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Trying to Save Buddy, a Dog from a SPCA High-Kill Shelter: A True Story

Ever wonder why there are so many dogs in the pound, so many dogs killed on a daily basis? Read this shocking story...

A Dog surrounded by people standing in the middle with its tongue out

My friend wanted a dog for her family. She wanted to save an adult dog, because she did not want to go through the puppy stages. I talk to her for months about natural dog behavior. She and her kids learned how to be pack leaders, and practiced the proper way to walk a dog.

I informed them most of the dogs at the pound will have some type of issue, hence the reason they are at the pound. Some will be quickly fixable, and some will have more issues which will need more work. A dog is all about the moment, all about his current surroundings. Take a dog and give him to a meek owner who does not know how to "speak dog" (communicate with a canine) and you create an unruly dog.

He was a 3-year-old dog. Take the SAME DOG and put him with a firm, confident, consistent pack leader; one who gives the dog rules to follow, limits to what it can and cannot do and a daily pack walk, and you will create a wonderful companion. It's all about the human, and what the human does with the dog. Hence the true saying, "There are no bad dogs, just bad owners."

My friend and her family needed a medium-sized, medium-energy, somewhat submissive dog. Knowing the family and what type of dog was right for them, my daughter and I headed with them to the local SPCA.

When we walked in, there were people standing around everywhere. Most with papers in hand, standing around the counter, waiting. It was not clear what we should do. Was there a line? I asked several people, however, no one seemed to notice me speaking. I started reading the signs hanging everywhere. Finally I was able to get someone's attention and asked if there was a line. No, there was no line. I asked if we could look at the dogs. Yes, we were allowed to go on back.

We had quite a pack with us: myself, my friend and four of our kids. Our goal: to help match the dog to their lifestyle. Breed did not matter; we were looking for energy and dominance level. We looked all of the dogs over. One dog caught my eye. He was a 3-year-old Norwegian Elkhound/Corgi mix named Buddy. What struck me about Buddy was he did not want to make eye contact, he held his head low, ears were back, yet he was right up front so he was not shy either. He was submissive, something my friends needed in a dog. A little overweight, but with the amount of daily walks he was going to get with this family, he would not be fat for long.

A Dog sitting in a local SPCA

The SPCA took my friend’s driver’s license as collateral and let us walk Buddy outside. The worker brought Buddy out from the back. He was pulling ahead of her, very strong. I took the lead from the worker and immediately saw why Buddy had been given up. As submissive as he was, he was pack leader. He was never taught to follow humans, never taught to respect them. He had been allowed to drag humans all over the place.

A Dog sitting in a local SPCA with its tongue out

We were armed and ready, kids and adults, we all knew what to do. It was a short walk to the front door. Our human pack went first, and Buddy tried his hardest to pull out the front door. I stepped in front of him and performed a BODY BLOCK. He was persistent and strong as heck. He tried again to bolt out the front door...BODY BLOCK... Buddy stopped and looked at me. "No, stay!" He tried one more time, and was met with yet another BODY BLOCK. When Buddy stopped trying I invited him to come through the first doorway into the corridor.

Now our pack was inside a small room between the inside of the SPCA and the parking lot. The second door was opened and the kids and my friend went out. Once again Buddy tried to bolt in front of them, only to be met with yet another BODY BLOCK and a firm, "no, stay!" He tried one more time, then stopped and looked at me. I walked out the door, still holding the leash, and left him standing inside. I invited him to come. We were now all outside, standing on the front steps which led down into the parking lot.

Time to go down the steps—something that can be dangerous for humans if the dog bolts. The kids knew to go first. Buddy tried to bolt in front of them. He was immediately brought back to the top step with a firm tug on his lead. All humans went down the steps, including me. I was still holding the leash. However, this time, Buddy just sat there looking at us. Humans were down the steps, he was waiting to be invited. "Buddy, come." Buddy happily came. He was figuring out the order of the new pack he had just met.

Now, for the walk. It only took two corrections to stop Buddy from pulling on the leash. This pulling and bolting was the reason his prior family gave him up. Yet it took us five minutes to establish the pack order and correct his behavior. Buddy was not being bad, but in his prior human family, he was simply led to believe he was the boss. Simple as that. His prior owners were meek with him. They did not understand a dog’s natural instinct to have an order. He needed to have rules to follow, and limits to what he was and was not allowed to do. From the looks of his weight, I'd bet he was not taken for daily walks; another canine instinct, to migrate. Buddy was most likely only given love, which is a human trait, but not given what he needed as a canine. Buddy had taken over as alpha dog, and it led him straight to the prison cell of a high-kill SPCA.

The halls of a local SPCA

We walked Buddy around the parking lot. Buddy was heeling on the lead like a pro and quite happy about it, I might add. It was decided Buddy was the right dog for this family.

A dog surrounded by people standing in the middle of them at the local SPCA waiting room

My friend went up to the front desk to fill out the paperwork. I waited and observed. There were dogs everywhere. Workers walking dogs here and there. All of the dogs were leading the humans. None of the workers understood the importance of establishing a human as top dog, for all of the dogs were pulling in front.

I saw another worker come out from the back holding a fake arm. I had seen these fake arms on TV. The show was about SPCAs and how they test the dogs’ temperaments. The dog is given food and the worker sticks the fake arm into the dog’s face. If the dog reacts, growls, or snaps at the fake arm, then that dog is deemed unadoptable, and is killed.

When a dog growls or goes after a human while he is eating, he is not being mean, he is communicating with the human. He is saying, "Look, I am alpha here, and I eat first. You wait your turn." If his growl does not work, a canine will bite. The bite is also a warning to wait your turn; the leader eats first.

Looking away from the fake arm, I notice again how all of the workers are being led by the dogs. I think of Buddy and his pulling issue. He was top dog, he wanted to go first. In five minutes we fixed what the owner most likely tried to fix in the past three years of Buddy's life. If only the folks at the SPCA knew how to communicate with a dog, knew how to establish the order—humans first, than canine. If only they took the time to learn it, took the time to implement it, before they stuck the fake arm in the dog's face while he was eating, they could save money on euthanasia fees.

Cage with the a sign that says 'Beware of DOG' with a dog inside of it

My thoughts were brought back to my friend who had just finished the paperwork. We waited as they entered it all into the computer system.

We were excited, because when we left, we were going for a pack walk! (To release any excess energy Buddy had from not being walked and to establish our leadership.) After our hour-long walk, we were going to go back to my friend's house to explain to the dog in "Dog Language" just how things were going to be from this day forward, so he could stay in his new home forever.

Buddy was to be the last one to enter the house. All humans were to walk in while Buddy was to wait inside the front door, and told to stay for a few minutes. Humans were to be ignoring him at this point. Buddy was to be introduced slowly, one at a time. Humans entering the room first, Buddy second. Slowly, to all of the rooms he would be allowed in, which were all but upstairs. The communication to Buddy would be, "This is the humans’ house. You are no longer the boss. Your rank as top dog with your old human pack led you to the pound, where you would be killed if no one came to adopt you. Now in this new home the rules have changed. Your position has been knocked down from number one to dead last. This, my dear Buddy, is the only way you can live happily among the human species."

After about twenty minutes the SPCA worker came over and informed my friend she was not allowed to adopt Buddy, because after doing a background check, she discovered her cat was overdue for his rabies shot. We were shocked. My friend asked if she could still adopt Buddy, get the cat's shot tomorrow and bring back the paperwork to prove the shot was given. "No." She then asked if they could hold the dog while she took her cat in for the shot. "No" was once again the answer.

I asked them if I could adopt the dog. "No." They told me flat-out that they were afraid I would give it to her, pointing at my friend, who was now deemed an unfit owner.

My friend was never asked if she understood how to handle a dog, and never asked what kind of life she planned on giving the dog. Just "your cat needs a shot, so, NO, you are unfit."

We told them we were able to get the dog to heel on a lead in five minutes. But that didn't matter. Buddy was not coming home with us. He was to remain in his prison cell as his limited days ticked by.

Close Up - The Halls of the SPCA

What I am still trying to figure out is why my friend was unfit because her cat needed a shot. Yet they kill animals all of the time for lack of room and/or lack of understanding of a canine's needs (discipline). It just didn't make any sense. The SPCA is quick to take an animal, but they make it very hard to adopt one.

I knew this was the perfect match for Buddy, the perfect match for this family. Did the SPCA workers really have Buddy's best interest in mind? Or was it ignorance and a total lack of canine understanding?

We were not going to give up on Buddy that easily. The SPCA worker had stated if she got the cat up-to-date on his shot, she would be able to adopt the dog. It was 7:00 p.m. when my friend called her vet and pleaded for an appointment. She got an 8:30 p.m. time slot that same night. She rushed her cat in for his overdue rabies shot.

The next morning she showed up at the SPCA with her husband, and the paperwork showing the cat was now up-to-date.

The SPCA made them wait for an hour before they handed them the application form. My friends just stood at the counter waiting.

One of the workers went in the back and brought Buddy out. My friend held Buddy on a leash. Buddy sat there with her, perfectly behaved; he already saw her as his pack leader.

As she was standing with Buddy, she overheard another lady getting denied because the lady had possession of her dead mother's dog and never transferred the vet records over to her own name. That was the reason she was given for not being allowed to adopt a dog from them.

A half-hour went by. Another worker came out and stated Buddy needed a vaccine and she took him away.

Another SPCA worker informed them they were being denied. They told the husband he was not allowed to adopt a dog because he was married to his wife, and his wife had been denied the day before.

They told my friends they were banned from adopting from the SPCA for the next seven years. The wife was banned due to having a cat with an overdue rabies shot. The husband is banned because he is married to his wife. The worker stated it was a PA state law to ban any person who has a denied application for the next 7 years. Could this law really exist? I am not sure...

My friend questioned, "What would happen if the owners of Buddy walked into the SPCA and asked for their dog back?"

The SPCA's worker reply was, "The dog is our property now."

My friend asked, "Are you saying the owner could not get their dog back if they wanted him back?"

SPCA worker, "The dog is our property now."

My friend asked again, "So the owner could NEVER get him back!?"

SPCA worker, "Well I didn't say never..."

My friend asked, "Can I have the name and number of the person who turned Buddy in?"

SPCA worker, "No, the dog is our property now."

The SPCA worker turned her back from my friend about 15 times as he was speaking to her to run and answer the phone or deal with other paperwork.

So there Buddy sat, in a concentration camp-like cell. There were people able and willing to give him a loving home, yet the SPCA denied them.

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The SPCA had told the family who was trying to adopt Buddy that he was sent to a rescue. They refused to reveal where that rescue was. After posting this story online (updates were being posted on Dog Breed Info as the story unfolded) a rescue worker from out of state who happened to read it had called the SPCA to try and find out just where Buddy was sent. In having some choice words for them the SPCA worker revealed that Buddy was sent to a Humane Society an hour away.

Buddy had arrived at the facility on a Thursday night. The family who wanted to adopt him found out where Buddy was on Friday. They canceled their plans, took off work, etc., and made the hour trip to the Humane Society the following Saturday morning. They arrived before the doors opened for the day. When they went inside they were told that Buddy had been adopted by someone who lived in the same town where the SPCA is located. It was odd since I believe new arrivals usually have some type of waiting period before they are put up for adoption, however maybe this was not the case. Not to mention the fact that whoever this adopter was drove an hour to get to Buddy, coming from the same town as the SPCA. Also the fact that the SPCA refused to disclose to the family where Buddy was sent, yet they told whoever this person was.

We later found out that the director of the SPCA used to work at this particular Humane Society.

I can only hope that Buddy really did find a home and it was a real person who drove from Media, PA, where the SPCA is located, all the way to that Humane Society to pick him up. The whole thing was very odd.

A breeder will sell my friends a dog. Is that the route they must take?! Are we all still wondering why some of our SPCAs are overpopulated with dogs that need homes?!

People who are unable to adopt from the SPCA will still get a dog. They will go to a flea market, pet store, breeder... they will find a dog. By this SPCA denying these people the opportunity to save a homeless dog, they are giving breeders and puppy mills the demand they need to keep breeding like crazy. The only way to cut down on the pet overpopulation problem is to lower the demand for the puppies being bred. If people are not buying the puppies, breeders will not breed them. If people are unable, or find it very difficult, to adopt a rescue dog, then they WILL go to a breeder or pet store. We can pass all the no-breeding laws and regulations we want, however until we cut the demand, we will never solve the problem.

It would be interesting to know how many applications are denied at this particular SPCA, compared to how many animals are adopted and how many are killed each month. I observed a lot of people in there, waiting around with applications in hand, and no one walking out the door with a pet. I did, however, hear people being denied from adopting.

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Not all SPCAs are run as poorly as this one. This was actually one of the worst run facilities I have seen. Read one heartwarming story, Rescuing Tia the Norwegian Elkhound.

If you experienced a denied application from an SPCA that you believe was unfair, share your story. Please include the month and year it happened, and the name of the SPCA.

Email your story to: Dog Submission

Written by Sharon Maguire© Dog Breed Info Center® All Rights Reserved