ISDF will help dogs in extreme need regardless of which country they are located in – we believe in compassion without borders. It just so happens that dogs in extreme need often lie outside US borders. So, why do we believe in and facilitate international adoption?
It’s a common question, and an understandable one—why international dog rescue? And then, almost always, the follow-up statement: we have enough dogs here in our own country who need homes.
This question perpetually arises, as many of our adopters and supporters can attest. International dog rescue seems to evoke a powerful emotional response, particularly in those who are set against it, so we want to address the question as much for skeptics as for those of our friends and advocates who hear it as often as we do.
NOT SO DIFFERENT
For starters, in some ways, our organization is not unlike a breed rescue. Folks who choose to promote pugs or fundraise for retired racing greyhounds don’t get asked: why purebreds only? Why not promote the thousands of pit bulls who are euthanized every year? ISDF is specifically interested in helping a very specific type of dog, so we are more like a breed rescue than many people realize.
Call them what you like, depending on your country or culture: soi dogs, perros callejeros, desi dogs…but the dogs we work so hard to help aren’t exactly a breed, but they are certainly a type. They are born and raised on the streets, often in densely-populated urban hubs where widespread sterilization and vaccination are unheard of.
Were the streets of our local cities overrun with hundreds of thousands of these poor souls, as in other nations, we would focus our efforts here at home. But the reality is that the United States and Canada are two of the few nations around the globe that are in good shape when it comes to street dog populations.
But take a look at our neighboring nation to the south—Mexico—or walk the streets of New Delhi and every garbage dump teems with dogs. Meander through Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur and see them sunbathing in street gutters, or peruse pictures of pathetic pups rescued from the Southeast Asian dog meat markets. And soon you will realize that street dogs around the world are up against some pretty serious odds.
Just making it through the first few weeks of life is a small miracle. Those who do survive often suffer greatly, and die young. The dogs we have given our hearts to are the forgotten, the underrepresented, and the unluckiest of all dogs of the world.
SAME COUNTRY ADOPTION
First and foremost, those of us involved with international animal rescue do try to mine every domestic option possible before turning to the lengthy, costly, difficult alternative of overseas adoption. A wonderful, loving, and safe forever placement in a dog’s own home nation is the best option, when available. This, of course, is a given.
But as an example as to why this is often not ideal, consider Thailand. The Thai people are, across the board (with only a few notable exceptions in some far northern rural enclaves), disgusted and throughly opposed to the idea of eating dogs. Instead, they are kept as pets and guardians across Thailand, just as they are here.
However, re-homing meat trade victims inside the country is often an unsuitable option for dogs who have already survived such brutality because oftentimes, the manner in which dogs are kept, especially in rural areas—outdoors, and often left to roam—puts them at risk to simply be stolen again.
The same is true for dogs in other nations besides Thailand because even when a country does not directly border a dog-eating country, laborers may come from neighboring nations thinking it acceptable to bring their traditions from home with them when they cross borders.
ADVOCATING LOCALLY, TOO
Moreover, almost everyone involved with international rescue, when questioned, will invariably tell you of their concurrent work supporting local rescues. All of us are daily fighting for the welfare of dogs both at home and abroad. We support our local animal shelters and rescues with donations, and by participating in fundraisers—and we often adopt some of our pets locally ourselves.
Many of us involved with international dog rescue return home at the end of the night to our own mixed households of domestic and foreign adoptees.
Perhaps the cohesiveness of our tightly-knit family units contains its own lesson in acceptance. Our dogs love one another, regardless of their point of origin, and are blind to arbitrary human boundaries, to lines drawn on maps, that say You stay there, and This is my side, and Don’t come over here, you’re not wanted. Isn’t this, in fact, why we love dogs so very much—because of their open hearts and accepting natures?
Perhaps there is a lesson here to be taken into our hearts. A dog in desperate need—no matter where it may currently be, on our spinning planet—is a dog in need.
THE COSTS, COMPARED
Many adoption agencies charge $100-200 to adopt a healthy dog and many breed-specific rescues charge $200 to 400. We ask for $300—the cost to transport a pet with a flight volunteer—which is on the low end of local, even non-specific rescues in the Midwest. Also, in many cases, the environmental cost to the planet (a common concern) of our international adoptions is often far LESS than that of domestic adoption in the USA today.
International adoptions = dog flying to USA on a commercial flight already coming, with 300+ passengers and cargo already onboard. An extra 20-40 pounds will not significantly increase the fuel usage of a commercial passenger plane.
Domestic adoptions = dogs oftentimes being transported cross-country. Facebook, PetFinder, and other social media have been amazing vehicles for change. Dogs at overcrowded urban shelters can be viewed on such popular FB pages as Chicago Animal Care and Control or NYC Urgent Dogs on Death Row and claimed by an adopter, foster home, or breed rescue on an entirely-different coast. Their lives are thankfully spared, but every day now, as a result, tens of thousands of dogs are in flux across the country. Many are handed off among a series of volunteer drivers who each handle 100-200 miles to get the dogs to their end destination. Many are even flown with amazing charity organizations such as Pilots ‘n’ Paws, which charters personalized flights for a single dog in need. But the environmental footprint of all these lives saved can be quite massive in terms of fuel expenditure and transportation emissions—something international rescue avoids, by taking advantage of extant commercial flights.
Veterinary care in the USA is also astronomically expensive. A spay surgery in Thailand can be done for as low as $30 with a completely-qualified surgeon, while a price tag of $400 is not unheard of at all in this country. The same goes for vaccinations, parasite control, flight cages, etc.
DOGS ARE DOGS
Yes—there are so many dogs and cats in need in this nation—but so many are also in desperate need around the world. We do not believe that the urgency and desperation and needs of one living creature are more important than that of the other, simply because of whatever passport they hold.
Just like the dogs we love, we do not see, believe in, or respect the arbitrary boundaries we draw on maps with black pens saying “us” and “them.” We’re all in this together.