Back in 2012, when SHUG was young (and so were we!) we made our supporters a promise. SHUG is a NO DRAMA ZONE. We're all about happy endings. We don't throw shade or post shocking pictures to manufacture outrage. Yes, some of our dogs may have seen rough days in the past, but each and every one of them is going to have the happiest ending we can possibly give them. Our volunteers literally travel across the planet to make that happen for each pup.
Along the way to that happy ending, we try to treat each person we encounter with respect. Volunteers and adopters make up the core of our community. Volunteers who transport and foster pups are literally the backbone of rescue. Dogs don't get saved without them. The same goes for adopters. If you've been through our adoption process, you know it's not fast nor easy--but we try to be transparent and keep everyone up to date along the way. We have a new application system that lets applicants see where they are in the process and we're up front about our requirements and about our dogs' needs.
There is a third group of people we interact with every day who--whether we want it to be true or not--are also an integral part of our community. The dogs we place are not wild animals. They (or their parents in some cases) were owned by someone. When they come to us it means that relationship didn't work out. Sometimes the causes are very clear. We have received dogs whose loving owners passed away or who were very, very sick and unable to care for their pets through no fault of their own. On the other end of the spectrum, we have received dogs who were seized by the police and their owners were judged unfit.
But after placing nearly 1000 dogs, it is clear that the vast majority of situations fall somewhere in the middle. The most important thing is always the safety of the dogs, but we also prioritize treating people who are surrendering--under any circumstances--with dignity. There are two reasons for that. First of all, from a practical point of view it doesn't make sense to shame people for accepting the help we are offering. If they can't take care of their dog, we want them to let us help. That is what we're here for. Shaming them just makes it harder for dog owners to reach out to us. That's how dogs end up on craigslist or dropped off at kill shelters.
And yes, this applies to breeders as well.
SHUG has accepted dogs from many breeders over the years. Often the dogs they ask us to take are mixed breed "oops" litters. Sometimes they're embarrassed to admit they had an unplanned pregnancy, or sometimes they just don't have the network or knowledge to place mixed breed pups. We're also very happy to accept special needs pups that, again, a breeder may not know how to place. In some cases the breeder might make a business decision to euthanize a special needs dog and we are more than happy to step in and take over that dog's care and find them the perfect home.
The bottom line is that we're not going to second guess an owner's decisions or try to shame them for asking for our help. SHUG exists to help these dogs and we are grateful when owners entrust them to our care. We realize that this is not necessarily a common philosophy among rescues.
That brings us to the second reason that we always strive to treat those surrendering their dogs to us with dignity...we love these dogs. And no matter what has happened along the way, we know that they wouldn't be with us if they weren't with their original owner first, especially if they were a breeder.
Many of SHUG's core volunteers were originally Greyhound adopters and our group was very much based on the racing Greyhound adoption model. In that network, dogs were bred and trained to be racers. When their careers came to an end, they were smoothly transitioned by their owners or kennel managers to adoption groups, where they found homes. It wasn't always a perfect system, and there was tension between the pro- and anti-racing activists. But everyone's goal was an orderly handoff between breeders and adoption groups to keep the dogs safe.
SHUG has always been neutral when it comes to Greyhound racing. By the time we were founded in 2012, the industry was already shrinking rapidly. The vitriol and drama and the millions of dollars that went into the pockets of lobbyists who pushed through the 2018 Florida legislation were all unnecessary. The resulting chaos--further exacerbated by the pandemic--made everyone's jobs a little harder but in the end all of the dogs ended up where they needed to go.
The same is true for the Galgos and Podencos of Spain. Hunting with dogs, just like bullfighting, has been on the decline in Spain for well over a decade. After a long, bitter struggle, the ambitious new animal welfare laws at the national level were finally passed earlier this year with hotly contested exemptions for hunting and bullfighting. Within days Valencia, the fourth most populous region of Spain, passed their own version of the law without the exemptions. Even before the passage of these new laws, the rate of surrender for dogs in Spain was less than half that of the US.
The bottom line is that we can't love pure-bred dogs and hate breeders. Whether these are dogs bred to race or hunt, all of the things we love about them come from the same place. We can't love racing Greyhounds and hate Greyhound racing. The two literally can't exist without each other, as adopters are coming to find out. If you think it's hard to find adoptable Greyhounds today, just wait a few years.
Likewise, we can't love Spanish dogs and hate Spain. Bred to run through the fields hunting wild hare, the Galgos and Podencos are a fixture of the Spanish countryside that many Spaniards now recognize as a symbol of their country and culture. 50-60% of Spaniards support applying the new animal welfare laws to all dogs--even if it means the end of hunting.
Yes, there are bad breeders. Breeders are human and there will always be bad humans. The undeniable fact is that there are humans who hurt dogs, by design or by neglect. Whether they're breeders or football players or unsupervised children. Our goal is to stand for the dogs and be ready to help them find new homes when their current ones fail, for any reason. There are groups who ban adopters with kids. We aren't going to do that, and we aren't going to hate all breeders, either.
At SHUG we're all about love for dogs--and hate for no one.