Over the past several years increasing concern has emerged in the American Bouvier community regarding issues of trust, credibility and honesty in our Bouvier rescue activities. The urgency is such that the time for silence has come to an and, that we need to examine these issues in public and in detail.
Rescue, the placing of dogs who have been abandoned or surrendered in new homes is a noble activity, and each of us, especially breeders, have a moral obligation to become involved. In general this means providing assistance in evaluating and dealing with the dogs and in the location and verification of potential homes. Short term care is often a part of the process.
In many instances the need for placement arises in the normal course of human events, that is, a death, serious illness, economic deprivation or some other unforeseen occurrence has made a new home for a dog mandatory. Unfortunately, many of these situations arise not from unexpected misfortune but from human failure, that is the care of the dog becomes “inconvenient” or a “change in life style” makes the placement “necessary.”
In many ways the responsible breeder is the key figure in the orderly placement of dogs in need of a new situation. A breeder, because of his knowledge of the lines and the people involved, can often provide a quick solution and a new home. Many famous and accomplished dogs have gone through this at some stage of their life, as any long term breeder can tell you. This is not really “rescue” in the sense that an immanent bad outcome, such as a good dog being put down, is averted but a routine placement.
The breeder’s participation is in some ways problematical in that they can be in the situation of concurrently placing unfortunate dogs in need of a new home and the desire to sell the products of their own breeding program. As long as these transactions remain as private business affairs, and as long as the people involved deal in an honest and business like manner, there is no real problem.
In many instances regional or national clubs will provide placement or rescue services, and individuals will be designated as contact points and administrators. In general it is wise policy that these people not be breeders, or only occasional breeders, in that often the person seeking a dog is open to a direct purchase as well as placement of a dog in need. The potential for conflict of interest and abuse when the roles of placement administration and breeder are combined is obvious to all but the most morally obtuse.
Placement operations often involve expense, sometimes significant expense, for things such as care and feeding of temporarily housed dogs, transportation, medical care and so forth. Many of these services come from admirable people who, sometimes at significant personal sacrifice, take the time and make the effort without the expectation of compensation. It is of course reasonable and proper that funds for direct expenses be provided, although in many instances good hearted individuals provide incidental financial support as well as time and effort.
Often placement operations are subsidized out of the general funds of the various clubs, and by donations and the proceeds of fund raising events. Unless there is corruption within the club leadership none of this money winds up in the hands of individuals, who are compensated for actual expenses but do not expect a salary or other compensation.
In addition to club based placement operations there are also private “Bouvier Rescue” operations, which may provide good and perhaps even noble service. On the other hand, the potential for abuse and the general discredit for the breed and the community also exist.
Charitable operations have always been subject to abuse, often most of the money is taken up in fund raising and salaries for administrators, with only token amounts winding up providing the intended charitable services. Several years ago it came to light that the president of the American United Way was using funds from charitable donations to maintain a love nest in Florida for his bimbo and chalking up heavy luxury travel expense in it’s use.
Breeders who engage in concurrent rescue and placement operations can and do provide commendable community and breed services and can benefit many dogs who would otherwise have very unfortunate outcomes. As long as this involves private funding and honest, business like transactions all is well and good.
Serious issues arise when these private “Bouvier Rescue” operations solicit funds, goods and services as charitable contributions. Those providing cash, dog food or medical services have the expectation that these things are used to provide direct services for the dogs in need of a new situation. They are often led to believe, or allowed to assume, that the people involved are donating their personal time and effort in the noble service to the dogs.
The problem arises when the person or persons conducting the private “Bouvier rescue” operations expect to draw a salary, personal living expenses or other compensation from these donated funds and services. If the nature of these operations are made clear up front and there is full disclosure of financial transactions then such activities can be acceptable. But when the impression is encouraged that the money is for direct canine services the potential for abuse and fraud becomes an issue.
A more serious situation arises when a private rescue operation, soliciting funds and services on a charitable basis and providing salaries or personal expenses for the people involved also engages in for profit business activities, with intermingling of funds and accounting.
The most serious situation is when private Bouvier rescue is conducted on the same premises as a commercial breeding operation, with an over all intermingling of funds, expenses and services. Who is to know if the dog food or medical supplies donated for the use of unfortunate dogs in immanent need and danger is in fact being diverted to breeding stock and the raising of puppies for sale, often at very substantial prices ? Which persons making significant personal sacrifice to provide a few dollars for the benefit of the endangered dogs envisions these dollars supporting a $40,000 vehicle or going to house payments or other personal expenses ? Is it possible that a dog being housed for rescue will be bypassed because the operator sees the opportunity for a $1500 puppy sale?
One of the primary responsibilities of those who solicit funds for charitable activity is to see that a clear, documented path exists between the donation of a dollar, a service or a product and the actual use in the service of placing specific rescued dogs. When this accountability can be called into question, then the credibility of everybody involved and the breed in general is also called into question.
The existence of such situations is of serious potential consequence to the Bouvier community as a whole, and there is a need for the community to recognize and rectify the abuses that are becoming all to apparent.
To be quite blunt, when the public perceives a Bouvier puppy mill and a rescue operation operating under the same roof, and when the private nature of the enterprise is obscured in the fund raising process, the credibility and reputation of the entire Bouvier community is at risk.
Reprinted and added to site with permission from Jim Engles