When you post photos of a dog that is clearly badly injured/neglected and in need of veterinary care – people immediately start clicking donate without question, raising thousands of dollars in a matter of hours. Yet, when it comes to dogs in need of extensive emotional and behavioral rehabilitation – it is not only challenging to raise funds, it is often criticized and questioned.
The reality is, these dogs are at just as high a risk of being euthanized for the abuse and neglect they have suffered as the dogs with broken legs or Heartworm disease – actually, they are MORE likely to be euthanized because they pose a greater liability to the shelter when released, and less rescues are able and willing to consider them good candidates for rescue.
The problem is, for dogs that have truly suffered emotional abuse and neglect that has caused fear based behavioral issues to develop – the rehabilitation for these dogs can be just as costly as hospitalization. Because a majority of Central Florida rescue organizations are foster networks (like us!), the dogs are going into volunteer foster families (like yours!) to receive training, veterinary care, and to wait for the right permanent home to adopt them. Would you know how to rehabilitate a traumatized dog with behavioral issues and fear aggression? Neither do most of our foster homes. Sometimes the issues are minor enough for just experienced support in a foster home – but, many times the most extreme cases who are being killed for their behaviors are not safe to be placed in an inexperienced home and need professional rehabilitation.
WHY is this rehabilitation so expensive? If the dogs are not capable of going into a foster home due to the severity of their behaviors, the only SAFE way to rescue and rehabilitate these dogs is to place them in a board and train program – this means the dogs LIVE at a facility full time while receiving structure and training every single day by trained professionals. Think about how much it costs you to board your dogs for a week when you travel – now think about how much it would cost to have a trainer come to your home for 2 or 3 training sessions every day that same week … Exactly. The roughly $500/week it costs us on average is actually NOT unreasonable when you consider everything we are receiving for that cost – a SAFE, secure place for an aggressive/unstable dog to live day in and day out, AND intensive training multiple times a day every single day.
The other problem is, even if you understand WHY the training is expensive – it is still met with heavy criticism every single time we try to assist a dog that is a good candidate for this rehabilitation. It is an uphill battle to prove that the dog needs our help – if the video we post of the dog’s behavior appears “fine” to the average person who does not know enough about animal behavior and body language, no one wants to donate or help the animal because it doesn’t “really need” training. Do you REALLY think we WANT to pay $500+ per week for no reason? Of course not! If we have determined that is the only way to safely rescue a dog, it is because we are having to make a difficult call for the safety of everyone involved including the foster family, their children, pets, the community AND the dog. We don’t want it to be HARDER to rescue the dog, but – sometimes that is the uphill battle we are faced with to save these dogs.
On the alternate side of the spectrum, if the videos of the dog’s behavior show CLEAR concerning behavior and aggression – then no one wants to donate because they do not understand dog behavior enough to understand that the dog is not too dangerous or too far gone to be saved and we are not “Wasting our time” saving a dog that shouldn’t be saved. We work extremely hard with the shelters and our trainers to assess the safety of the dogs we choose to rehabilitate and the types of behaviors we are dealing with – and have successfully been a last resort for so many dogs within hours of being euthanized for their behavior – dogs who are now happy, successful members of families and society.
Just because a dog’s wounds and scars aren’t on the outside, doesn’t make them less deserving of a second chance. If you wouldn’t question our judgement on whether or not an injured or sick dog was a “smart save”, whether or not they could be rehabilitated, whether or not the vets have made the right diagnosis – please give us the same faith and support when we rescue dogs with emotional scars and behavioral needs. They might even need us more, need your support more.