Saturday, August 22, 2009

Working with shelters and evaluating rescue dogs

If you work with your local shelter, you might want to send them our letter about basenjis. The letter includes photos of basenjis and information about how the shelter can contact BRAT if they receive a basenji. To see the shelter letter, click here.

BRAT sometimes asks its local volunteers to evaluate a basenji before we accept the dog into our program for possible placement. If you are asked to evaluate a dog, these guidelines will help you in asking the right questions and properly evaluating the dog. You will be supplied with a copy of the BRAT Rescue Form submitted by the owner. Be sure to review this form before you visit the dog and ask the owners to verify their answers to all of the questions on the form. Also, if you have a camera (digital or otherwise) bring it with you to the evaluation and send any photos to us so that we can post them on the Web site.

Click here for an evaluation checklist that will help you evaluate the dog.

We are an all-volunteer group, dedicated to the health and well-being of basenjis in need. We welcome adding volunteers to the BRAT team! To volunteer, just click here.

1 comment:

  1. Following is my recent guidance to a volunteer who had questions about doing her first home visit:

    The evaluation serves a couple of purposes. First and foremost, we're trying to make our "best guess" determination on whether this dog is adoptable. This isn't always an easy thing to decide in 30-60 mins with a dog, so don't feel like there's a huge amount of pressure on you to be an expert. You can only follow your instincts as someone familiar with the breed. For example, you may do an evaluation in which it is immediately obvious the dog is adoptable, while for another you may get the feeling that any behavioral issues are related to the dog's current environment. There are two things that I focus on when doing an evaluation: (1) does the dog appear to be extremely ill, and (2) does the dog seem excessively aggressive.

    It's not always possible to know a dog is severely ill from outward appearances, and some owners have intentionally mislead us into taking their very sick dog into rescue. Perhaps they didn't have the heart or finances to help their pet through cancer or some other severe condition, and left it to BRAT to handle what they could not. We've also taken dogs into rescue that were so emaciated you literally could see not just their ribs but every vertebra in their spine. Despite their condition, these dogs were only suffering from starvation and malnutrition, and once given proper care, they thrived and became wonderful, healthy dogs.

    Aggression is also not easy to determine, but we try to ascertain if there is a bite history for the dog, and under what circumstances the bite(s) occurred. We will not hold it against a dog if the bite was provoked, by mistreatment for example. We also can't predict how some dogs may behave completely differently (better or worse) when moved from their current home. But dogs that are very fearful and bite without warning at any attempt at contact or that bite without provocation suddenly (for example, allowing petting for a while and then unexpectedly biting) are dogs that require more careful consideration because they may not be adoptable.

    The other purpose of evaluations is to help determine what type of foster home might be most appropriate for the dog. For example, if a dog does not tolerate children or being an only dog, then we take that into consideration when trying to identify a foster. Or if a dog is extremely 'alpha' then we'll attempt to find a foster that has a non-alpha dog.

    Evaluations are required for every dog we take into rescue, even if we feel confident we'll place the dog without a problem, so it's not a negative reflection on any dog that we're asking you to do an evaluation. Also, you aren't being asked to decide whether the dog comes into rescue; that potentially difficult decision fall to the District Coordinator. All we can ask of you is that you share with us your honest impression of the dog's temperament and we'll proceed from there.