This International Homeless Animals Day, we bring you Action for Dogs founder, Natasha Jones. Hear how her journey began and of all the furry connections she’s made along the way; helping rescue dogs find their forever homes. Thinking about getting a dog? Read on to find out how you can become part of the solution.
Thank you for taking to the time to speak to Podengo today Natasha, it’s a real pleasure to be able to hear more about Action For Dogs and share your story with our readers. For anyone reading this that hasn’t heard of Action for Dogs can you tell us a bit about it? When was it founded?
I started ActionForDogs initially in 2010, when the fight against dog meat was gaining momentum and I really wanted to help in some way, so I used the “idea” of taking ActionForDogs to help collect signatures to be presented to the Thai Government to show local support for the dog meat ban.
By 2016, I had moved from Thailand to the UK with my dog, and after realising how difficult it was to get everything organised, I decided that ActionForDogs could be a unique and useful service to those amazing people who want to adopt a street dog, but do not have the time, resources or knowledge to do it affordably and stress-free.
*Actually, it’s a bit of a longer story, and quite a heart wrenching one that you can read about here. You might want to grab some tissues.
What does a day in the life of Action For Dogs entail?
Honestly, it’s very varied and depends on where you are and what project you are working on.
Our admin team are up early and responding to adopter enquiries as quickly as possible, while our Flight Team are usually checking in at the airport quite early in the day. We then track the plane and update the adopters regularly, it is quite exciting but scary to know your dog is finally in the air, and making their way home to you!
Our Foster Care staff have a very varied day, but I think mostly they enjoy taking the dogs for a swim as this summer is pretty warm!
I’ve no doubt you feel a strong connection with every pup that’s rescued but can you tell us about one of your most memorable rescue missions?
Ahh just one? Ok. I think it has to be the “Fortner Five” pups that we rescued in Koh Chang; Camilla, Tommy, Ralphy, Fiver and Ellie.
I had flown out to Koh Chang to be a part of the team conducting a mass spay on the island, organised by Happy Dogs Koh Chang and Animal Army.
We were chasing dogs around the jungle with blow darts in the morning, ensuring the conveyor belt of sleeping dogs went through the skilled hands of the vets as fast as possible after lunch, and then ensuring that their recovery was monitored while they woke up from the spay surgery in the afternoon. They were really long days, and we were all exhausted, but there was a never-ending supply of dogs that needed TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release).
Quite early on, 3 beautiful pups were brought in by the “catchers” that had found them wondering, apparently lost on the side of the road. They had clearly been dumped! Hours later, another catcher came back with 2 identical puppies, one with a very broken leg. They had also been dumped, several miles away from their 3 siblings. They were so happy to be reunited! Everyone on the spay team took great care of them while we were there, even some lovely tourists helped out and let the puppies sleep under their huts! But once the mass spay was over, the resort we were using insisted that the dogs be removed to another place, and in a panic that’s how I ended up opening our first “Home-From-Home”, where the pups could live safely until we found them forever homes.
A year later, Fiver, Tommy and Ellie have found their forever homes, while Ralphy and Camilla still wait patiently at the ActionForDogs house until the perfect home is available for them.
There are so many benefits to adopting a dog instead of buying one from a breeder. What would you say are the main benefits?
There are many different scenarios that an adopted dog may come from, anything from a friends home who cannot take care of them anymore, to straight from a kill shelter to your kitchen. I strongly believe there needs to be an emphasis on educating adopters on these different scenarios and what to expect to allow them to make an informed decision about the dog that will live with their family.
Different adoption scenarios require different levels of experience, dedication and living arrangements. My heart tells me that foster-to-adopter is the kindest way to rescue and re-home street dogs. When a dog has an excellent start to their ‘pet’ life, they have strong foundations in place for their forever new home and are more likely to succeed. No matter how good the intentions of the adopter, if a dog has not been properly assessed and placed then it could be a challenging settling in period for both the dog and the new family!
The benefits of adopting an assessed and socialised rescue dog are hard to quantify, and it can be emotional to be with your rescue once they feel at home and your mind wonders to their life before they knew such comforts existed.
Rescue dogs, in my experience, seem healthier and suffer from breed-related diseases less often, in my experience and knowledge of other rescuers activities, anyway! Many are absolute show stoppers, my Thai dog can turn every head on the high street and we are constantly followed by voices saying “What kind of dog is that?! A mini GSD?!” (she’s a Malinois type street dog). Every rescue dog has a story to share and almost always a quirk to live with, but they will always make you feel that you made the right decision when you finally hear them snore peacefully.
For anyone who is considering getting a dog can, you tell us what the process would be with action for dogs?
We almost always have dogs for adoption as we take in urgent cases at both our Bulgarian and Thai “Home-Before-Home”. These are cases either from other rescuers or the local community that would have 0% chance of surviving their current situation and therefore cannot remain on the street as a street dog or in a shelter environment, even if additional resources were provided.
The adoption process is quite straightforward, and we do not discriminate against anyone or any situation. First, we ask our potential adopters to complete a short personality quiz, which we then use to match them with available dogs that we have. We use a certain degree of automation and this allows us to free up a small part of our admin time for other tasks.
Once an adopter and a dog are matched, we organise a home check which is currently online but will be moving to in-home as soon as we are confident it is safe to do so.
For the Bulgarian dogs, if the dog is old enough to travel (over 16 weeks) then we can organise transportation very quickly after a successful home check – actually, we usually drive them ourselves as we are registered Pet Transporters in Bulgaria.
For the Thai dogs, we are able to get them to their adopters on the next available flight – currently, around 3 – 4 months waiting, but this will reduce once travel restrictions to and from Thailand are lifted.
-what are the standard vaccinations that dogs require when living in the UK?
All dogs travelling have a full set of vaccines, although this is not a legal requirement for EU dogs entering the UK, worryingly! Because Bulgaria and Thailand have high incidences of parvovirus and distemper, it is imperative that the dogs have these vaccinations to survive, even before they are shown to potential adopters – puppies are more delicate than most people realise, and very few survive on the street in comparison to how many die young.
The Thai dogs additionally have titer (blood) tests that prove adequate immune response to their rabies vaccine, even though rabies in Thailand is rare. This is a legal requirement.
There is also the option to foster dogs instead of adopting them, can you tell us a bit more about this?
So Fostering dogs is a true superpower, as it does take a mental and emotional strain to have to keep saying goodbye to such wonderful animals! Our Foster Carers are true super-heroes!
We have our own foster homes in Thailand and Bulgaria but are always happy to hear from anyone in the UK or Europe who would like to foster on our behalf. By fostering a dog, you are giving the ultimate gift of security and safeness, and allowing his brain to develop as his basic needs are now being met.
Foster carers allow a dog to live, instead of just survive, and are a vital stepping stone between the streets and the adopter’s sofa.
Is there any follow-up support or check-ins that take place once a dog has been adopted?
Yes, we keep a respectful distance to allow you to enjoy your new family member but are always on hand to assist in any way with any questions or issues that may arise for the duration of the dog’s life. We appreciate any updates, photos and videos as we think of each of our adopted dogs daily!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us for International Homeless Animals Day Natasha. You truly are a hero among our dog-loving community and we appreciate all the hard work you do to ensure the love and safety that every pup needs. Ready to find your new furry friend? Visit the Action for Dogs website to speak with Natasha for more information.