1. What concerns you when you see dogs (and other pets) advertised as ‘free to a good home’ (FTGH)? What do you fear could happen to them? Are many animals advertised in this way?
The biggest fear when we see animals advertised as FTGH is obviously that they will be taken to be used as bait for the dog fighters. This is the worst case scenario or that they will simply be sold. It’s called ” flipping” where someone will take a dog for free pretending to offer a home and simply sell it on with no home check. There are a variety of small pets advertised this way. Dogs cats, ferrets, hamsters etc.
2. How long have you been ‘rescuing’ these at-risk animals, and did a particular case made you start?
There are quite a few of us on Facebook that have links to various rescues. We check the gumtree listings and have been doing this for the last 2-3 years. There have been so many that I honestly can’t remember how we started !
3. How many animals can you cope with at a time? Do you have volunteers who help you look after them or do you house them all yourself?
The amount we can help is very much dependent on rescue spaces. Rarely would one of us take a dog ourselves unless it was for a short period of time. We all have links with different rescues and always place them this way. This enables the dog to have full rescue back up should there be a problem. The dog can be correctly assessed to ensure the right home is found without danger to people or existing pets in the home.
We never home directly without the backing of a rescue. It must always be done responsibly.
4. Is the work based just in your locality, or do you have a network of ‘rescuers’ around the country? Would you like to expand?
We are all from different parts of the country so we can help a dog from any area. If we find a rescue space which is a long way from where the dog is resident we will find a transport run. Again this is mostly volunteers and we will pay for fuel.
5. Are the advertisers made aware you will not be offering the animal a ‘forever’ home yourself, and why, and what will happen to it?
When we first approach an advertiser we make them aware from the outset that we will find a new home via a rescue. We explain the advantages, ie a professional home check with a registered home checker. Lifetime rescue back up and veterinary care.
6. How do advertisers usually respond? Do any want to know when the pet has eventually found a ‘forever’ home?
Most people are very open to this. Sadly they will have often received abusive calls or messages from people who are disgusted that they want to give their pet away. We never cast judgement and will always work with them, no matter what the circumstances are. So many people are simply unaware of the dangers and are glad to be able to let us take over and ensure their pet is rehomed safely.
Some want to be kept informed of the progress of their dog and we are always really happy to do this. Most however do not. Wether it’s because they feel secure knowing the dog will go first to a rescue ? I don’t know.
On the rare occasion we have had owners who really do not want to part with their dog and we have helped them with whatever issue they have to enable them to keep their dog.
This is wonderful ! We have helped get pets neutered and vaccinated or receive other veterinary treatment, recommended classes or behaviourists. Sometimes people dearly want to help their dog but simply don’t have the means.
7. What happens once you have agreed to ‘rescue’ a pet that was advertised as free? Do you have it checked by a vet? How do you find it a permanent home? Do you charge a rehoming fee to protect the pet and cover your overheads?
As they all are rehomed via rescues, they will be vet checked, vaccinated , neutered if not already done and a full assessment will take place. Any potential adopter will be home checked and the rescue will charge whatever their adoption fee is.
8. Is there a risk in these straightened times that you might inspire imitators who will collect free animals
to sell them on indiscriminately for profit?
As I explained earlier there are unscrupulous people who will always take ftgh pets to sell on for a profit.
There are those that will claim to be a rescue but are simply there to make money. We would like to see proper regulations and registration in place for all rescues and this is something we are all working on at the moment.
9. Are you, or do you intend to become, a registered charity?
So far we have not discussed becoming a charity or forming a more permanent group. As we are involved in rescue to some degree , it works well being based on Facebook and we will simply put the Gumtree adverts on our various groups and see who is available to help. We pool our resources, both with rescue knowledge and financing transport runs .We have had some complaints that we possibly take up rescue spaces that could be used for dogs waiting in the pounds but realistically these dogs could ultimately end up being abandoned ( or worse) and find themselves in the pounds anyway.
There are so many ways to help. People can always contact the advertisers and ask politely if they are aware of the dangers in offering a dog free and giving them a list of their local rescues.
They can of course take that one step further and contact local rescues themselves, this is also a great way to connect with rescues and maybe become a volunteer doing home checks, transport runs or fundraising. We try to keep up but it’s often 10 or more dogs being placed on gumtree a day, it’s extremely sad.
We all contact gumtree regularly to ask them to stop allowing the advertising of any animal as free to a good home. They feel that they warn people sufficiently to be able to continue this service safely.
At least we have a chance to help these animals , the alternative would be abandonment or putting a dog to sleep. It’s a double edged sword. It always brings us back to the issue of regulating breeding but as you know that another very difficult subject to address.