There are certain agencies that we’re supposed to trust, some governmental, some legal and some charitable. All are supposed to have strict ethical guidelines and this post is all about the charity Saints Sled Dog Rescue (SSDR) and how they were supposed to support us in rehoming our dog. Instead, they were dishonest, spreading terrible lies about us which have affected us deeply.
The History Of Our Dog
We adopted our dog in April 2018. We fell in love with him instantly although we very quickly discovered he had a lot of behavioural problems due to lack of socialisation & boredom. We had no idea how to overcome his tendency to attack any dog insight so we hop-footed it from Yorkshire,UK down to Surrey to work with a doggy day care and a behaviourist. The behaviourist suggested that Hachi Bear ONLY attacked intact, male dogs and that the way to overcome this was socialisation.
Over time we realised this wasn’t exactly true; Hachi would always try to dominate every dog he came into contact with and as he weighs 53kg, this was always going to be about managing his behaviour. We started taking him everywhere with us and I mean EVERYWHERE; the shops; the beach; restaurants; the petrol station; popping into town for a coffee and even on our 9th wedding anniversary he came with Rich and I (Emma) on our anniversary meal out (with poor consequences as he knocked over the table & our food trying to lunge at a beagle. We laugh about this now!).
Every other day we would walk him between 6-15km and on the ‘off days’ we’d take him around town, to the park; for runs in fields, we found. We arranged our lives around him; lakes in Liechtenstein; mountains in the Alps; ice digging in Bulgaria; dog friendly beaches in Spain, wilderness in the UK… We swapped apartments for rural houses with big gardens. We’d make him ice treats to keep him occupied, we taught him new tricks, played chase, taught him how to find his ball and just generally tried to make his life busy, happy and full of love.
Sadly, we were always on edge with him. Simple daily life events were immensely stressful as I had to predict what might be on the horizon and what he might do. If I missed a dog coming towards us he would lunge at it which meant I could never take my eyes off him. I weigh 51kg (he weighs 53kg) and I always had him under good control but managing a dog that weighs more than you, isn’t easy. Rich can work away for up to three weeks a month and trying to cope with Hachi Bear was becoming exhausting. I wasn’t investing the time I needed to in my kids and I felt guilty that I’d spent our lives planning events for Hachi.
When Hachi Bear violently attacked a 20kg Staffie in June 2019 (significantly injuring me in the process) we decided to seek help. I was exhausted and at the end of my tether. We started to think that we didn’t have the skills to meet his needs and that maybe someone else did. Maybe somebody else out there would be better for him? It’s truly awful knowing that you’re failing your dog and not meeting his needs and we thought we were doing the responsible thing by relinquishing him.
Contacting Dog Rescue Centres
In total, we contacted nine dog rescue centres or charities. Most were full, some had waiting lists, some didn’t even bother to return my calls or emails. We were given an interview with Dogs Trust who said they had room for him and could take him but he’d be in a centre where potential adopters could view him. He would have hated this and done nothing but bark, I couldn’t do that to him so after re-arranging the appointment three times, we decided to cancel it. We are so grateful to Dogs Trust but it just wasn’t the right place for our BIg Bear.
We decided to concentrate on charities that focused on big, sled dogs as this would give Bear the best opportunity to be re-homed by someone able to meet his needs. We contacted SSDR on June 19th 2019 and initiated the relinquish process.
To cut a three-month story short, we continually demonstrated our loyalty and love for Bear. Sadly the SSDR adverts did not bring in any interest and after three months we decided to return to our home in Bulgaria. We informed SSDR that we would return and that Hachi Bear would come back with us. He was always a beloved member of our family, we put his needs first a lot of the time and we doted on him! He was never unwelcome and coming back to Bulgaria with us was not a problem.
Even Deborah admitted that Hachi could come back to Bulgaria with us. See third comment.
Saints Sled Dog Rescue (SSDR) LIED About Us
We always made it clear that Hachi Bear would just come back to Bulgaria with us. We had bought a house with a huge garden (just for him) so he’d always be cared for but SSDR branded us as travelling scum with no moral compass. They painted us as travellers who would abandon our dog and put him in immediate danger. At the time we did not know this as we don’t use Facebook regularly. I had NO idea of the Facebook posts they were posting and had I known we would have removed Hachi from their database.
Aside from the blatant discrimination against travellers which we’ll ignore, for now, lying as a means to an end goes against everything charities are supposed to represent. They’re supposed to follow a code of ethics which say:
- Charities, and those who work and volunteer in and with them should uphold the highest level of institutional integrity and personal conduct at all times.
- Respect every individual’s dignity
- Ensure appropriate systems are in place to help guarantee that all decisions are robust, defensible and free from conflict of interest.
- Be sensitive to the impact of their activities on human environment
- Make responsible use of their resources
- Operate a presumption of openness and transparency
- Establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability for all their work
- Provide their complaints procedure
As an insightful friend pointed out to me, SSDR may have been pushing for good intentions but their behaviour was immoral. It could just encourage other people to dump their pets, instead of doing the right thing and going through the right channels, as we did. Making out a big dog is being abused may put off potential adopters whereas a change of circumstances from a happy healthy home should open the market up. In some respects SSDR have not helped at all, they’ve made things worse. Certainly for us and we’ve felt horrible ever since. We love Hachi Bear.
These are just some of the adverts Saints Sled Dog Rescue published on Facebook about us.
Driving Hachi To His New Home
A new home for Hachi Bear was found the night before we were supposed to drive to Bulgaria so we changed our plans and drove him from Norwich to Scunthorpe to his new family. We had no idea how SSDR had found this family and no idea of the unscrupulous techniques they’d used.
It was a real surprise to us that the family treated us with contempt. The whole experience happened so quickly and they were pretty hostile towards us that Hachi Bear was whisked away the moment I opened the boot. There was no nice introduction or offer to come into their house, I literally opened the boot, got him down and he was taken away. We never saw him again and as a result two of my daughters and my husband were unable to say goodbye to Bear. This was and remains immensely distressing for all of us and there isn’t a day that goes past when one of us doesn’t cry about the situation. It was traumatic.
It was so hard to give up Hachi and it happened so abruptly it was confusing. I can only now imagine that his new family think we’re immoral and that we would deliberately harm him by dumping him or putting him to sleep. This couldn’t be further from the truth; we’ve been vegan since 2015 and advocate relentlessly for animal rights.
Ironically SSDR’s Facebook post reported on Friday 19th September that ‘Hachi is safe in our care’ whilst he was still with us. We didn’t drop him off until Saturday 20th September 2019 in the afternoon.
We Love Our Bear Deeply
We are agonised that this is the route we have had to take. There is not an hour goes by when I don’t worry about our bear and wonder how he’s doing. I feel guilty for abandoning him and hope he isn’t too betrayed. We are crushed and heartbroken about him leaving.
The moment we left the new family’s street we had to pull over to console our kids who were sobbing relentlessly. The second thing I did was email SSDR and thank them, making a payment of £120 for Bear. How stupid do I feel now, knowing that they deliberately lied about us. It adds further misery to our situation.
Confronting Saints Sled Dog Rescue (SSDR)
After a number of SMS messages and emails, SSDR finally provided me with an email to complain to. I sent an email of complaint on September 23rd to the owner of SSDR, Heather Saville, although she has NEVER responded.
We No Longer Have Any Trust In Saints Sled Dogs Rescue (SSDR)
This charity used disreputable techniques to find a rapid foster care placement. The foster carers did not undergo a robust assessment; they applied to foster him on Wednesday afternoon and were approved later that night.
I have absolutely no idea if any of our emails or the money has reached his new owners… I am livid at the hurt SSDR have caused us and would never recommend this charity.
Leaving Bad Feedback
By October 3rd I had received no response from Heather Saville so I decided to leave bad feedback on Facebook and respond to some of the posts advertising Hachi which were subsequently all deleted. We had no option to leave a bad review on Facebook and hope others would see it. Heather Saville Deliberately Attempted To Manipulate Every Situation in her favour and that’s abhorrent.
These are SMS messages between Richard & Deborah to prove that they know they lied.
What To Do If A Charity Hurts You?
We are supposed to trust the charities that we frequently support and donate to. On this occasion, we have lost trust in this charity and we will be following the points underneath.
If a charity hurts you, you can
- Understand the charity’s complaints procedure and use it fully
- Complain to the charity commission
- Complain to Advertising Standards
- Contact the charity’s sponsors
I managed to write directly to V, the new foster carers for Hachi, who eventually kept him. We remained in daily contact and she kept us updated on Hachi Bear sending us photos most days. She loved him like I did, walked him, groomed him and it was great to see him enjoy her big garden.
Sadly Hachi did not behave nicely with V’s two young children (under 4) and after a year she felt she could no longer keep him. She approached me and we discussed whether to involve Saints Sled Dog Rescue (SSDR) however her friend Liam Stephen offered to take Hachi and love him forever and let V visit him weekly. This way we could all keep in touch and make sure Hachi continued to be loved.
Unbeknownst to us, Liam listed Hachi Bear on the internet for £75 just the following day and sold him to SSDR. Liam continued to lie about Hachi’s welfare and maintained that he was living a happy life with him until five days later when Vicky spotted SSDR’s post about rescuing Hachi. Even then Liam maintained Hachi was with him and the posts were not truthful and of course, we discovered they were. How anybody could treat Bear like that is a mystery to me. He’s kind and loving and we miss him every day!
Obviously we were devastated and had no idea that Liam would be so conniving and irresponsible. Once again the lies from Heather continued about what terrible people we were, how badly we had mistreated Hachi and how wonderful SSDR were.
Messaging SSDR 2020
I really wanted to message SSDR to find out how Hachi was but I was advised against it. Eventually, I managed to persuade Rich to leave a Facebook message and of course, Heather attacked us again. There isn’t a day goes past when I don’t feel horrendous about Hachi not living with us. I miss him every day and I wish we could have him back! I deeply regret ever involving SSDR and relinquishing him. I’m relieved that he’s safe but I miss and love my Bear every single day.
SSDR have caused us nothing but pain and misery and I will never forget that.
Heather Deletes Anything That Doesn’t Make Her Look Good. Richard left these comments which she deleted.
Proof That V Will Send His Passport On
As if we weren’t hurt enough, literally crying on the phone to each other, Heather insisted on trying to manipulate the situation again.
UpShot Of This Post?
Don’t trust Saints Sled Dog Rescue!
I want Hachi Bear back but we have to live with the knowledge that he’s gone and that Saints Sled Dog Rescue aided in that. I am devastated about what has happened to Bear and really want him back but without applying to the courts, that is not going to happen.