Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fostering Dogs for Rescues Illegal in New Hampshire - A Sad Farewell to Foster Dog Summit

Scilly hiking on the Coppermine Trail
On Sunday, my dog Scilly and I enjoyed a hike along the Coppermine Trail to Bridal Veil Falls. She is no longer a foster dog, but this time last year, she entered my life as one. Scilly, a border collie mix, was rescued from a hoarding situation in rural West Virginia. After authorities confiscated all of the animals from the hoarder, Scilly was ultimately transferred to a local rescue group and narrowly avoided euthanasia at the nearby high kill animal shelter. Scilly resided for several months in this foster home where she interacted with other dogs, cats and people of all ages. She had the opportunity to recover from severe neglect while waiting for a foster home to become available in New Hampshire where her rescue group had established a solid working relationship with a local non-profit rescue organization.

Roadie's first hike. He much prefers swimming.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, I was struggling with how to best add a second dog to my home since I knew that my current dog was rather selective about his canine companions. As a former stray, Roadie's history was unknown, and I wanted to find the perfect fit for him. I took him to a professional trainer for obedience work, and she recommended a smaller sized female dog. I still had to contend with the issue that Roadie needed carefully managed introductions with other dogs and that he may even need to be around another dog for a few days before I could be confident that they would be compatible long term.

I contacted a few local rescue groups to inquire about the type of dog I was looking for and to let me know if they came across one that might be a good fit. If possible, I wanted to take on a foster-to-adopt situation in which I would agree to foster the dog and have the option to adopt her if she proved to be a good fit. If Roadie did not accept the new dog, then I agreed and thankfully had the ability to keep them safely separated from one another until the foster dog could be adopted into a different permanent home.  

Scilly out for a spin
Within a few weeks, an email arrived from a local rescue group with a subject line that read, "Lisa-Marie, meet Priscilla!" And in answer to your question, I am not named after Elvis' daughter, but I am a fan of his music. I considered this amusing coincidence to be a positive sign. Priscilla was vetted and transported to New Hampshire in compliance with state laws and rules governing rescue groups. She was promptly renamed Scilly. She and Roadie needed a few days to adjust to one another but quickly found common ground in their mutual love of chasing squirrels. Scilly enjoys hiking almost as much as she enjoys wave running.

Sadly, this trip report marks the end of a bittersweet journey that I began over four years ago and had hoped to continue well into the future. Unfortunately, opening your home as a temporary residence for healthy, adoptable rescue dogs is now illegal in New Hampshire, so I can no longer hike with them and blog about their adventures on Foster Dog Summit.

My heart dog Bandit on our final hike in 2013
Back in 2011 when I started this blog, my own dogs at that time were ages 13 and 14 and physically unable to accompany me on long hikes. So, I decided to contact a local rescue group and see if any of the dogs residing temporarily in their foster homes would like to join me. I had previously volunteered in a number of animal welfare organizations, including local shelters, as well as temporary shelters put in place to assist the animal victims of natural disasters and puppy mills. Therefore, I was very familiar with the important work that rescue groups do in providing a network of foster homes where homeless animals reside while waiting to be adopted into permanent homes.

When rescue groups are run correctly, adopting from one can be a very positive experience. There is an incredible benefit to being able to adopt a dog that has already resided in a home environment. Many foster homes have other dogs, cats and even small children living there. So, unlike homeless dogs that reside in a shelter environment, questions about how rescue dogs interact with various types of people and animals, as well as whether or not they enjoy activities such as car rides or need training in certain areas, can be determined through real life experiences. Shelters, on the other hand, are often limited to assessing a dog's interactions using strictly adults doing things like reaching into a food bowl with a fake hand on a stick to see if a dog is food aggressive and using a toddler sized doll to determine if it likes children.

In my ideal world, all homeless dogs would be able to temporarily live in a foster home while waiting for their forever home instead of having to reside in a kennel in a shelter.

For several years now, as a result of New Hampshire's community wide effort in addressing the problem of pet overpopulation through education, legislation, and sterilization, shelters and rescue groups throughout the state have been able to import homeless dogs from other parts of the country that have not yet succeeded in replicating our state's success. I have always remained hopeful that as we continued to import homeless dogs, we would ultimately succeed in exporting our strategy for solving the problem elsewhere. As I have travelled around the country or communicated online with anyone involved in animal welfare, I frequently discuss how New Hampshire succeeded and refer them to additional sources of information.

Jack "nothin' but a hound dog" on Mt. Sunapee
When I set out in 2011 to hike with foster dogs, I wanted to be certain that the rescue groups I volunteered with were reputable and law abiding. Unfortunately, there are some people who claim to be rescue groups that do not abide by the rules set forth by the NH Department of Agriculture/Division of Animal Industry regarding the importation of dogs. I wanted to steer clear of any rescue groups who were knowingly or unknowingly violating the rules meant to keep people and animals safe. I am convinced that most of those people just want to help healthy, adoptable dogs escape death and are simply not yet aware of the risks involved and the procedures to be followed that can significantly minimize the spread of disease. I also know that people and their dogs travel into New Hampshire from all over the country and the world without obtaining a health certificate from their veterinarian before entering our state permanently or temporarily. So, we can minimize, but certainly never eliminate, such risks.

Most important of all, I know that if people do not have the opportunity to safely operate a rescue organization, their desire to help animals will find an outlet in an unregulated underground network that could pose a significant health threat to people and animals.

So, my own personal criteria for locating a reputable rescue group required that organizations were operating as follows:

1. Adopting only healthy dogs that had been properly vaccinated, transported and quarantined
2. Had a strong relationship with rescues groups or shelters that were sending dogs from another state
3. Carefully screened adopters and foster homes
4. Would take back and rehome any dog they placed if an adopter could no longer keep it
5. Requires adopters to return an adopted animal to the rescue if they need to rehome it

With the above requirements, I felt confident that I could safely hike with healthy, adoptable dogs that would be placed into good homes and not be later abandoned or surrendered to an animal shelter if the initial placement failed.

Marvin taking in the views from Mt. Welch
I found the ideal rescue group in Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. - a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based out of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Founder and President, Judith Apy, and her fellow volunteers had a stellar reputation and met all of my requirements. We met for lunch. I told her about my plans. I started hiking with foster dogs and blogging about the experiences.

Now, Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. has effectively been put out of its not for profit business even though the organization has never had a complaint filed against it for adopting out sick animals and has not otherwise been found to be in noncompliance with any rules or regulations. Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. operates under a broker's license that is issued by the state, and its operations are overseen by the Division of Animal Industry. The organization relies on foster homes and does not have a physical shelter to house animals that are waiting to be adopted. Foster homes provide temporary shelter for dogs that are waiting to be adopted and also serve as a critical safety net if an adopter is no longer able to keep an animal and needs to return it to the rescue organization. Without a foster home available to reclaim a dog in a failed adoption, the only option an adopter has is to surrender the animal to a shelter.

In addition to importing homeless dogs from out of state, rescue groups frequently assist local families who need to rehome their pets and do not want to surrender the animals to a local shelter. For example, I find it incredibly painful to learn of dogs who are surrendered to an animal shelter because of the death of their owners. The ability for such dogs to be placed in a foster home and rehomed through a rescue organization is very much needed, but sadly no longer an option, in the State of New Hampshire.

The state veterinarian who is in charge of the Division of Animal Industry claims that there have been complaints made to his office about unhealthy dogs entering the state and being adopted out to local families. I have requested statistics from the state veterinarian's office regarding these complaints, but there does not appear to be an official record of these complaints available for public inspection. I also listened to testimony from a recent hearing in the state senate where the state veterinarian did not cite any specific evidence and did not in any way quantify the risk posed by fostering healthy, adoptable dogs for licensed rescue groups.

Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. operates under a broker's license that is issued by the state and its operations are overseen by the Division of Animal Industry. A new administrative rule {Agr 1704.10 (e)} recently adopted by the Department of  Agriculture/Division of Animal Industry specifies that, "Brokers shall not use foster facilities."

Scilly was adopted through Canine Guardians for Life, Inc.
So, let's consider the impact of this rule change if I wanted to adopt my dog Scilly from Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. today. I would have to agree to officially adopt her before her arrival in New Hampshire without having the opportunity to meet her in person and determine if she would indeed be a good fit. If it turned out that she did not get along with my other dog and I had to rehome her for that reason or for any other reason, I would have no choice other than to surrender her to an animal shelter. As a broker, Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. is no longer able to legally use foster homes in the State of New Hampshire, so they could not even take her back into another foster home. My choices now are to adopt sight unseen through a rescue organization or see if any of the local shelters have a healthy, adoptable dog that I want to adopt from a cage. Also, I agreed to return Scilly to Canine Guardians for Life, Inc., if at any time in the future, I can no longer provide a home for her. Should that unfortunate circumstance ever arise, I would not be able to honor my commitment since the organization, through no fault of its own, has effectively been stripped of its ability to pursue its charitable mission of helping homeless dogs.

If you agree with me that this is unfair, I invite you take a virtual hike with Foster Dog Summit. Your own dog can join you for this virtual hike. Send an email to the State Veterinarian along with a photo of your dog and the Subject heading, "Why is Fostering Healthy, Adoptable Dogs Now Illegal?" You can also post a photo on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site.  Please use hashtags #fosterdogsummit and #nhpolitics so that your posts can be located and shared. The NH Department of Agriculture has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, so you can post there too!

I am going to send and share my dog's photo along with this blog post, and I welcome you to join me.

You do not have to own a rescue dog to take this virtual hike. You can send any dog photo that you wish. If you would also like to share a story about the positive experiences that you have had volunteering with, adopting from or contributing time or money to a rescue group operating in New Hampshire that is impacted by this rule change, it would be extremely beneficial for the State Veterinarian as well as your State Senators and State Representatives to hear about it as well.

The law needs to be changed.

Here are some helpful resources and links to learn more and share.

Learn more about Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. and see some of the hundreds of dogs that have gotten a second chance thanks to their dedicated volunteer efforts.

We do not want to return to a situation where animals are being euthanized for space in the State of New Hampshire. In the early 1990s, nearly 12,000 animals were euthanized each year in New Hampshire shelters. Watch and share - A Community Comes Together to Save Homeless Animals - the New Hampshire Story (2012) -to see how education, legislation and sterilization brought NH to where it is today. 

Fostering dogs should live free not die in New Hampshire!

24 comments:

  1. i cant believe what i am reading......this is horrible, i would never adopt a dog sight unseen......but i have fostered for rescues and rescued on my own, patched them up, vetted them and found them homes...hell i tell potential adopters to foster first to be sure this a dog you feel fits your family....this is nuts

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  2. I am not convinced this is true. I had extensive conversation with Dr Crawford back in Feb when they were starting the revamp of regs. EVEN if all the revamp ideas happened fostering would not be illegal
    The law as it was valid in Feb was simply that EVERY rescue group that wanted to have foster homes IN NH had to have a base in NH and be licensed in NH. So a group out of say Georgia could not have foster homes in NH unless they had a base in NH and were licensed. EVERY group that operates IN NH has to be licensed in NH. Foster homes who simply house dogs were fine as long as all the dogs were brought to the licensed location for adoptions to be finalized. This had been the rule for years and years
    Some groups misinterpreted this law and some out of state groups did not wish to get NH licensed.
    I actually just wrote to Dr Crawford earlier today asking for an update on the changes, but when I talked to him in Feb he said no changes would be made til after a public hearing

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  3. also NO legitimate rescue group would operate as a broker. Legitimate rescues would be licensed in the way that allows for foster homes. brokers have NEVER been allowed to have foster homes in NH. EVER

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  4. Sadly, Diane, it is all true. The rules were passed in April. The legal definition and type of license that Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. operated under was indeed called a broker's license. It is illegal to foster healthy, adoptable dogs in foster homes now. Contact your State Representatives if you need further clarification as they are your voice in the statehouse. If you read the blog in its entirety, I think you will see how this happened. I too am waiting for an email from the State Veterinarian. Also, I am only speaking on behalf of Canine Guardians for Life, Inc., so if you know of other rescues or shelters, please contact them directly to see what their understanding of the rules are now. Thanks for reading my blog.

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  5. A broker is not an animal shelter. An entity that is licensed as a broker has to follow the rules for brokers. I'd question why a rescue would be licensed as a broker and not as a shelter. If they want to be considered a shelter, then they need to be licensed as a shelter. There are separate license applications for these different industries: http://agriculture.nh.gov/divisions/animal-industry/rsa-437-applications.htm

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  6. Rescues are not shelters. The operate from a network of foster homes and are required to hold a broker's license. I make that very clear in my blog post. I am not discussing animal shelters. Rescue groups do not want to be shelters. They want to be rescue groups and not be stripped of their charitable mission for no reason whatsoever like it is in the case with Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. Thank you for reading my blog. Please share!

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  7. legit rescues operate just fine in NH with a rescue/shelter license and have foster homes. the ONLY groups I know of with broker licenses are those wishing to skirt the rules.
    I know plenty of legit properly licensed rescues in NH who consider themselves rescues not shelters. I did rescue 10+ years don't be fooled by rogue groups

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  8. Diane, it appears to me that you have not read my post in its entirety. If you did, you would know that I am well aware of what constitutes a legitimate rescue. Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. is one. I am also well aware of a number of other rescue groups that were legally operating in this manner until the rules were changed in the Spring to say that rescue groups cannot use foster homes for healthy dogs. Please read the bIog post and let me know if you have questions regarding this rescue group. I am not addressing shelters in my post. Thank you. And please let me know what the state vet tells you about how things have changed since February. It will be interesting to hear.

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  9. I read your post. The whole thing. ANY group with a broker license is NOT a legit rescue group sorry
    Legitimate rescues get the proper license. The Proper license in NH for a rescue group is the rescue/shelter license. It is the license for rescues OR shelters. It does not mean the rescue is a shelter.
    Rescues with BROKER licenses were in the past able to get away with having foster homes because the state was not fully aware of them. brokers by law have never been allowed foster homes, they just did so without consequence til now

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  10. oh and I spoke tonight with a rescue whose board members are heavily involved with NH and federal rescue and shelter laws. She agreed 100% with what I have said. She has a current copy of the law which she says was mailed to all licensees in June. brokers are NOT rescues in NH and do not get to have foster homes

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  11. The question posed by this blog is "Why is it now illegal to foster healthy, adoptable dogs in New Hampshire?" I outline the issue in the blog post thoroughly, and I await a sufficient answer from the state regarding this question. Please, please read and share so that everyone can understand the issue and get an answer to the question. Thank you!

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    1. Diane of the Dogs is a breeder. Breeders really don't care about dogs. They care about money. Shelter dogs don't make her money.

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    2. I do not know Diane, but I am not opposed to responsible breeders. I also know that many breeders are also involved in rescue and will be unable to operate effectively under these new laws. Thank you for your comment and for reading my blog.

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  12. I think the difference is in order to bring in OUT OF STATE dogs a rescue MUST have a broker license.

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    1. not true. I know many NH rescues who obtain dogs from shelters in TX, FL, Tenn etc... They are licensed as a Rescue/shelter. For the Love of Dogs for example

      Broker is typically a person who buys/sells animals
      The people who buy puppies from puppy mills and sell them to pet shops are brokers. broker is a term with an unsavory connotation. I can't imagine why a rescue group would even want to be associated with that term

      NOW if the "rescue" is one of those who have people "adopt" the dog based on an internet photo and then they truck the dog to NH for it's "new owners" then yes that would be a broker and not something I ever suggest any puppy adopter do
      Brokers have never been supposed to have foster homes. It just happened because the state was not paying enough attention

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    2. Diane is not aware that many locally based New Hampshire rescue groups have operated under the broker's license issued by the State of New Hampshire. It is a matter of understanding legal terms. The blog post is both accurate and thorough in explaining the issue. The recent rule changes make it illegal to foster healthy, adoptable dogs in New Hampshire. Please refer to my latest blog post for more information and stay tuned for a discussion of additional problems created by these recent rule changes.

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    3. Diane, let's meet for lunch this week if you are available, my treat, We both clearly care a lot about dogs. Let's find our common ground. Email me at fosterdogsummit@gmail.com

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    4. that will have to wait til after deer season. We track wounded deer for hunters and are on call in our area 24/7 til late Dec

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  13. Very well written blog and yes law needs to be changed!!! As a legitimate law abiding out of state rescue, you can obtain a shelter license to allow foster homes however the rules are near impossible and unfortunately at this time we can no longer have fosters in NH which costs animals their lives.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. We need the input of partner shelters and partner rescues to join us in opposing the legislation or other states outside of New Hampshire may follow suit. Please stay in touch with me at fosterdogsummit@gmail.com

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  14. One (kind-of) loophole for Canine Guardians is that under RSA 437 A broker is defined as: V. "Broker'' means any individual or entity acting as agent or intermediary in negotiating or transferring dogs, cats, or ferrets when transfer to the final owner occurs in New Hampshire. I know, for a fact, that not all canine guardian's rescues meet the criteria of "when transfer to the final owner occurs in New Hampshire." I've transfered my foster dogs from Canine Guardian in a few other states, besides NH, and I live and foster in VT. Does it seem like brokers might be able to skirt the law by transfering dogs to the final adopters in surrounding states, like VT, MA or ME?

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    1. Thank you for fostering. We really do not want to see our rescue friendly friends in Vermont or any other state suffer the same fate, so I am really glad that you are paying attention to what is happening in "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire. I am not a lawyer, but I would be happy to share your suggestion with our fellow rescue volunteers who are also lawyers and have expressed interest in understanding this legislative change and why it occurred. Again, thank you for fostering for Canine Guardians for Life, Inc. We hope that you will find other rescue organizations to lend your fostering capabilities to in Vermont.

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  15. Just read your recent email and this thought came to mind. Could you do this by “volunteering” and talking dogs for a walk, then returning them to their “legal” homes, the shelter? I used to do this at a shelter in MA. The dog gets exposure to folks who might want to adopt, you can still post a trip report, take pics, etc. but your would be doing it under volunteer status at a shelter.
    I believe we have shelter here in Western MA where people go and take dogs for walks in the woods. I have met them on a dirt road I hike on.
    This is a ridiculous law especially for the Live Free of Die state. It makes it even more absurd.

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    1. There might be shelters that would allow me to do that, but the purpose of my blog was twofold in that I wanted to have a dog to accompany me on hikes, and I wanted to promote the foster care model of sheltering homeless dogs. I do not believe that dogs should be forced into shelters if a temporary home is available for them. This is a ridiculous law everywhere, and I want to publicize it so people in other states can prevent it from happening to them as well. Thank you for your support.

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