AKC Gazette
Lhasa Apso column
December 2019

Fifty years ago, my first mentor drilled into me that as a breeder, I was responsible for the lives of the dogs I brought into this world – for as long as they lived. He further admonished that if I were unable to find a suitable home for a dog, the burden of responsibility dictates whatever difficult choice is needed to ensure the dog’s safety and comfort.

At that time, there were no rescue organizations to assist with rehoming. Warehousing more dogs that one could realistically keep or care for was and remains unacceptable. Because I learned that being a breeder meant that, at a minimum, you rescued your own, placing dogs in situations that would not fail and providing on-going support to these new owners became paramount goals.

Today, despite the fact that Lhasa Apso registrations have plummeted from the low teens in the 1980s to rare-breed status currently, our dedicated rescue volunteers remain overwhelmed. Burnout is epidemic, money is scarce, and there appears to be little relief in sight.

Natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes and floods create crises, but the proliferation of Internet sales, unregistered purebreds and “designer dogs” has exacerbated the problem. Working under the relative anonymity afforded by technology, many Internet breeders use only one screening tool: cash. If he purchaser is willing to pay the price, the puppy is sold. Puppies may be shipped at a legally acceptable age, without thought to readiness.

Parent club rescue volunteers in this breed and others manage the aftermath of pets discarded like unwanted spam, while animal rights organizations point to purebred dog fanciers as the visible face of the problem.

How can responsible breeders/fanciers be part of the solution, and not the problem?

First, ensure that you rescue your own. Even ideal placements can fail because serious illness, divorce and other of life’s vagaries cannot be predicted. Ideally, puppy’s new owners would stick with her through all this, but sometime that is not realistic. For puppy’s protection, sales agreements should contain a clause stipulating that if the new owner is unable to keep the dog for whatever reason, it must be returned to you. Whether you provide a full, partial or no refund of purchase price is a personal choice. Just be sure it’s in writing.

Screen buyers both for the quality of home they will provide and their suitability for the breed. Lhasa Apsos can be a frustration to those who expect a servile pet dedicated to pleasing a master. Take advantage of our low registration numbers and good demand for scarce puppies to be more selective. And don’t disappear from the puppy’s life when it exits your home. Maintain communication and offer help without being overbearing.

Match the individual dog to the prospective owner. The would-be alpha goes to someone who will exercise, go to training classes and provide strong leadership, not sedentary adults or a family with small children. Retirees need a dog whose activity level will closely match theirs, both now and in the future. And while a Lhasa Apso can be a wonderful companion for the advanced elderly, be sure a family member will take over or notify you in the event of failing health or death.

Above all, trust your gut! When everything checks out fine and still you don’t feel “quite right” about a prospective home, trust your instincts. I have rehomed two dogs in recent years because I failed to heed nagging doubts about the owners’ expectations or abilities. Fortunately, both stories have happy endings because of regular communication and a clear return agreement.

Rescuing our own is only part of the solution. If you want to learn more about how to help Lhasa Apso rescue, go to www.lhasaapsorescue.org.

Cassandra de la Rosa, The American Lhasa Apso Club, E-mail: dlrcas@msn.com