaries. The faucets have
been turned on full force for years. The water (new puppy) pressure has not decreased, but instead has steadily increased. The drain has become clogged, and the tub is overflowing at an alarming rate. Rescuers are trying to clear the drain, and mop up the overflow. But there is nowhere for that excess to go. The only way to remedy the situation is to turn off the faucets for a while, or slow them to a trickle from only the best, health and temperament screened lines. When that has been accomplished, it will take some time for the oversupply of wolfdogs to level off. The rescues cannot solve this by themselves.
Are all rescues/rescue facilities created equal? In my opinion they are not. If a rescue/rescuer/sanctuary breeds, they might better be considered a breeder who does some rescue. To my knowledge, none of the rescue facilities polled for this article breed their animals. Another sticky point - do the animals produced by breeding at a rescue fall under the umbrella of rescued animals? Should donations from the public be used to house and feed breeding animals, their offspring, and their caretakers? When making donations to any group, ask questions. Non-profits are required to provide certain information to anyone who asks. Most are happy to answer any questions you may have.
So, when you are making that decision to breed Tundra and Kodiak, think long and hard about what you will be adding to the equation. Are Tundra and Kodiak the very best animals available? Are they health screened (OFA, CERF, etc)? Do they have impeccable temperaments? Will they add something positive to the wolfdog genepool that no other animals could? If you can't answer yes to all of the above and much more, why breed? If you are not a part of the solution, you ARE a part of the problem.
The folks who contributed to this article do not necessarily subscribe to all of my personal beliefs about wolfdog rescue and/or the solution to that situation. A couple of the individuals say they "burned out" and no longer do rescue. I can well understand why.
Organizations that contributed information to this article:
Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch
Star Route 2, Box 28
Ramah, NM 87321
P.O. Box 1544
Laporte, Colorado 80535
Where Wolves Rescue
30040 N. 167th Ave.
Sun City West, AZ 85375-9628
Wolf Rescue Center
P.O. Box 212 Lake George, CO 80827
Phone/Fax: (719) 748-8683
Wolfsong Ranch Foundation
was unable to respond as they were in the midst of moving their facility
and 160 animals due to
Individual rescuers contributing to the article:
Kim Miles and Mary Palmer,
Florida Lupine Association, Inc.
5810-400 N. Monroe Street PMB #122,
Tallahassee, Florida 32303.
Luckiamute Canid Rescue
Wolfie MDF Van Order
Night Fall's Kennel
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Last update March, 2001