Foreign dogs part 2: animal welfare or profitable business?

Looking for a dog, you inevitably turn up sooner or later: Foreign dogs that look at you faithfully and pitifully out of some filthy, barred shelter. And also the animal protection associations, which mediate the dogs from abroad, speak with softening words of the terrible conditions on site and the urgency with which the poor creatures are looking for a better home in the promised land of animal protection. In fact, the question does not arise whether the protection of animals abroad is justified: Just one look at the sometimes catastrophic situation for animals in some countries makes it clear that help is urgently needed. Whether however the pragmatic switching of needy animals to Germany is the correct way, over it can be argued excellently.

Between an act of compassion and real help

Whether in the shelters of Romania or on the streets of the Mediterranean countries: Especially dogs have it in many countries clearly less beautiful than here with us. To be kicked, driven away, hunted and tortured belongs next to hunger to the everyday life of many strays. Whoever survives this is still threatened by the dog catcher, who brings many dogs daily to killing stations or public shelters, which are hardly better. There, the animals are often crammed together in a very confined space, with no place to retreat, no place to get loose, and no protection from the cold and heat. These dogs can only dream of sufficient food or petting. Many of the animal inmates of such institutions die of diseases, bite injuries and malnutrition, or else they vegetate dully in the degrading conditions.

You don’t have to be an outspoken animal rights activist to recognize the horror of these conditions. The thought of saving at least one dog’s life by adopting a foreign dog is tempting. And indeed, you can improve the situation of a single dog massively – but it does not change anything in the overall situation, apart from the fact that the adoption of a foreign dog can be a very big burden under certain circumstances (we reported).

Because the Shelter and killing stations are full: No sooner is a dog placed, than three more move in to take its place. These are dimensions that one can hardly imagine in this country, especially if one considers that a large part of the strays do not survive the first weeks of life and many street dogs find their end under car wheels or by poison baits of angry residents, instead of ending up in the shelter. Ultimately, everyone must admit that the adoption of a foreign dog means a wonderful opportunity for this, but is undoubtedly no serious help in the protection of animals abroad, but rather a drop on the hot stone.

Critical voices to the foreign animal protection

At exactly this point the critical voices become loud. Because the placement of dogs from abroad seems to be a bottomless pit: As long as the local situation does not improve, new dogs are constantly coming in search of a new home in German living rooms. However, they often cannot remain there, because the freshly baked dog owners have missed to examine their circumstances exactly before loud pity and are now nevertheless overtaxed with the new family member and its partly special requirements. Then the former foreign dogs end up in German shelters – which, however, are already overcrowded in many places! Would it not be better to adopt a dog from a German shelter instead of importing more dogs from abroad??

In fact, this point of criticism is not entirely unjustified: Also in German animal shelters dogs wait for the adoption, which they have earned likewise honestly. However, it must also be said honestly that German placement dogs have a lower heterogeneity. Since there are no street dogs in this country, for example, and castration and sterilization are a matter of course for many dog owners, the number of unwanted litters is fortunately significantly lower. Despite many dubious backyard breeders, the "supply" is therefore comparatively limited. Dogs that end up in the shelter are usually animals whose owners could no longer keep them for various personal or health reasons, or whose owners were overwhelmed with them. The latter group is unfortunately the majority, so many dogs in German shelters are hardly educated and have already developed behavioral problems. The actual emergency donations from deaths, divorce and the like, which have already received a basic education and often also a solid socialization, are rare and often quickly given away or already somewhat older and therefore less attractive for placement.

The foreign animal protection on the other hand offers an enormously heterogeneous field of most different dogs: From the puppy over the young dog up to the senior, from the 20cm dwarf up to the 70cm giant, the prospective customer gets almost everything "on order" from abroad. This may sound unfair to the German shelter dogs at first, but in fact it also increases the probability that a potential buyer will really find the right dog for him or her. In other words: The people who adopt a dog from the foreign animal protection are not necessarily the same people who would be interested in a dog from the German animal protection.

Another common practice that needs to be questioned is "buying free" dogs from killing stations: Because meanwhile the operators of these stations speculate already on the fact that a certain number of the dogs is ransomed by foreign Tierschutzern and take therefore consciously overcrowding on itself. After all, these funds are a welcome addition to the per capita money they receive from public funds for the killings. Whether the situation for the animals in the narrowness continues to worsen, no one is interested in the killing station, while animal welfare activists feel thereby strengthened to have to buy further animals free – a vicious circle, which cannot be broken by foreign adoptions, but only by clearing-up work locally.

A business with pity and animal love?

Another, important point of criticism, which comes up again and again, is that it would depend less on the animals, than on the money with foreign animal protection. And also here it must be said unfortunately: There is a real core behind it. Although there are many reputable organizations that act in accordance with the law and in the best interests of the animals, there are unfortunately also many black sheep. With respectable foreign animal protection can be made with security no profit: It finances itself almost exclusively by donations, the incomes are put normally directly again into the equipment of private animal protection places or castration projects and the like. Money paid for the imported dog can be clearly identified.

Unfortunately, it is often not easy to distinguish between serious and dubious animal protection abroad.

Therefore, here are some points based on which you can make distinctions:

  • Serious foreign animal welfare
  • Dubious animal import from abroad
  • Pre- and after-checks are carried out with the future dog owners.
  • The dogs can be picked up by private persons or directly at the place of arrival (e.g. at the highway parking lot) without any further trouble. Personal contact with employees of the organization does not exist in the apron.
  • Incurring costs can be disclosed.
  • When asked about the costs involved, the organization is evasive.
  • All animals are examined according to the import regulations, vaccinated and chipped and can be clearly assigned with valid identification papers.
  • The import regulations are not respected. Puppies may be under 4 months old (entry is then illegal!), that vaccinations have not been carried out (check vaccination passport!) or that no adequate veterinary examinations have been carried out. Fake papers are unfortunately also becoming more and more common.
  • Prospective buyers are also made aware of possible problems and difficulties: Not only advantages, but also possible weaknesses of the animal can be named.
  • The offered animals are presented as perfect dogs in bad circumstances – supposedly all are well socialized, people-friendly and in need of cuddling; possible problems are swept under the carpet.
  • The organization also works locally to be able to fundamentally improve the situation for the animals there, z.B. through castration projects, expansion of animal protection there, support of local animal shelters, etc.
  • An improvement of the circumstances in the country of origin is not aimed at, the organization only takes care of the "resettlement" of the animals.

The listed points are only an incomplete comparison of different criteria, which allow you as a layman to assess the seriousness of an animal welfare organization.

By the way, you should also become critical if an organization mainly offers puppies, because organized crime has increasingly discovered the business with pity for itself and starts to sell puppies from mass breeding as "animal welfare puppies" – these are then often too young, sick and have falsified papers. In addition, even far away from the big organized puppy trade, it is easy to make quick money with puppies that nobody wants in the country of origin anyway.

Even if "spent" mother dogs and surplus puppies from mass breeding are "bought free" and mediated, you should exercise caution. Not only does this indirectly support cruel mass breeding, but you can’t be sure that the organized puppy trade itself isn’t behind it, trying to make a last profit from animals that are no longer profitable for breeding.

Sustainable help – but how?

To help only selectively by randomly exporting animals to Germany is certainly not a real help for animals abroad. Nevertheless, it is clear that animal welfare does not stop at the borders. Therefore, it is important above all to arrange the help in such a way that it can bring lasting improvements.

In this country, animal welfare is already well developed and well structured – an advantage from which foreign animal welfare organizations can also benefit. Because with the appropriate "development aid" it can be possible to create structures abroad that significantly improve the conditions of the animals on site and increase the chances of placement in the country of origin.

This includes, for example, information campaigns on site, which show local people, who have become accustomed to looking the other way, that the animals in their country need help. Castration projects that reduce the amount of street dogs and uncontrolled throwing bitches on farms are also helpful to reduce the suffering. The development of private animal welfare institutions and animal shelters through cooperation with local animal welfare organizations has proven to be helpful: This creates a more animal-friendly alternative to public shelters. Of course, the support of local animal welfare can also be done by donations in kind and money, trainings and the like – what is important in the first place is that actual work takes place on the spot, which can have long-term effects, instead of simply outsourcing the problem of the "surplus" dogs to German animal shelters. Because in the long term, all countries must create and enforce their own animal welfare structures.

Why the adoption of foreign dogs still makes sense

Even if the adoption of a foreign dog is just a drop in the bucket, even if it does not provide lasting help – still it makes sense. On the one hand, of course, for the dog, which thus gets the chance for a better life. On the other hand also for the owner, who would not have found in the German animal protection possibly for lack of suitable candidates.

It is sad that black sheep destroy the reputation of the serious foreign animal protection again and again and ever more lastingly. Serious organizations that work sustainably should continue to be encouraged and supported in their work through donations and adoptions!

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