Getting a dog, is getting a new member of the family and it can become your best friend. He will always be there when you feel all alone and you need someone. But a dog is also a living breathing creature and needs to be treated and respected as such.
In Denmark getting a dog is considered a really big responsibility and is taken very seriously by most people, it is not something you just do. There are a lot of things to consider not only practically, but also financially. It is required by law to have liability insurance on your dog and he also needs an identification chip, so if he gets lost or injured the police or the vet always will be able to find the right owners again.1 In Denmark there are 5.614 million people2 and approximately 550,000 dogs.3
The majority of Danes do a lot of research on what kind of dog would suit their family and their lifestyle. They do their research online or call various breeders for advice on what breed to choose. It is fortunately, by most people, frowned upon to either buy a dog spontaneously or to give one as a Christmas present or as a gift in general.
Most breeders are also very particular about to whom they sell their puppies to, you have to know a little about the specific breed and they also need to know that you will provide the dog with a good, loving and stable home4 and will not sell you the puppy before they are certain that your family is the right one.
Unfortunately even in Denmark there are a few people that care more about the money than the animals. And sometimes some people do forget that some breeds need a lot of exercise and others are not so great around children, that it can be hard and costly to find a dog sitter when you go on vacation or that the cute little puppy doesn’t stay little forever. Those dogs normally end up at one of the 9 animal shelters that exist for dogs in Denmark.
I went to visit one of these shelters close to where I live, called Dyreværnet – The Animal Shelter and talked to one of their employees. 5
They had a lot of really cute dogs at the shelter. They have room for up to 45 dogs, but fortunately most of them are only at the shelter for about 14 days, before they are off to their new homes. They told me that there were four ways a dog could turn up at the shelter. The first, was when a private person delivered their dog for various reasons. Second, was when the police or others found a lost dog. Third was if a person got really ill and had no family to take the dog, or if a person was sent to jail the dog would be taken care of by the shelter. The last way, was if somebody didn’t treat their animal right, then the police or the shelter would pick up the dog and take it with them back to the shelter.
They also have a NO KILL policy, so no dog is ever put down unless it is really poorly.
To adopt a dog from the shelter, you have to visit the dog you like and take it for a walk more than once. Then you will have to fill out an approval form and the staff will talk to you, and after a week from turning in the form you will get your answer. You will have to pay about 375$ for a dog.
They have more than 100 nice volunteers, who take the dogs out for a walk 3 times a day, give them food and clean their pens. It is actually quite hard to become a volunteer: first you have to be 18 years old, you have to meet certain requirements and even then the waiting list is very long.
They didn’t have any puppies at the shelter, all the puppies live at foster homes, but ever so often they will host a “Puppy Day” at the shelter, were people can come and see the puppies ready for adoption. When this happens, people stand in long queues outside the shelter up to an hour before they open.
I was surprised and a little sad at the number of dogs at the shelter, and that there is that many people in my country which doesn’t do their homework before getting a dog. But I was happy to find that when things do go wrong, there are a lot of really dedicated people to make sure that the dogs are well taken care of, and it was really great news that the dogs weren’t at the shelter for longer than 14 days before finding new loving homes.
One of my hopes for the future is that all people realize that having any pet in your life is a blessing, not a right.
1 Dansk Kennel Club (information in Danish)
2 Google (population in 2013)
3 Gipote.dk (information in Danish)
4 Dansk Kennel Club (information in Danish)
5 Dyreværnet, Islevdalvej 85, 2610 Rødovre (information in Danish)
Article by Youth Volunteer William
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