Often, that one rescuer finds fellow lovers of the breed, and together they pursue nonprofit 501(c)(3) status as an official group. Funds are raised, and volunteers are assigned specific administrative roles and also serve as foster parents, transport coordinators, transport drivers, adoption day coordinators and more.
The American Kennel Club recognizes more than 150 dog breeds, each of which is represented by a “parent club,” or national breed club made up of people who favor that breed and participate in AKC sanctioned events such as conformation, agility and obedience. For many parent clubs, rescue is an important part of their mission. But regrettably, not all breeders are willing to admit that their dogs could be abandoned or end up in a shelter. According to Edith “Benji” Brackman, longtime breed rescuer and member of the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA ), supposedly responsible breeders have been known to deny any connection with dogs that come into rescue. For example, on four separate occasions, Brackman contacted the breeders of dogs who ultimately ended up in her care. “Since I have been a member of DCA for nearly 25 years and have kept all my membership and ethics booklets, I did what I was trained to do: went back and checked membership records. I was terribly disturbed to find two of the four were actually DCA members. The records do not lie, nor do the vets I consulted with.”
Michelle McMullen Salyers, a longtime volunteer with National German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue, which is supported by the AKC parent club, German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America, offers another perspective. “Breeders do not have to be the enemy of rescue,” she says. “In the early days of breed rescue, rescuers used to be affiliated through those parent club connections, and many of those volunteers are breeders.” She says the rescue arm also educates breeders about taking lifetime responsibility for the dogs they bring into the world, and some breeders serve as foster homes or help in other ways. “I have a GSP in Missouri going to a breeder in Arkansas for foster,” says McMullen Salyers. “It’s an important connection when you’re doing breed rescue.”
Where Do the Dogs Come From?
Commercial breeders or puppy mills are perhaps the number-one source of purebred dogs. For these business operations, puppies are “product,” massmarketed over the Internet and sold to distributors, who in turn sell them to national pet store chains. If they cannot move them, the puppies are often dumped at shelters. Or, people who impulsively purchase puppies via the web or at a retail store grow tired of the work involved in raising them; at that point, the dogs are turned in at shelters or simply abandoned to fend for themselves.
Fortunately, groups like HSUS have made progress shutting down puppy mills and educating the public about the real cost of patronizing a pet shop. For Bekye Eckert, a volunteer with New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue—which also occasionally takes in other “small friends”—rehabilitating puppy mill dogs is her most rewarding experience as a rescuer. “Most of them come in totally unsocialized, shy, shut down,” says Eckert. “When you first see one, you’re thinking, How am I going to reach this poor soul? They’re terrified, they run from you, and it just breaks your heart because all you want to do is hold them and love them. Progress is slow, and the older they are, the longer it takes. But watching a shut-down little lump on the floor learn how to be a dog is just the greatest high in the world.”
Like all animal rescuers, those focusing on a specific breed spend time with prospective adopters, helping them decide if they are ready for a dog and if their particular breed suits their family and lifestyle.
“We definitely try and educate the public,” says Toby Burroughs, president of New Orleans German Shepherd Rescue. “There are a lot of misconceptions about German Shepherds—like Pit Bulls, they are misunderstood. It’s important to know that the German Shepherd is a working breed and needs lots of exercise, mental stimulation and socialization with people and other dogs. They’re not for everyone. I think people are attracted to their beauty, but often don’t realize that these dogs require more than a bowl of food, water and a backyard.”