Family in autumnRescue Back Up or “RBU” is a term used all over social media to indicate that a rescue is needed to step up as a back up to protect a dog that is going into foster or a home. It seems to have become a badge of glory, with rescues offering RBU in high profile cases, which is non existent come the crisis they are meant to be there for.

Increasingly over the last 2-3 years I see posts about RBU gone wrong.  Other rescues stepping in, dogs dumped, sold or maybe worse.  Dogs not neutered or assessed, RBU given on dogs a rescue has never met, denials of even being the RBU when a dog is in trouble.  It seems that some pound pullers and the rescue doing the RBU make no proper checks on the place the dog is going to.  Dogs are even sometimes abandoned in “emergency boarding” (EB) where a dog is put into boarding as at risk of being destroyed and the rescue who offered RBU in a blaze of glory on social media has simply put the dog in kennels where it stays.  Some rescues have later claimed they aren’t RBU, or the dog has simply been left in kennels for months or years, unassessed and forgotten until a big bill is run up and the RBU vanishes.

There is certainly at least one good organisation making sure the rescue that is offering to help a dog is legitimate and has good, ethical practices, but too many seem not to be. Yesterday, when news was breaking about a rescuer in Scotland, Zara Rooney, of Animal Ark being jailed for the disgusting conditions in her “rescue”, there were also posts about how to identify good and bad rescues.

I discovered, on at least 3 occasions in the last year when a dog needed rehoming after going through a court process and a rescue was offering to take the dog as the owner couldn’t, that many rescues have no insurance.  One had public liability but not care, custody and control of dogs, even though they put dogs into foster and rehome them and the court refused to allow them ownership of the dog.  On at least 2 other occasions, they had no insurance at all.

These are my thoughts on how RBU should work.

  • Legal ownership should be transferred, in writing, from the start.  From pound or current owner to the rescue being RBU.  The rescue’s own forms should be used for this and the chip changed to their name immediately.  This should include a prior homecheck on the foster home and a foster contract in place prior to placement.
  • Rescues should hold current Public liability insurance at the least and also cover for care, custody and control of dogs.
  • Exactly what the RBU is responsible for should also form the ownership transfer document.  Are boarding fees or EB, neutering, vaccinations, chipping, food, vet fees etc their responsibility?
  • If the rescue has not met the dog prior to RBU offer, they should do so within 5 days.
  • Regular written updates should pass from foster/home to the rescue and any concerns about behaviour addressed with advice and a behaviourist intervention if necessary.
  • No rescue should offer RBU if they do not have a good network of contacts that can check on or move a dog at short notice, have no funds for emergency boarding/behaviourist in hand, have no intention of actually doing anything should the home go wrong or have insufficient experience to offer on a challenging dog.

I have already blogged about rescue good practices as the other end of this, when some rescues get dogs, shows that dogs are often rehomed not neutered, not chipped (or chip not in rescue name), no assessments, off to a home within just a couple of days.


Surely with the right paperwork and accountability, dogs are less at risk and the rescues who are offering, then vanishing are easier to identify and avoid in future?

A common “reason” why a rescue later says we are not doing RBU is that the dog was “not as described”.  Isn’t that why you should see the dog yourself if you offer, or send a trusted contact?  Abandoning a dog later, never mind the ones that say we didn’t offer, then it’s proven they did, is not an acceptable way for this to continue.

There are too many posts for emergency help, too many dogs at risk, too many posts deleted to hide the mess, too little paperwork.  I think this is getting worse and something needs to change.

About Safepets UK

Expert Witness behaviourist assessing dogs for court, treating cats and dogs. Covering Midlands to London and other areas.

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