battersea dogs & cats home
please could you introduce yourself a little bit.
My name is Sofia, I am one of the Rehoming Team Leaders at Battersea, I help manage the dog rehoming and customer service team.
what is your typical day like at battersea?
A typical day at Battersea can vary as a Team Leader, generally my main focus is overseeing the rehoming and customer service team. Checking in with them all and organising or overseeing customer applications, the rehoming appointments, assisting on rehoming introductions if needed. When I have time I will also help oversee the dogs in the kennels, helping organise completing their behaviour assessments so they can be placed up for rehoming.
what are the 3 main reasons you feel dogs end up in shelter homes?
There are always a variety of reasons why dogs are brought into shelters. I feel some of the more common reasons would be moving home or abroad, owners ill health, and quite often dogs not being allowed in properties.
Residents in social housing are particularly vulnerable to the barriers surrounding pet ownership. Although ‘no pets’ policies are common in private rentals, Battersea’s 2018 research has revealed that 21% of London Councils and 64% of the capital’s largest Housing Associations ban owning dogs in flats with no direct garden or street access. In November 2018, Battersea launched a new ‘Pet Friendly Properties’ campaign to help reduce the number of social housing tenants in London who are forced to give up a beloved pet or are denied the opportunity to have a dog or cat in the first place because of their housing situation. Battersea offers Councils and Housing Associations advice on how they can review and improve their own policies around pets. We also advise tenants looking to own a pet in social housing.
is there a particular breed that is given up more?
I wouldn’t say there is a particular breed that is given up more than others. Breeds that are more commonly found in rescues would be ex-racing Greyhounds, we also see a lot of bull breeds such as Staffordshire bull terriers. We do still find Staffies arriving with us for many reasons; they remain a popular breed; they often have large litters; and they have in the past appealed to the wrong type of owner and were unfairly portrayed in the media. Battersea continues to champion the breed and encourage more people to rescue homeless Staffies. You can find out more about Battersea’s campaign on Staffies ‘Softer than you think’ on the Battersea website.
do you become attached to the animals or had any particular favourites?
Of course when you are working in rescue you form strong emotional bonds and attachments to the animals in our care. Our main focus is ensuring they find their forever homes so they do not need to spend an extended amount of time living in kennels. Over my 6 years at Battersea I have had the pleasure of fostering many dogs (Over 70 and counting!) One foster dog that stood out to me was a Shar Pei called Smudge who I had on foster for about 5 months due to her on-going medical issues with her skin and ears. She came into us as a stray in a very bad way, she went on to having a surgery called VECA performed where part of the dog’s ears have to be removed.
When I first had her she was extremely nervous of the outside world and people, and over time her personality really developed and she was such a caring, fun and confident dog and I will always remember the time we spent together.
what's the average duration that a dog stays in your care before being adopted?
There is no time limit on how long an animal can stay at Battersea, but the average stay for a dog is 35 days and 23 days for a cat.
do you ever find dogs returning to battersea?
We will always take a Battersea dog back into our care if owners experience difficulties or their circumstances change, and they are no longer able to look after the dog. But we do our utmost to avoid this happening, which is why we have full discussions and introductions with new owners before the dog goes home and are on hand to provide support from then on.
has the internet made life more difficult or easier for rescue centres like battersea?
At Battersea, we believe that rehoming a rescue dog or cat really does provide the very best possible outcome, for both the animal and their new owner. However the number of pets being sold online is increasing. This can often result in people ending up with an animal they are unable to care for medically or behaviourally, which they then bring to a rescue centre like Battersea. In response to this ongoing challenge, Battersea implemented various new ways to try and combat the rise of pets being sold online. By advertising on websites such as Gumtree, we aimed to promote the benefits of rescue animals across the country and disrupt the problem at its source. Our digital team also used targeted advertising to direct our online ads at people directly searching for dogs and cats online. Alongside this, we invested in developing our online rehoming processes to make applying to rehome an animal as straightforward as possible.
do you mind when/if family or friends purchase a puppy rather than rescue a pup?
It all comes down to personal choice at the end of the day, I believe and I always advocate that rescue is best when it comes to bringing a new dog into your life, but if someone is set on buying a puppy there is a list of important questions and things you should be doing. Battersea would encourage anyone considering buying a puppy to undertake a number of steps to ensure that they are getting a healthy, socialised puppy from a reputable source. These include visiting the home more than once to see the puppy with its mother and littermates, handling the puppies to see if they are properly socialised, ensuring you gain all paperwork documenting vaccinations and microchipping, asking for evidence of health checks for the mother and looking for key signs that the puppy is old enough to leave their mother such as having their eyes open, being weaned, and eating solids. For more information on questions you should ask when buying a puppy we have a guide on our website.
how much do you feel early socialisation is integral to a dog, to avoid sadly finding themselves in a shelter looking for a new home?
Providing your dog with plenty of positive experiences around other dogs and people from an early age will help prevent behavioural problems. Regular walks provide your dog with a change of scene and the chance to meet other dogs, your dog needs a social life too!
how would you personally spread awareness of the importance of puppy socialisation?
We do this through our rehoming process, when meeting and registering customers who are interested in rehoming puppies this is something we will discuss as part of the training requirements to owning a puppy, we provide behaviour handouts to customers to help advise them how to socialise their dogs. Whenever I have friends or family members discuss owning a puppy this is something I will always discuss the importance of, and I also advise them that puppy school and classes is a great way to help and guide them through the puppy socialising process.
what has covid meant for everyone (pups and people) at battersea?
Battersea has taken the threat posed by COVID-19 extremely seriously. Our priority remains to safeguard the welfare of our staff, volunteers, and animals. We know there are very many people wanting nothing more than to open their doors to a lifelong companion, so together with other animal rescue charities we have developed adapted rehoming processes that allow us to continue to find homes for a limited selection of our dogs and cats whilst following the latest Government guidelines on social distancing.
Battersea research shows more than 40% of people who bought a puppy during the first national lockdown hadn’t previously considered getting a pet. Whilst we would hope that many of these owners considered the lifelong commitment of pet ownership, we know that the sad reality is that many puppies will have been bought without due thought and planning.
High demand and the large sums at stake have created a lucrative market for puppy smugglers, who illegally import dogs into the country, often from central and eastern Europe. Meanwhile, online scams and rip-offs involving puppies have been regularly reported during the pandemic. The internet is a place we all use, and we all shop from, but for animals for sale online, there is little control and almost no protection.
It’s rescue centres like Battersea that eventually pick up the pieces for the puppies that have been poorly bred and taken from their mother too soon.
Taking on a new pet is a life-changing decision. We’d urge prospective owners to register with their local rescue or rehoming centre, even if it does mean waiting for a match to come along. There may be fewer animals available for rehoming on our website and a longer than usual wait for a Battersea dog or cat but rehoming from a rescue centre is still the safest and most responsible choice.
do you get many puppies who need rehoming?
We only get puppies from time to time, and they are usually rehomed very quickly. We also have lots of young dogs aged 1-2 years old that are very trainable and have their whole life ahead of them, or older well-trained dogs that make particularly good family pets. Last year the average age for dogs coming into our centres was 4-5 years old.
what are good reasons people should consider adopting older dogs?
Older dogs have a magic all of their own. Their experience only adds to their character and by rescuing an older dog you can look forward to companionship, heaps of charm and a whole lot of love. Rescuing an older dog is also a great way for first-time dog owners to learn all about what it takes to look after a dog. Most older rescue dogs will already be house-trained, as well as just generally more settled in terms of who they are and what they like.
Older dogs find themselves in rescues like Battersea for lots of reasons. More often than not it’s through no fault of their own and instead the result of a change in circumstances of their previous owners. New babies, house moves, and changes in lifestyle can all prompt people to give up older dogs. Some older rescue dogs come to Battersea as strays, or may have had a more colourful history, but they still have just as much love to give, maybe even more.
By rehoming an older dog from a rescue centre like Battersea you will have some understanding of their behaviour and how they’re likely to act around different family members, either from previous owners, or from expert staff who will have spent lots of time working with them and taking care of them. As with all dogs, children will still need to be taught to interact with older dogs in a safe, respectful way, but with peace of mind from our expert assessments, an older dog from Battersea could be right at home on your sofa.
what is your opinion of national puppy day?
I mean who doesn’t love puppies! I like that other than celebrating the unconditional love we have for puppies and what they bring to our lives this day also brings awareness to of the need for care of and homes for orphaned pups as well as education others on the horrors of puppy farms and responsible adoption.
I also love National Pet Day which is on Thursday 11 April. Battersea will always encourage would-be pet owners to consider adopting a dog or cat from a rescue centre. There are many benefits to adopting an animal from a rescue, including receiving expert advice and support, reassurance that your new pet has been fully medically and behaviourally assessed before heading home, and best of all, knowing that you are giving an animal a second chance to be loved. More information on why rescue is best can be found here.
what ways can people support battersea?
There are many ways in which people can support Battersea, all that can be found through out website, https://www.battersea.org.uk/support-us. The best way to support our charity is to make a donation.
what is the process if someone wanted to adopt a rescue dog?
If someone is interested in adopting a rescue dog we would advise them to first visit our website to register. Here you will be able to complete our online application process and be given further instructions. If our expert rehoming team feel that one of our dogs is the right dog for you, they will be in touch to gather some further information.