Last year I spoke with Vicky, the great Aunt of Lexi Branson, sadly killed by an unassessed dog rehomed with no advice or homecheck. The coroner identified some areas of concern regarding this type of rehoming. Two years on her family were horrified to discover from our conversation that nothing had been, or would be done to protect people in the future. I had already written to George Eustice MP about the need for a live behaviour assessment on dogs who kill or seriously hurt people. Mr Eustice’s response is here:
The sad thing about this reply is that he quotes the Lexi Branson coroner report as some sort of solution and says we don’t need assessments on dogs because the coroner identified the factors.
Rescues are setting up all the time. No insurance, no expertise, often by people who had been volunteering for a better rescue who decide they can do it themselves. I have sent a copy of this information to Vicky last year. Soon this information is going to the press.
What should a rescue do in order to protect dogs and people? I run a small scale rescue and I am a behaviourist and Expert Witness for Dangerous Dog Cases. I carry Public Liability, Care, Custody and Control of dogs and Professional Indemnity Insurance.
This is not the final list, but is a starting point, created from my own practises and those of other good rescues. A press release is out soon.
- Any person or organisation claiming to rescue should be on a register. This should identify the person in charge, the insurance held (3rd party liability minimum), the name of any associated behaviourist, vet and who else is an official.
- A questionnaire completed by the person collecting/assessing the dog before being accepted into rescue. This should include the environment, behaviour with family or kennel staff, behaviour during transport and record of the dog’s history and previous routine.
- A standard control document should be held for each dog. This should record; the date the dog was transferred to rescue ownership, microchip number (which should be transferred to rescue name) the date of any vaccinations, neutering, illness/veterinary treatment, the fosterer name or kennel location, behaviour assessment and by whom, food used, wormer and flea treatment, date of adoption.
- A separate record of any observations and behaviour testing done and by whom.
- All dogs should be neutered, vaccinated and chipped before adoption.
- A record of the home check done on the new home (this must include meeting ALL family members and other pets). All new homes must be home checked.
- An adoption/fostering contract must be signed before a dog is placed with any new person.
- A help sheet should be given to adopters outlining how to deal with a new dog and good practice for the first few weeks.
- A second home check should be done no later than 1 month from adoption/fostering.
- All of the above should be available for the registration body to check at any time.
- Dogs entering rescue should be assessed over a minimum 3 week period and not offered for adoption or rehoming prior to that.
- Dogs should be tested by the rescue for at least basic behaviour reactions: resource guarding, reactions to other dogs in public, reactions to visitors and strangers at home and in public, acceptance of being handled/groomed, play manners, noise sensitivity and reaction to children. All this should be recorded by the person observing/testing. Any adverse reactions should be dealt with by the rescue and a behaviourist should be consulted to remedy the problem and all recorded.
- The person in charge of the rescue or one of the named officials should visit each dog in kennels or foster at least once before adoption and this recorded on the control sheet.
- The new adopter and family should visit the dog in the kennels or foster at least once before adopting.
- If the new adopter has another dog, there must be a meeting arranged away from the home, ideally at the foster or rescue home, with a rescue official and/or the behaviourist attending to give advice.
- The ability for the new home to separate the new dog must be assessed. Either a baby gate(s) or crate should be already in situ.
- If a dog is going on foster, the contract must be signed and the home checked before placing a dog. The contract should clearly state that the rescue has 3rd party liability insurance, emergency contact numbers, who is paying for food/veterinary treatment/training, agreement to keep the records required by the rescue, acceptance that a rescue official can ask to see the dog at any time and that the return of the dog can be demanded by the rescue at any time and good practice in caring for the dog (not off lead, separation from dogs/cats/kids etc).
- Written policies should be created by the rescue: responsibilities, minimum time scales for assessment, the removal of dogs from adopters/fosterers, the emergency contacts (and that should cover a 24 hour period), specific issues that would cause adoption to be refused (ages of children, working homes, other unneutered dogs etc)
I’d like to thank all who have helped with this, in particular Vicky for her ongoing push to stop the same awful thing happening again to another family. She has entered a parliamentary question http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2017-02-24/HL5602/