The Mail on Sunday ran a story on 3 January implying that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were needlessly euthanising hundreds of healthy dogs instead of finding caring new owners for them. The story was based on allegations from a ‘well placed source’ at Battersea saying that nearly a third of dogs brought into the home are killed and that dogs which show anxiety or nervousness when suddenly placed in kennels are often earmarked for being put to sleep. Battersea subsequently confirmed that in the year to the end of November 2015, 1,309 dogs were destroyed, representing more than 30 per cent of the Home’s intake for that period.
A Statement re Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Arising from this article, the Dog Rescue Federation was asked by various press and media contacts to comment on the situation at Battersea. We gave our views as openly and honestly as we could but certain comments may have been misinterpreted as being critical of Battersea and its policies. This is clearly not the case so we are now taking this opportunity to explain our support of Battersea and the other larger dog charities who care for and successfully re-home many of the nation’s unwanted and abandoned dog population. Here is our position.
The Dog Rescue Federation has continually questioned the accuracy of the official figures for the number of unwanted dogs euthanised each year. We believe that these figures considerably understate the true extent of dog euthanasia in the UK and that’s why in 2014, we recommended to the government that a national database should be introduced to track the eventual outcome of each and every stray dog.
Battersea is undoubtedly traumatised by the number of healthy dogs that it has to put to sleep and we sympathise with its management for the unenviable task that they feel forced to perform. But the sad fact is that wherever large quantities of unwanted dogs are being handled, life or death decisions are having to be taken on a daily basis and this will continue until there is a fundamental change in our ‘throwaway society’ attitude towards dog breeding and ownership.
No one involved in dog rescue wants to be making decisions that will result in the death of dogs they care so passionately about. But whilst unscrupulous breeders continue to churn out endless litters of puppies without any regard to their welfare or the suitability of future owners, tens of thousands of dogs will end being dumped each year and a large proportion will be destroyed.
The Dog Rescue Federation blames only the irresponsible breeders and owners for this situation, not the people and organisations faced with picking up the pieces.
Charities such as Battersea perform an absolutely essential role in providing shelter and care for the thousands of unwanted and abandoned dogs in need of loving new homes. Without the intervention of charities such as Battersea the number of dogs that would otherwise be put to sleep simply doesn’t bear thinking about. The Dog Rescue Federation recognises this vital role and fully supports all the charities fighting to secure new and happy lives for the thousands of dogs they handle.
If we do have any suggestions to make, our main plea would be for all the charities to become far more transparent about the number of dogs they euthanise and the reasons why. Without this transparency no one will ever really know just how many of the UK’s unwanted dogs end up being put to sleep and that is clearly not a helpful position to be in. Our other plea would be that they review their policies towards dogs who show aggression and are deemed unsuitable for re-homing resulting in them having to be put to sleep. In our opinion too many dogs are categorised in this way when in fact, they are genuinely stressed by the kennel environment they have been forced into as newly abandoned dogs. Friendly and otherwise re-homeable dogs can be needlessly destroyed and we would like to see a new approach to help alleviate this issue.
We estimate that as many as 20,000 unwanted dogs may be put to sleep each year, that’s three times the number officially reported. This is a tragic situation and one that simply cannot be allowed to continue. The breeding of dogs must be brought under much tighter control to stem the flow of unwanted dogs into the marketplace. Unless this happens, rescue centres will continue to be overwhelmed and thousands of young, healthy dogs will be destroyed simply because the ‘system’ is unable to cope with society’s latest throwaway commodities.