When the Scheme first started we were asked by the public to re-home a large number of undisciplined youngsters, probably bought on impulse and later regretted. The late seventies and early eighties were extremely busy years, and homes that were not only caring, but knowledgeable and responsible were difficult to find.
By 1995 the number of dogs entering the Scheme had started to decline and offers of homes were now coming from people who had owned a setter before, quite often from old and trusted rescue owners. Over the years the age of dogs presented to the Scheme has risen, the majority now being over six years old. The elderly have brought their own problems because so few people, however kind, are prepared to put themselves through the trauma of another pet dying within two or three years, and this limits the homes available. The breakdown of a relationship is the main reason why people part with a pet, and when there is stress within a home there is usually a degree of neglect. This manifests itself mainly in lack of condition and poor coat care, but increasingly health problems which should have received veterinary care some time ago have to be dealt with by the Scheme, and the dog restored to health during the time it is being monitored by the Scheme in its new home.
The Scheme operates a Continued Care Fund which pays the veterinary fees for those dogs too old to insure, or which enter the Scheme with a known long term problem. This is essential because the older people who are prepared to care for the elderly dog are often retired, and without the safety net of insurance cannot afford veterinary fees.
I think there are a number of reasons for the downward trend. In real terms the price of puppies has not risen, but the public perception is that it has escalated. Veterinary fees have increased, although this has provided better equipped operating theatres and diagnostic facilities. An increasingly anti-dog society has brought an added awareness of the responsibly of dog ownership, and the reduction in rescue figures has probably come about because only the dedicated are buying puppies. What value society will place on the companion dog in the future I do not know. A computerized, grid locked world with falling standards does not hold out much hope and I believe the need for Rescue will remain.