LETTER: Avoid pitfalls of adopting pets online

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A good friend of mine recently went through hell and back after she decided to adopt a dog from abroad. Like most good-natured people, she fell in love with a stray she’d spotted on the internet and arranged to adopt him, but it soon became clear that she was duped and hadn’t been given all the necessary information beforehand.

As a professional pet carer and owner of Petpals Mansfield I’d like to offer some advice to readers who are thinking of doing the same, in the hope that they can avoid what can literally be a painful process. Re-homing a stray dog can be hugely rewarding but it’s important to know exactly what is involved before you make your final decision.

Firstly, you need to take a close look at the dog’s shelter and make sure they are a legitimate organisation or charity. Sadly not all rescues have the welfare of their dogs at heart, but even some that mean well take shortcuts. These sorts of organisations will not carry out any assessments or health checks and because of this, some very inappropriate matches have been made between unsuitable dogs and unsuspecting new adopters.

Secondly, it’s crucial you know whether the dog has had all necessary vaccinations. The rescue should send you a pet passport, where all vaccinations are logged. Never accept a dog from a country outside of the pet passport scheme, they are not in the scheme for a reason. All dogs travelling abroad must have the rabies vaccination as well as shots to protect them from parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis and infectious canine hepatitis.

If you suspect that your dog may not have received all the vaccinations, please ask your vet to check. The peace of mind is well worth the extra expense.

Thirdly, you need to ask the rescue for the dog’s known health issues but be aware that there may be undiagnosed health problems. Be prepared in case there’s the possibility of extra expense for medications and arrange pet insurance for your dog as soon as he or she arrives. Street dogs are nearly always malnourished, some are injured or seriously unwell.

Lastly, be mindful about the dog’s behaviour.

If you adopt or foster through a recognised charity you will receive support should you need it, but if you take in a dog from an independent shelter you’ll be on your own and will have to pay for professional advice. Some dogs settle in easily but most find their new environment terrifying after life on the streets and need a great deal of patience, help, consideration and compassion while they learn to cope and adjust. Be cautious if you already have a dog in the family. Strays have often had to fight for food and may bring that behaviour into your home.

If you’re considering taking in a dog from abroad, the best thing to do is to go and collect the dog yourself. Check out they have all the relevant papers and pet passport in person.

Please think about the points I’ve made and seek help if you need it. It’s worth it if the right match is made.

Mike Scott

Owner of Petpals Mansfield