According to a survey carried out by the Dogs trust in 2018: across the UK 56,043 stray dogs were collected by local authorities, this is at its lowest point for 21 years and 15% down on the year before.
However, this may not accurately reflect the number of dogs every year who end up - if they’re lucky - in the care of rehoming charities.
This week I visited my local dog rehoming centre, Clymping Dog Sanctuary. Since 1952 this charity has worked tirelessly to house and rehome thousands of dogs, over 2,500 in the past 20 years.
The team there were wonderful and I will absolutely have to do an entire blog on the work they do but for now I’m focusing on a couple of individual stories.
The first being a litter of seven Lurcher cross puppies, they are now around 8 weeks old are infinitely better off than when they were found. All seven squeezed into a cat crate and dumped in someone’s garden in the cold and wet. They were discovered and taken to a vet, where it was apparent from their condition that if they had been left out much longer, they most likely would have died. They were all malnourished, with rickets and needed treatment for fleas and worms.
Luckily Clymping Dog Sanctuary was there to take them in and give them a safe and nurturing environment to recover and find them all their forever homes.
At the moment they are still at the sanctuary, recovering their strength and receiving medical treatment but as I discovered on my visit, despite their awful start in life, they are loving, playful and as my note book discovered enjoy chewing! They have all now thankfully been reserved and once they are well enough and have received their vaccinations, they will all have homes to go to.
We will never know what those puppies went through but as Nigel the sanctuary manager told me it was just another example of the result of reckless backyard breeding for profit.
Which in practice is unregulated and without consequences for those profiting from it. Even the few laws that exist are not enforced and with fewer and fewer dog wardens in districts, it is being left to charities like Clymping to pick up the pieces and foot the bill.
Nigel told me that in the past 15 years he has seen a huge shift in the sort of dogs that have ended up in their care. “15 years ago we looked like a staffie rescue, but now we see hardly any of the bull breeds, now it’s all Frechies, chihuahuas and pug and mixes, which as smaller dogs are more likely to get homed quicker but they often have all the same sorts of issues as the bigger dogs”
The most common reason that dogs were given up Nigel told me was due to a change in circumstance, which covers a range of events from, family break ups, moving abroad, job loss and deaths in families. All these seem like understandable reasons and often out the owners control. But what was more worrying was that the sanctuary sees a far greater increase in dogs coming to them in the winter months. When the clocks go back the kennels fill up! Could it be that in the colder, wetter weather and lack of sunlight, people don’t want to take a dog out in the dark, wet and cold and then have it tread mud through the house?
Whilst I was visiting, I also got to meet Luna and Charlie. They were brought in as their owners had separated and one felt that the other wasn’t caring for them right but was unable to keep them. They are still really young (3 and 2 respectively) and as you can see from the picture, they are super cute (they are fashionable breeds at the moment, as Nigel mentioned before) normally this would work in their favour but they also need to be homed together and do not get on with cats.
No matter how long it takes, the team at the sanctuary will never put a healthy dog down (their record for the longest resident was 14 years) they will find good forever homes for the dogs in their care but all this comes at a financial cost. It costs around £50,000 a year just to keep the sanctuary open and they rely on support from the community.
Sadly, their will be many dogs in our communities and across the UK, that will not even make it places like this. In 2018 across the UK, it is estimated that around 1,462 were put to sleep. Reasons for this could be due to injury or ill health, behaviour problems, breeds under the dangerous dogs act and some that were unclaimed with no spaces at rescues available. It’s pretty depressing and we can’t change the country all at once but there are things that all of us can do to help the rescues in our communities. Raise awareness and start conversations with our families and friends. Consider donating your time or money. Every little bit really does matter, especially to smaller charities.
I will leave some useful links below including the surveys that I quoted and information about how you can get involved.