Simply Grand

How Cautious To Be?

138 posts in this topic

I'm struggling with this...

Working in a shelter, we had fairly strict criteria for dogs that were not safe to be rehomed (namely aggression towards humans or dogs that does not improve to a satisfactory point with a behaviour modification program) plus we had multiple people that would see the dog, assess and discuss.

Being a foster carer with private rescue is so different because I'm (or any carer is) the only one who sees the whole range of behaviours and the changes in the dog. And I can form my opinions but I'm biased obviously. Plus I can only assess how the dog is with me, the carer she knows and trusts and in the home she is now comfortable in.

This particular dog has vastly improved over the time I've had her and is safe behaviour wise with me because I know how to read and manage her appropriately, and would be with anyone else who understands dogs enough to manage her properly and is willing to commit to doing so but I think she is still a risk in certain situations, if she should get into those situations.

So how cautious do you be? Do rescues have specific criteria for what is and isn't acceptable to rehome? How do you assess/judge the dogs? And how much do you trust people to do the right thing? Am I being a control freak and not giving people and the dog enough credit?

Edited by Simply Grand

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It is a question of matching families to dogs. If you realistically think that less than 1 in 10 of dog owners could appropriately manage the dog, then I would not be advertising that dog as available for adoption (but if you get a fantastic home like a vet behaviourist or something then go for it LOL). I would be working with the dog over a longer rehabilitation period.

You do have to draw the line somewhere. If the dog is still dangerous after an extended rehab, then you seriously have to consider if it will feel safe and happy anywhere, PTS might be the best option,

It it is more like probably 30 - 40% of dog owners or experienced owners could cope, then I would be advertising the dog as available on a foster-with-intent-to-adopt basis and interrogate all applicants in depth. Be prepared to recommend behaviorists in the area etc. Full disclosure and keeping a certain amount of control while you assess the dogs' progress in the FWITA household before you actually release for formal adoption is the best way, in my view.

One that you assess as 40 - 70% could cope with, you are just going to be matching dogs and families. Full disclosure and a suggested action plan for the adopters to work with to modify the behaviour and you are good to go. Most adolescents that have been surrendered due to lack of training are in this group, I find.

The 70% plus group (in my experience most pre-adolescents and well--socialised adults) don't need a plan, just matching the dogs' needs to the family's lifestyle.

A proven HA dog I will not rehome unless I am fully confident that it was a medical issue which is now resolved. A moderately DA dog I will rehome as an only dog and with full disclosure only to experienced dog owners whom I trust to keep the dog on leash at all times in public.

I don't have a 10 point criteria or anything to assess behaviour, just take each case as it comes. For rehab cases, I like to watch them being walked by both experienced dog people strange to them and by inexperienced dog people strange to them to assess how they are coming along.

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Thank you so much for your post RP, it's really great and very helpful.

Thinking of it in those kind of percentages is really helpful, I just need to do some more assessment of the sort you've mentioned to figure out where she fits. I've had her for 5 months now and she's at a point where I'm satisfied with her progress with me, now I need to see how transferable it is to others to see if she meets that 30-40%...

Foster to adopt is a great idea too, I will definitely push for that.

Edited by Simply Grand

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Just make sure you are mega honest and listen to what any prospective homes say. We tried a rescue when looking for a second dog as our remaining dog wasnt handling it being on his own. We were very exact in needing an easy going submissive dog that would get along with our current dog. Must not be dominant. What seemed the perfect match but young was far from it. Walked in on the first night of the trial and decided it owned the place - didn't engage with us and just looked to displace and drive out our current dog. It would come around the corner and current dog would be on one of two bean bags and from one stare would immediately move and rescue would take his place. If current dog appeared carrying a toy no matter what rescue was doing or if you were playing with it it would immediately go and target current dog. Simply to get the toy of him - didnt want the toy at all. And then I had issues handling this rescue - it actually climbed over/through me to get at current dog. Rescuers said oh rescue is just being playful at 18 months or 2 years whatever it was (but later mentioned one of the foster home resident dogs had to put it in its place due to dominant not playful behaviour). The dog had come from mainly being out with a bloke all day - we recommended they be very careful placing the dog and making sure it went somewhere as an only dog and adult household - would be perfect if they could have found similar to where it came from.

But yeah put us off rescue as we had been specific about what we needed as our current dog is a bit special. So we went and got a puppy in the end was the best way for him to have a second dog. BUT please if you are with a private rescue please find the right home for a dog especially one that has a few issues and be honest if it has been dominant around other dogs - dont try to tell them 'its just playful' etc and listen when they make suggestions. Be prepared to keep the dog as long as needed and make sure the issues are fully disclosed.

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Thank you rubiton :) I'm so sorry you had that experience. That honesty is something I feel REALLY strongly about, it doesn't help anyone to be less than brutally honest about a dog's behaviour. Glossing over it won't change it and it concerns me a lot that that does happen.

Another concern I have is relying on well intentioned foster carers who, through absolutely no fault of theirs, don't necessarily have a lot of dog behaviour knowledge to assess their foster dogs and do Meet & Greets. As we know there are plenty of people out there who don't see the difference between a playful dog and a pushy dog or a playful dog and scared dog, or who don't realise that dog behaviour can be entirely different in different situations, and that could a recipe for disaster :(

Edited by Simply Grand

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I agree with Rubiton.

My rescue experience was 'anyone that had $300 could have a dog'. That was the attitude of the group.

I watched, helplessly, dogs being placed in inappropriate situations. I even adopted a very aggressive 60kg dog because he was repeatedly placed in inappropriate homes and it was dangerous (even though it was dangerous me having him too).

Just recently I took my girl to some doggie classes at rspca, and a young couple there had adopted a dog from a local (and I would consider reputable) rescue, the dog is extremely anxious, very active, and now on his own all day, escaping, destroying stuff, nuisance barking etc. In my opinion the rescue should not have placed an axious stressed dog in that home as it is clearly not a good match.

Honestly is definitely the best policy. But you also have to use your own judgement about how committed people are to managing a dog with issues. Having a dog that needs extra management is very stressful.

9/10 foster dogs are happy go lucky, easy to rehome. But the 1/10 that is more complicated needs a 1/100 home.

I think you're doing a fantastic job,you are obviously very committed.

Edited my last paragraph out.

Edited by animallover99

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I'm brutally honest with our adopters because one person's "no go zone" is another person's training project/something within the bounds of acceptability. We recently had a dog in care for 16 months and (politely) rejected about 14 applications for him because I wasn't comfortable they would be able to deal with his remaining issues. He's now in the perfect home with an owner who continues to work him on his remaining issues and it's great. Dog aggression is something that a lot of people would feel more comfortable managing than human aggression, to be honest. We ended up keeping our dog Dodge because he's a fear biter when at the vet. Very manageable by someone savvy and alert and hilariously we still keep getting people saying they want to adopt him (he shows up in group photos with our foster dogs and some people act like we're a 'shop' and ask if the brown dog is also available to adopt :) we just thought it best to keep him because he feels safe here and we know all his signs.

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The way I approach behavioural issues is weighing up severity and response to behavioural modification against the likely consequences if anything were to go wrong.

I've rehomed two resources guarders who were only moderate to begin with and began showing great improvement within a few weeks. Both were rehomed with full disclosure of their issue and on the understanding that they would be fed away from other dogs to prevent anything from triggering a slide backwards in behaviour. Both worked out well in their new homes.

On the other hand, I recently had a foster who was not just resource guarding, but actively chasing and attacking our other foster dog to get his food. And this was after she'd already eaten all of her own plus a bit extra to slow her down. She stayed with us for only a week because the more settled she got, the worse her behaviour got and it was becoming a safety concern. She was otherwise a fairly nice dog but her behaviour around food and her willingness to actually attack a much larger dog for it, suggested to me that it'd be a dangerous uphill battle. Would I have felt safe rehoming her? Not a chance.

I guess the thing to bear in mind is that not everyone has the knowledge and skills to deal with potentially dangerous behavioural problems. If you get an adopter who is happy to be in it for the long haul, that's great but the majority of people don't seem to want a pet that is ongoing, difficult work and I can totally understand that.

To actually answer your questions..

So how cautious do you be?

With greyhounds? Very. They're great dogs and the majority make good pets but they are large, fast dogs and if not properly assessed and placed, there is potential for things to go very wrong.

Do rescues have specific criteria for what is and isn't acceptable to rehome?

I do but it's not hard and fast and it does depend on severity. That said, I would not rehome a greyhound that was DA. I've had a couple and I've seen what a seriously DA greyhound is capable of, and it's not pretty.

How do you assess/judge the dogs?

I have a few sets of forms. One is for the foster carer, one is a formal assessment done in the week after the dog arrives and the other is more.. long-term observations. I find the long-term observations to be most useful because it accounts for changes and shows what sort of direction the dog is heading in.

And how much do you trust people to do the right thing? Am I being a control freak and not giving people and the dog enough credit?

To be honest.. "no" to the first question and "no" to the second.

Experience has taught me that what people say and what people will do tend to be two different things. It's not necessarily dishonesty on their part- and I think that needs to be understood- but more that they do what works best and is easiest for them. Those things might conflict though with what is best for the dog.

Does it make you a control freak to care about your foster dog going to the right home and getting the right care? I hope not, because that'd make me a control freak, too. The way I see it, when I take a dog on, I become ultimately responsible for it, from that day onward. If the owner dumps it in a pound, my problem. If the owner walks it off-leash and it escapes, it becomes my problem. I choose where my dogs go to reduce the risk of problems and if I don't feel I can trust someone enough, I just don't take the risk.

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Thanks guys...

Maddy, I feel very much like you (and I'm sure everyone else) do, although technically I wouldn't be liable or anything if the dog is adopted and something goes wrong as long as I am totally upfront, if something goes wrong that could have been avoided then I do feel responsible.

And like you say, it's the seriousness of the consequences that concern me. This particular dog came in with pretty much every issue (general anxiety, fear aggression towards humans, no dog skills whatsoever and a tendency towards dog aggression, escaping/destruction when left alone, prey drive towards small dogs and any other small animal, resource guarding from other dogs though not at all from humans).

She has come SUCH a long way, much more confident and relaxed, good with humans, although I think she'd still be aggressive if pushed but so would many dogs, able to interact much more appropriately with other big dogs etc. My biggest concern is that I'm sure she would kill a small dog given the opportunity. I'm as confident of it as I can be without actually seeing her do it :( Which is manageable if she is kept in a very secure home, never off lead in public and if the owner builds and continues the relationship she has with me where she is very, very responsive to me and I can read her signs.

But what if they don't? What if they take her to vet unmuzzled and look away for a minute when there's a small dog there? What if they don't listen and take her to a dog park? What if they introduce her to a friend's small dog and it's ok initially but then they let her off lead and the small dog runs? But then again, that probably won't happen...

It's hard because I know under the shelter assessment process a dog that after 5 months of behaviour mod would still kill another dog would not be rehomed so it's hard to get my head around it.

Btw, we are working with a Vet Behaviourist who also runs her own rescue (not the one I'm with) and she has assessed her as adoptable (she is actually available for adoption and has been the whole time) but she hasn't yet seen her interact directly with another dog without either a fence or it being very carefully controlled on a walk with my other dog.

Edited by Simply Grand

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It sounds like you would be when discussing it with a potential owner, but speaking generally I honestly don't think most rescues are open enough about their fosters. I have read ads and then found out about the dog afterwards and it can be quite startling. If people don't know what's going on or it's glossed over how can they be properly prepared for the dog or get it the help it needs? I wonder how many dogs end up suffering needlessly for years or wind up being put down for behavioural issues, and it sounds terrible but I don't know what's worse. Sure, most rescues have a bounce back policy but when Rover bites Grandma or kills the cat next-door they're probably not going to do that! It seems to me like rescues are glossing over behavioural problems in their desire to get the dog rehomed at any cost... even if the cost is actually to the dog.

I'll give you some recent examples. I am paraphrasing and mixing up some details.

"She's a bit of a diva and would prefer a family all of her own. She loves children." — this dog was dog aggressive and had to be kept separate from the other dogs in care. She may be small, but I hope the children aren't walking her when she reacts to another dog on the street and pulls them down the road, or gets into a fight with a bigger, stronger dog and is attacked or killed in front of them.

"He's an energizer bunny! He'll need an active home, preferably with children. He only barks when someone's at the door." — this dog was extremely sound sensitive and was barking at EVERYTHING. He was hypervigilent and unable to settle. The foster carer put it down to the dog not having been given any "boundaries" or training. Now I'm not a vet, but that screams anxiety disorder to me. But now the owner thinks it's a training issue and they just need to be firm. :(

Now obviously I don't know what was said at any meetings. Maybe more detail was given about what the dog was like, and the rescue wasn't clear in an ad because they don't want to be seen as placing dogs with issues but I still find it worrisome. Because people can't do the right thing by their families and the dog unless they're told the truth about it. The whole truth. Maybe they will be amazing and rise to the challenge like some of us here but I suspect we're a rarity. And honestly it's not fair to the owners not to know.

I would be putting together an information pack and contacts for ongoing behaviour modification and training. I'd include a VB report if you have one. And I perhaps wouldn't advertise in the usual manner but reach out to vet behaviourists and dog trainers who do the right things. They may know of a suitable home or want a project dog of their own.

Not sure the legal perspective of it all but that is worrisome too.

In case it's not clear... no I don't think you're being overly cautious. :grimace:

Edited by Papillon Kisses

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PK, I'm brutally honest about it, I just can't not be...I've told people they can't have a particular shelter dog when they've come back to collect it the day after someone else had told they could because I didn't believe they were suitable. I was asked to give some behaviour advice to a family who had adopted a dog from my current rescue group and when I heard the situation I told them they shouldn't have been given the dog in the first place and to return it :o I'm not sure my caution goes over that well with the rest of the group unfortunately but like you say, it is not fair to be less than totally honest.

ETA totally agree with you that there does seem to be a lot of glossing over!!

Edited by Simply Grand

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It sounds like you would be when discussing it with a potential owner, but speaking generally I honestly don't think most rescues are open enough about their fosters. I have read ads and then found out about the dog afterwards and it can be quite startling. If people don't know what's going on or it's glossed over how can they be properly prepared for the dog or get it the help it needs? I wonder how many dogs end up suffering needlessly for years or wind up being put down for behavioural issues, and it sounds terrible but I don't know what's worse. Sure, most rescues have a bounce back policy but when Rover bites Grandma or kills the cat next-door they're probably not going to do that! It seems to me like rescues are glossing over behavioural problems in their desire to get the dog rehomed at any cost... even if the cost is actually to the dog.

I'll give you some recent examples. I am paraphrasing and mixing up some details.

"She's a bit of a diva and would prefer a family all of her own. She loves children." — this dog was dog aggressive and had to be kept separate from the other dogs in care. She may be small, but I hope the children aren't walking her when she reacts to another dog on the street and pulls them down the road, or gets into a fight with a bigger, stronger dog and is attacked or killed in front of them.

"He's an energizer bunny! He'll need an active home, preferably with children. He only barks when someone's at the door." — this dog was extremely sound sensitive and was barking at EVERYTHING. He was hypervigilent and unable to settle. The foster carer put it down to the dog not having been given any "boundaries" or training. Now I'm not a vet, but that screams anxiety disorder to me. But now the owner thinks it's a training issue and they just need to be firm. :(

Now obviously I don't know what was said at any meetings. Maybe more detail was given about what the dog was like, and the rescue wasn't clear in an ad because they don't want to be seen as placing dogs with issues but I still find it worrisome. Because people can't do the right thing by their families and the dog unless they're told the truth about it. The whole truth. Maybe they will be amazing and rise to the challenge like some of us here but I suspect we're a rarity. And honestly it's not fair to the owners not to know.

I would be putting together an information pack and contacts for ongoing behaviour modification and training. I'd include a VB report if you have one. And I perhaps wouldn't advertise in the usual manner but reach out to vet behaviourists and dog trainers who do the right things. They may know of a suitable home or want a project dog of their own.

Not sure the legal perspective of it all but that is worrisome too.

In case it's not clear... no I don't think you're being overly cautious. :grimace:

I see no issue with this as long as full disclosure is made during the process. Adoption profiles are there to get people through the door and interested in the dog - like a dating profile. You dont out all your worst qualities on your dating profile. You put your best, and the person gets to know your quirks as they get to know you better (I.e during the adoption process/meet and greet).

This is of course assuming that dogs with mild to moderate issues are in these profiles, not dogs with severe HA or DA.

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Definitely true melza, you need to generate the enquiry to have any chance of finding the right home and I've done plenty of carefully worded advertising spiels.

The key is though being really honest throughout the rest of the process, which I'm not convinced always happens. And I think sometimes it's because whoever is caring for the dog and/or arranging the adoption is unaware of the issues, which is bound to happen for whatever reason and is completely understandable. It's in cases where issues ARE known and are not disclosed or are glossed over for the sake of getting an adoption through that I have issues.

Edited by Simply Grand

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SG, to be completely, brutally honest, I would not rehome her.

Prey drive can be managed very easily by someone who understands it but the thing is.. not many people really understand it. Last year, I had a dog returned to me after the owners accidentally left the front door open and the dog walked right out, wandered down the street, spotted a neighbour's cat and killed it. The family knew this dog was not cat safe but returned her anyway because, as they said, they understood the words but not what they really meant. I make an effort to really drill the prey drive issue into adopters (and this family was no exception) and their reaction to seeing it actually happen says a lot about how people can't understand the consequences without seeing them.

Personally, I've picked up the pieces of a few inappropriately placed greyhounds (who have killed or injured other animals) and in every case, it's been pure horror at what their dogs have done. They can't believe it, they replay it over and over again in their minds, it shakes them badly and leaves them not wanting to own a grey again. And I can understand that.

To me, managing these dogs is no big deal. They wear a UK yard muzzle at the vet (with strap looped through collar), we never visit dog parks and do most of our exercising at home, we have a lot of fences and gates and it's second nature to check one is closed before opening the next. The effort required to keep them is much less than the enjoyment we get from their company (and to be honest, a lot of that stuff is common sense for all greyhounds anyway) so it's not a big deal.

So basically, you first have to find someone who understands prey drive (the hardest part) and then find someone who likes the dog enough for the effort to be worth it, for them. In my experience, the person who ticks both of those boxes is a unicorn amongst adopters. They are out there but good luck finding one. I've currently got a foster boy (the Spotty Dawg) who would make someone a brilliant pet if they ticked the boxes- he's a sweet, goofy cuddlemonster who desperately wants to please but he's not small dog safe. All he needs is that one person who gets prey drive but he's been with us for over a year now and honestly, I don't think I'll ever find anyone that I could trust enough to manage his drive.

It's hard because some of these dogs could be perfectly rehomable in every other way but the consequences for something going wrong with prey drive could be, and most likely would be, another dog ending up dead. It's a very big risk with very severe consequences, even though it's theoretically an easy issue to live with, unlike barking or escaping or aggression.

The other thing about prey drive is that it's not fixable, it's part of the dog's wiring. I've seen people claim that they can train dogs out of it but if the drive is actually that strong, offering a bit of roasted chicken or putting a prong collar on the dog won't make a lick of difference either way. Behavioural problems can often be fixed with enough effort but prey drive is not a behavioural problem, and approaching it as something to fix will only result in a dog who is better at hiding or reigning in its impulses until just the right moment.

I know you've put a huge amount of time, energy and love into this dog but my honest opinion is that the rescue group concerned should have done the prey drive testing to start with and not placed her with a foster carer. It's not fair on you and it's not fair on the dog. And ultimately, if they do rehome her and she kills another dog, you will be the one hurt, not them. Very sad and shitty situation that should have been prevented. It should not be up to foster carers to have to deal with this sort of issue :(

Edited by Maddy

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I have a foster pup here at the moment who is very aggressive around food... simple solution is to crate her when eating. Perfectly fine at all other times.

T.

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Just for the sake of the discussion, thought I would share my profile write up for this dog vs the info I've given the adoptions team.

Write up:

"This is Xxx. Xxx is a very special girl looking for a very special home.

Xxx is a little shy at first but she is an absolutely fantastic companion once she knows you, super affection, easy to live with, loving and trusting. She's lots of fun to train and likes learning things, she knows sit, drop, come, wait, shake (paw), interesting words like 'dinner' 'chewy' and 'carrot', is house trained and polite around food. She is not jumpy, although will occasionally stand on her hind legs for a cuddle. Oh and she will try to be a lap dog! Xxx generally walks nicely on the lead, although she can be strong if she smells something interesting she'd like to check out. She is still young and has the energy to be a great exercise or training companion but she is also quite happy with just a daily walk to get out of the house.

Xxx did not have any easy start to life and as a result she can be quite worried about strangers and new things. She will need some time and space to become comfortable in her forever home. She is still learning about interacting with other dogs so will need a dog experienced home who can guide her. Xxx can also be a little anxious when she is on her own so she will need a safe and secure area to stay when she is home alone.

Xxx would be best suited as an only dog, although she may be able to live with the right dog. She is not suited to living with cats or small dogs.

Xxx is an absolutely sweetheart who just wants her own home with her very own people. She is a fantastic companion and although she still needs some help with her confidence and other dogs her gorgeous personality shines through when you meet her and she will repay everything you put into her with all her love."

Adoption info:

"Xxx needs a special home willing to take the time to help her feel comfortable. There will definitely be a settling in period they will need to be prepared for and she will not be adopted on first meeting. She will need to get to know her forever family first and they will need to spend some time with her, her foster carer and her veterinary behaviourist (VB has already offered to do this) learning about her behaviour issues and how to manage them. She may be able to live with another dog (not a small one) but it will depend a lot on what the other dog is like, introductions will need to be slow and they MUST be able to be kept separately when not supervised for at least a while, possibly always, in a forever home as Xxx will guard toys and food from other dogs. She could happily live as an only dog however would need to be an inside dog who spends lots of time with her family as she will not cope with spending a lot of time in a yard on her own - she will escape, be destructive and not cope emotionally.

Xxx is an absolutely fantastic companion once she knows you, super affection, easy to live with, loving and trusting. She's lots of fun to train and likes learning things, she knows sit, drop, come, wait, shake (paw), interesting words like 'dinner' 'chewy' and 'carrot', is house trained and polite around food. She is not jumpy, although will occasionally stand on her hind legs for a cuddle. Oh and she will try to be a lap dog!

However she needs careful management when out of the house as she WILL attack and try to kill cats and small dogs, and is selective in interacting with other larger dogs. She can also be wary of humans if scared and may react with aggression. She has come a LONG way with these issues while in care and should continue to improve with ongoing work but it will take commitment.

She is not suited to an inexperienced dog owner, a home with cats, small dogs or other small animals, or babies/very young children (only because they are unpredictable and she may react if startled, she does like them).

I'm happy to provide any other info if needed and to chat to any potential adopters."

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I don't believe the dog is suitable for adoption. She is DA, can be HA, is certainly not easy to live with when you have written so much about her needing time, space, special considerations etc.

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I don't believe the dog is suitable for adoption. She is DA, can be HA, is certainly not easy to live with when you have written so much about her needing time, space, special considerations etc.

I know. I've said this many times to the group owners/managers/whatever they are. She continues to surprise me with her progress but then she goes backwards again. One problem is the VB has seen her with me handling her after months of work and says she is adoptable. Not to sound arrogant but I'm not an average dog owner. I WILL NOT let her go to an unsuitable home and if it really comes down to it I will adopt her for the purposes of putting her to sleep if the group won't agree to it. I DO NOT think it's fair on anyone to send her to a new foster carer so she will only go from me to a very selective suitable home or to heaven.

Edited by Simply Grand

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I don't believe the dog is suitable for adoption. She is DA, can be HA, is certainly not easy to live with when you have written so much about her needing time, space, special considerations etc.

Ditto.

Edit - what did you end up doing about the 'run' SG?

Edited by animallover99

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