MICHIGAN RESCUE PROGRAM
George Cromer is a breeder-owner-exhibitor and a Bulldog Club of America (BCA) member with firsthand insights into a troubling topic.
Michigan Rescue Program
After four years in Bulldog rescue, I’m convinced there’s more than one variety of Bully. On the show circuit, you become good at recognizing very subtle differences. In rescue, subtlety is definitely out.
Some Bullies look good; others don’t. Some are healthy; others are not. Rescues are usually at the poor end of the spectrum and no two are alike. Sound movement, body and spirit, and good health and temperament are proper goals, but are we fooling ourselves if we think improving our fraction of the population will actually improve the breed when other breeders don’t care? Maybe, but better ethics can’t hurt.
Our family has had over 40 rescues as our guests, usually in our living room. Our dogs get the family room, and all the dogs meet in the kitchen. We enjoy the rescues’ diversity compared with the predictability of our dogs’ behavior.
The BCA has spent about $7,000 on our rescue dogs and has received about $5,000 in cash donations from adopting families. There have also been donations of free boarding, dog food and lower-cost veterinary services.
Many vets and shelters directly refer incoming Bulldogs to us. We’re on file throughout the state, thanks to our all-breed rescue alliance’s sourcebook.
The dogs range from 11 months to 8 years, from good health to the last legs of difficult lives. We try to keep good records and follow up on the adoptions. About 20 percent of the rescues have been malnourished. The only new problem that often occurs with our placements is obesity, because rescue dogs soon learn to manipulate their new owners.
But this is their newest problem. What about their old ones? Poor socialization is why about one-third of the dogs need to be rescued. Some reasons, such as allergies, are easily solved, but aggression toward other animals, household damage, dislike of children probably caused by earlier abuse and lack of proper training are more difficult, Two dogs that appeared to have been trained to attack people with a frightening ferocity we’d never seen in our breed had to be destroyed.
Nearly one-third of our rescues have had eye problems. The pressure of overdone facial folds over the eyes and inadequate tear production seem to be the primary causes. The problems can be handled medically or surgically. Owner ignorance or lack of time and money led to many cases of serious middle-age vision problems. Fortunately, in all but one case the damage was reversible. It may not make economic sense to pay $250 for entropion surgery for a dog you’re going to place for $150, but we’ve done it.
Ten percent of our cases had tail problems. Internalized tails that are difficult to keep clean can lead to chronic infections and strong odors that require significant care. One family was charged nearly $1,000 to investigate a problem our vet solved for $140 by removing the diseased tail. The surgery gave the dog a happy new life. The answer for the breed is not to breed Bulldogs that carry this genetic defect.
Two of the three heartworm-infested dogs we’ve seen had successful recoveries.
In the street, dogs are injured by cars or other dogs. We’ve had real help from some of the vet staffs of shelters that provided emergency care and surgery. Few of the dogs had serious trauma-related medical problems, but one has a limp that will never go away because help came too late.
The typical rescue dog has multiple medical problems. Whether the causes were heredity or environment, health was not a priority to its owner or breeder.
Last year we held a parade of rescues in conjunction with the Detroit Bulldog Club annual puppy match. It was an opportunity to recognize and credit adoptive owners for giving unwanted Bullies loving new homes. About half our rescues were entered in the parade. Several owners had to be told to lay off extra meals and treats.
The average of our rescue dogs is 4.2 years, and very few of our placements have died. Cancer, advanced hip dyplasia and kidney failure were the causes.
Only once has a breeder asked us to take a bitch that can no longer produce pups. Rescue is not a cheap way to dispose of dogs that are past their prime. If we see too many of these requests, we may need to rethink our mission.
The BCA can’t control for-profit breeders who don’t care what problems they create, but inspecting and closing puppy mills is one step in the right direction. Breeding healthier Bulldogs is another.
George, thanks for your insights.
- William Andree, 204 S. Beach Dr., Monticello, IN 47960.