Indoor only policy won’t work for all dogs

"As once they come into our foster care system, they are completely indoor dogs.”

In 1948 Dad came home from the neighbour’s packing a wriggly pup in his smock pocket. It grew into a companionable, useful farm dog, well behaved except for one flaw — it didn’t always quit chasing a cow when we told it to.

To adopt the dog Dad had to meet no criteria. In fact he was doing the farmer a favour giving a good home to one of a litter of maybe six or eight pups.

These days even to walk a dog for a municipal dog pound you must first pass the same criminal record check as a kindergarten teacher or a sports coach.

And if you apply to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter, even if the shelter is bursting at the seams they may refuse to give you an animal if they have a strict policy to only adopt dogs out to families where they will live in an indoor living environment and you won’t promise to do that.

“This is especially important for the dogs we work with,” writes one rescue shelter, “as once they come into our foster care system, they are completely indoor dogs.”

Even German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Huskies? I can see this reservation applying to little dogs like chihuahuas or breeds that don’t grow winter fur on their feet or legs. Pit bulls, for example. But I disagree with confining to in-house living large breeds or those that grow a musk ox undercoat of winter fur.

If the rescued dogs had a voice, I wonder how many would opt to live outdoors with a friendly family rather than being cooped up or sitting on the other end of a sofa waiting to be adopted?

Some rescue shelters drive vans full of rescued animals half way across the province to another shelter but won’t agree to fly an animal air cargo. “Flying them by cargo is not one of our options,” writes one shelter, “even though the cost would be on the new owners.  There is also the cost of returning them if they are not a perfect match so we have to be absolutely sure that the right dog is going to the right home.”

Assuring a perfect match would be assisted if every dog was trained to basic obedience. Then if the situation ever arose when the dog needed to be re-homed it would be welcome. Dogs that are left chained for hours, days,  sometimes months, without exercise or interaction with friendly humans and dogs become aggressive, territorial beasts severely limiting their prospect of finding a new home.

This is vastly unfair to the dog who may even be put down.

I recently brought home from the Terrace pound a beautiful five-year-old dog  as a companion for my Heeler pup. She behaved superbly in every way but one during the 48 hours I had her. She got along well with family, minded her manners, obeyed routine commands  – Sit, Down, Come, Quiet. Without a woof she watched traffic go by – cars, ATVs, pedestrians, mothers with strollers, dogwalkers, anyone waiting for the bus at the kiosk that touches our fence.

But she was bent on mangling my pup. Not surprising. She had been picked up wandering the street dragging a long tether. Likely she had been tethered most of her life, deprivation guaranteed to turn a friendly dog into an aggressive menace.

Twice she seemed friendly, once for more than an hour, but within seconds of turning her loose she piled on to the pup, bloodied two of his legs and yanked clumps of fur from his haunches.

She so terrorized the pup he fled into the house. When he did come out for a bathroom break while I walked her on a leash or snubbed her to a  stump, he slunk along, ears flat to his skull, trying to escape her attention.

For those two days the pup was a prisoner in his own yard, unable to play fetch or snooze in sunshine. If she becomes the only dog in a well fenced yard the prospect looms of a civil lawsuit for a vet bill.