Caring for Dogs During Crisis
During this time of international financial uncertainty we should all recognize that an unexpected loss of income, catastrophic medical emergency or many other circumstances can render us incapable of affording our dogs the quality of care they deserve.
Prevention Through Planning: Mushers should have disaster plans detailing how to care for or evacuate dogs in case of a natural disaster. It is equally wise to have a plan in place to manage financial or personal crises.
Many problems can be prevented by controlling the population of your kennel as recommended in the “Keeping Your Kennel the Right Size” section of the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Sled Dog Care Guidelines. Key steps to keeping your kennel the right size are:
- Acquire dogs thoughtfully, accepting only dogs that can help you meet your mushing
goals. Many champion mushers are well-known for limiting the sizes of their kennels.
- Routinely spay or neuter all dogs you do not intend to breed. If cost is an issue, local
animal control agencies or animal rescue organizations may be able to refer you to low
or no cost spay/neuter projects in your area.
- Build, maintain and diligently use a heat pen to isolate females during estrus.
Recognize that Your Kennel is Facing a Financial Crisis: Evaluate whether your kennel is in a financial crisis anytime unforeseen circumstances make it impossible for you to provide the high quality of care for your dogs that you would normally provide. Some examples might include:
- You are no longer able to afford the quality feed you normally provide.
- You can no longer spend the time necessary to care for your dogs as you would prefer.
- You must delay or avoid seeking veterinary care because of the cost.
When crisis strikes, recognize that it is your responsibility to ensure the best possible care for your dogs in spite of the difficulties. The sooner you take steps to manage the situation the easier it will be to meet that responsibility.
Evaluate Your Resources: Make written time and financial budgets to realistically determine how many dogs you can properly maintain. Accept that in extremely dire circumstances you may have to abandon the sport entirely until you can regain sound financial footing.
Discuss Your Situation with Others: Family, friends, other mushers and those with professional or financial interests in your kennel such as your veterinarian or feed store operator may be able to provide assistance:
- Family members, friends or other mushers may be able to foster some of your dogs
or loan you resources until you get back on your feet.
- Veterinarians, feed store operators and others which whom you do business may be
able to refer you to sources of assistance such as free or low-cost spay/neuter clinics or
Seek Professional Help: Animal rescue groups and/or local animal control authorities would usually prefer to help you through tough times rather than shelter and re-home your dogs later. Many can help you find free or low-cost food or other supplies or help you rehome dogs you are unable to keep. Animal control agencies may be more supportive of your efforts or less aggressive in taking adverse legal action if they feel you are making an effective, good-faith effort to resolve the issue in an effective and timely manner.
Rehome Some or All of Your Dogs: If the crisis can not be resolved quickly you may need to rehome some or all of your dogs. Some options for rehoming your team can be found in the “Keeping Your Kennel the Right Size” section of the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Sled Dog Care Guidelines. Options include:
- Selling some dogs, especially if your kennel is well known for quality dog care and
high performance. In most cases only your youngest or best dogs will be attractive to
- Placing dogs with other mushers. You may be able to loan or lease some of your dogs,
so they can be returned when you are again on firm financial footing. Others may have
to be given away to mushers who need them to achieve their own mushing goals.
- Finding pet homes for dogs, especially older dogs and dogs with less athletic ability.
Relinquish Dogs to Rescue Groups or Shelters: If you are unable to properly care for your dogs and have exhausted all other options, consider relinquishing dogs to sled dog rescue organizations, pet dog rescue organizations or animal control authorities.
- Try to avoid overloading any one rescue group or shelter with too many animals at the
- If possible, provide the dogs’ pedigrees, veterinary and training records. These
documents help tell the dog’s story and may make it easier for the rescue or animal
control agency to find appropriate homes for athletic, high-drive sled dogs.
Once the crisis is resolved, don’t forget to support those who supported you.