Isn’t it wonderful when a great idea works? When Dr. Jo Pollard and a team of volunteers started Dog Rescue Dunedin over five years ago they hoped to alter the way unwanted dogs were dealt with in the city.   Dr. Pollard saw there was no safety net for the many removable dogs who were being left unclaimed at the pound and their fate was sealed at the end of their seven days.

And that wasn’t something that Dr. Pollard could accept; there had to be a better way to deal with the dogs that were no longer wanted.  She found a team of people who agreed with her, and the Dog Rescue Dunedin Charitable Trust was formed.   The current chair of the Trust and Volunteer of the Month, Karren O’Neill was part of that early team and, if anything, her passion for the work they do has grown stronger over the years.

The Trust has a very straightforward role, to find homes for all suitable dogs who are in the Dunedin City Council’s Pound and Karren is thrilled with how successful they are in achieving that goal while acknowledging the many, many people who contribute to that success.   It all starts with the great working relationship Dog Rescue had built up with the Council, the kennels who operate the Pound and the teams of volunteers who work to make it all happen.

“The clock starts the day after the dog is sent to the Pound, Karren explains.   “After seven days, if the dog has not been reunited with their owner or found a new owner, it will be euthanized.   “So we don’t wait.   As soon as a dog arrives at the Pound the Council lets us know and Dog Rescue begins work, she said.   “The first step is to publicize the dog as widely as possible so that the owner can be found or interest created by people looking for a new dog to add to their home.   We really push the dogs on our Facebook page when they are in the pound in the hope they are either claimed by their owner or an adopter comes forward to adopt the dog directly from the pound”.

By the end of the period, thanks to Dog Rescue’s publicity program, the majority of dogs these days are either returned to their owners or have a potential new owner waiting.   But if near the end of the period the owner hasn’t come forward and there is no adoption interest registered with the council Dog Rescue volunteers go and meet the dog and do a basic assessment. DRD’s ability to rescue the dog relies on having an appropriate foster home to place the dog in. Each dog is different and has different needs and without a suitable foster home to place the dog in DRD cannot rescue the dog.

Thankfully these instances have been very few and at the end of the period Dog Rescue’s amazing team of Foster Homes begins their work.   They will take the dog from the Pound, care for it while the veterinary checks are done and look for any issues which the new owner may need to be aware of.   “Often these dogs are around 12-18 months old and are like typical teenagers, Karren explained.   “They can be juvenile delinquents and our foster parents can use this time to make sure that we have a good match between the needs of the dogs and the needs of the new family.”   Once all the checks and pre-adoption care has been completed, the dog is off to its new home and almost 400 dogs have followed this path of success since the Trust began work in Dunedin.

But Karren explained that the Trust’s greatest success may be the change of attitude they are starting to see.   “In our first year we rescued 100 dogs, but now we are seeing a steady decrease in the number of rescues each year, she said.    “These days, many people are looking at getting a rescued dog when they are thinking of getting a new dog.   It’s become the avenue to get one,  those dogs that do come into our care are finding a home quite quickly.”

You can see why they are popular, getting your new dog through Dog Rescue Dunedin is a great deal in lots of ways.   All dogs have been fully assessed, de-sexed and registered and the $230 adoption fee is less than half the full cost, thanks to the professional and business support Dog Rescue gets from vets and local businesses.   When you collect your new dog from Dog Rescue their support doesn’t stop; it continues for the life of the dog – with any help, advice or support you need.   You don’t get a deal like that from a backyard seller.

If you’d like to know more about Dog Rescue Dunedin, check out their website www.dogrescuedunedin.nz/ or their Facebook page.  If you’d like to help the work they do with a donation, as a team member or as a foster home, their website has all the details you need to know.

Karren, with her own rescue friends, Judd and Izzy