Monday 8 December 2008

Welfare and farewell.

Regular readers may remember Monty the dog. Well, he's not with us any more. He was a lovely dog, friendly and gentle and affectionate and harmless, but he was also thick as a plank of mince and built like a bear-ox cross, and he simply needed a different home to the one we could offer him. He was extremely good with Daisy when she arrived, but only as long as he remembered she was there. If she happened to be positioned between him and food, he couldn't be relied upon not to knock her over or step on her. Furthermore, it was pretty much impossible to lock him up when need be, due to his ability to bite through steel. So he had to go. Which was a shame.

But, what with him being just lovely, we were damned if we were going to do what his previous owners had done and just ditch him and wait for the authorities to kill him. So we spent many months — nearly a year, I think — trying to get a dog home to take him in and try to get him rehomed. And we ran into a bit of a problem.

The problem is that Monty is part staff. Dog homes, we found, don't want to go anywhere near staffs, even though they're one of the most popular family pets in Britain, on the grounds that they're technically a type of bull terrier and all bull terriers are, apparently, impossible to rehome. After waiting on Assisi Animal Sanctuary's three-month waiting list for over six months then discovering that they'd "lost" our details and we'd somehow been removed from the list, and just generally getting fobbed off and mucked around by them, it eventually dawned on us that they simply weren't going to take him. Even if it were true that Monty were unrehomable (and, as you'll see later, it certainly wasn't), they still call themselves an animal "sanctuary". Surely part of their job is to look after the animals who can't be rehomed? I might add that we were offering to pay his upkeep — the problem was that he had turned out to be unsuitable for our house and family, not that we couldn't afford him. Taking in Monty would have cost them nothing, which is a hell of a lot less than most of their dogs cost them.

The Dogs Trust were much the same: they put us on a waiting list that failed to get any shorter with time. While we were on both organisations' waiting lists, we happened to know other people who had to get their dogs rehomed for one reason or another. Both organisations took these dogs pretty much immediately, with no apparent waiting list at all. We realised that it was just a scheme to keep bull terriers out. Why they couldn't just tell us up front that they won't take certain breeds instead of screwing us around, I don't know. Like Mid-Antrim Animal Sanctuary did: I rang them and the woman who answered the phone just told me straight out that they wouldn't touch a staff cross because they're "unrehomable". Clearly having some difficulty with the implications of the word "sanctuary".

In the end, we tried telling both Assisi and the Dogs Trust that things were getting desperate (they were) and that, if Monty couldn't be rehomed soon, we'd have to have him put down (we wouldn't). Both of these caring animal-welfare sanctuaries responded in the same way: Go ahead. I was quite shocked by that, I have to admit. Assisi in particular have an excellent reputation round these parts and are many people's favourite charity because of all the good work they do for animals. Turns out, when it comes to dogs with any amount of bull terrier in them, Assisi would rather they were killed than have them come anywhere near their precious home. I'll not be giving any money to them again.

And then I discovered East Galway Animal Rescue.

It's a dog home run by one Sarah Gunther. She specialises in looking after bull breeds, for three reasons. Firstly, because of what I'd just discovered: that the other animal sanctuaries won't touch them. If you want to save dogs' lives, they're the ones who need saving. Secondly, because she firmly (and correctly) believes that there's nothing inherently psychopathic about any particuar breed of dog and that demonising the so-called "dangerous" breeds lets dangerous owners off the hook while scapegoating innocent animals who have just done what they've been trained to do. Thirdly, 'cause she loves them to bits.

So I drove Monty down to Sarah's place in the depths of Galway and left him with her. It was an interesting experience. Sarah appears to have about a zillion dogs. She keeps them in her stables, outhouses, kitchen, living room, and anywhere she can find a bit of space. She'll take any breed, but most of them are bull breeds, with a fair few pit-bulls. Anyone who thinks pit-bulls are inherently dangerous should visit Sarah and see her young son playing with a roomfull of them. She's a political activist, fighting the demonisation of dogs and the attempts to ban supposedly dangerous breeds. She told me that she regularly goes to court, both as a breed-identification expert and to testify that pit-bulls aren't inherently dangerous and that therefore, when one does attack someone, it's the owner who trained it who should be punished. She is not at all popular with Irish dog-fighting gangs.

And she confirmed what I'd guessed about the other animal homes: they don't want bull breeds:

Every week I get calls from other rescues because they have one *of those dogs* and they cannot keep it because *you know why*. No, I don't know WHY and frankly I am getting really riled up. More and more Animal Welfare Orgs are buying into the media hype about APBT, more and more shelters are turning APBT away and more and more pounds here in Ireland destroy dogs because of their looks and wont even consider to put them up for adoption or releasing them to rescues. It STINKS in the world of dog rescue!

To me a dog has always been a dog, regardless of its breed or looks. Being primarily a Bull Breed Rescue, I have never turned a needy dog away when I had the space, I have had collies, greyhounds, great danes and God knows what else here. But try to place an APBT in another rescue and you start to despair.

It is a sad state of affairs indeed if even your *own* people believe the propaganda.

And, while, I was there, I met this guy.

PEOPLE INVESTIGATION A click, a call.. and for £300 we buy angelic pitbull puppy BANNED because it will grow to be a killer
By Daniel Jones And Simon Lennon

A week after little Archie-Lee Hirst was ripped to death by a savage dog, The People bought a banned pitbull terrier with worrying ease.

A quick search on the internet revealed hundreds of online adverts from across Britain for the terrifying fighting dogs.

Sorry, is he terrifying or angelic? Well, Daniel Jones and Simon Lennon clearly couldn't figure that out either, because, having published their front-page expose of the appalling availability of these inherently dangerous killing machines, they decided that he was just too damn cute to do what they were legally required to do — have him put down — and so smuggled him out of the UK to Sarah. When I met him, she was calling him Killer. I gave him a hug. He was very wriggly. I was in severe danger of drowning in spittle.

The dealer they bought Killer from, name of Andre, was not only a criminal but also just plain wrong.

Pulling three puppies from under his coat, grinning Andre boasted: "They are fully pit. Look at the teeth."

Asked if they would fight, Andre said: " Trust me. If I put them face to face now they'll start on each other. They are brothers but they want to kill each other. That's how much they like fighting."

When I met Killer, he was in a room with four or five other dogs. He was wagging his tail a lot. Although I do love the idea of taking three dangerous dogs, guaranteed to turn into killing machines if they clap eyes on each other, and putting them under your coat.

Killer has changed his name to Raymond now, and he has his own website, so you can keep up with his progress as he lives up to his pit-bull reputation by frolicking with children and sniffing flowers.

Oh, and you know how long it took Sarah to rehome Monty the "unrehomable" dog? Three days. He's now living the life of Riley, eating shoes with a rottweiler in Aberdeenshire. I get the occasional missive from his new owner: she and her son love him to bits.

If you're going to give some money to a charity, you could do a lot worse than EGAR. Any money you give Sarah is guaranteed to go on dog food and dog medicine and no advertising or PR consultants or awareness campaigns or anything like that. She's doing good.

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