Thinking of Rescuing a Dog From Abroad?

Rescuing a dog can be a really rewarding path to pet ownership and while your newest family member may the currently living in the local kennels, they could instead be thousands of miles away in a different country.

I think we are all aware of how important it is to be thorough when buying a puppy and to ensure they come from a reputable and responsible breeder but I believe fewer of us are as prepared to be as vigilant when it comes to rehoming.  We place a great deal of trust in rescue organisations, believing that because they clearly care so much about the animals, they will also care about doing all the necessary due diligence.

66,000 dogs were imported into the UK for rescue through official channels last year, as an industry it has exploded but unfortunately regulation hasn’t kept pace and while there are many who are extremely conscientious when bringing dogs over, there are others who are much less so.

Which means it is up to you as a prospective pet parent to be very careful in whom you place your trust.

Here are my tips;

Is the organisation a registered charity?

And do they partner with a properly registered organisation in the dog’s country of origin?

Being a registered charity shows they are committed to what they are doing, are happy to abide by the professional codes of conduct of the Charity Commission and are not trading as a profit making business.

Has the dog had all the necessary health testing?

There is no legal requirement for health testing for an imported dog at all.  They simply need to be vaccinated against Rabies and wormed before they enter the UK.  However,  I highly recommend a full range of tests are performed and that if they come back positive, treatment is started (and  the dog is retesting to confirm a cure if appropriate) before they travel.

Some of these tests should also be repeated after 6 months, when often the dog is settling in their new home.

Some of these conditions can be treated, others require lifelong monitoring and medication for relapses and it is vital the rescue is clear about the costs and implications with anyone who takes on their dogs.

It is also imperative dogs are tested for Brucellosis, a serious condition which can have few outwards symptoms in the pet but can cause very significant disease in humans.

These tests should all be done at an EU registered testing lab and you should be given official copies of the reports, clearly marked with the details of your dog, including their microchip number.

If an importing organisation is unable to do this, I cannot recommend you do take on one of their dogs, the consequences could be heartbreaking.

Have they been imported under Balai or do they just have a passport?

Dogs coming into the UK for rehoming should be brought in under the ‘Balai Directive’, which is for commercial imports and rescue pets for rehoming.  This requires them to have a rabies vaccine, a microchip, a full health check from a vet and be issued with an Intra Trade Animal Health Certificate (ITAHC), in addition to a passport.

Many organisations bring these dogs in on just a pet passport under the PETS Travel Scheme, which is easier and cheaper but not correct.

If a charity you are considering isn’t using Balai and simply using PETS, I would be concerned about what other corners they may be cutting.

Dogs must be imported under Balai & if they are they will have far more paperwork than just a pet passport

Has the dog been in foster in the UK before being rehomed and assessed by a well qualified behaviourist?

Dogs born and bred on the streets are not like our pampered homebred pets.  They are very different in their behaviour and approach to life.  They tend to be independent and self-sufficient, I think it is best to think of them as a ‘breed’ in their own right, with personality traits that are common to many of them.  Just like we accept that Border Collies are active and need a job, sighthounds are prone to chase things and labradors carry stuff in their mouths!

And while many street dogs adapt well to suburban life, others can find it difficult.  This is why it is absolutely vital that they are not transported over and immediately dropped off at their new homes.

A responsible rescue will place their dogs with an experienced foster family first, so they can thoroughly assess how they are going to settle into their new lives, any issues can be dealt with by knowledgable and trained people and you, as their new family, can be fully informed and supported.

Does the rescue give on-going support as standard?

After they have been fostered, assessed and then rehomed, it is important that the care from the rescue does not stop.

While many of these dogs adapt quickly to sofa surfing and daytime snoozes, others will need help as they continue to adjust and it is vital that you as their family are given support to achieve that.

In addition to the charity supporting you, I also recommend booking in with a local trainer and behaviourist as soon as you have confirmed the adoption, as many have waiting lists.  Your new pet will come speaking a different language and being able to understand each other will build a wonderful bond between you.

What is the rescue’s policy on allowing returns?

Sometimes, even with the best wills in the world, doggy adoptions fail and this is no reflection of your care, or the rescue’s.

It is absolutely vital that any organisation rehoming dogs, is also able to take them back without judgement or delay.

This is often known as ‘rescue back-up’ and reputable organisations will have a strong structure in place to be able to achieve it.

The world of rescuing dogs from abroad is currently very unregulated and while the majority of people involved are dedicated to the animals and their welfare, others are less diligent and this can lead to significant problems for the dogs and for the families who take them on.

I do think with excellent care and attention to detail we can give the foreign dogs that are suited to be pets wonderful, fulfilling lives but it is often more challenging than many people assume and although it is the rescue’s responsibility to ensure this is achieved, potential adoptees need to ask questions and do their research as well!

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