There are many people who will be shocked to hear that there is a Hamiltonstovare rescue problem in America, but yes there is one. The first Hamiltonstovare that came to my attention as a rescue is a dog named Ruger. Ruger has a wonderful loving home but his story is what started a mystery that has stumped myself and several other breed experts.
Ruger was found roaming the streets in Appomattox County, Va. Ruger was underweight and looked like a case of a hunting dog that wouldn’t hunt being dumped. Ruger was found in September, which is right before the formal start of hunting season in Virginia. Generally, some hunters will evaluate their dogs before hunting season and if they do not hunt or train well then the hunter will try to sell them. If they do not sell quickly then they are dumped anywhere. I see three dump times for Hamiltonstovare during hunting season, between September and October, end of December and then mid-January through mid-February. The reasons are clear, the first is the initial evaluation of dogs, the second is the hunting dogs that wander off and the hunter just forgets about them, and the last is those dumped at the end of hunting season. The ones dumped at the end of hunting season are the mediocre dogs between 2-4 years old that the hunter doesn’t want to use for breeding.
Every single Hamiltonstovare rescue case that I have seen are exactly the same, they are cases of severe neglect and malnourished. They are all found in rural towns in western Virginia, eastern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina. Most of the dogs look the same, similar head structure and a bit leggier than some well-known lines. We generally see more males than females, to date we have only seen 4 females instead of the 8 males. The females have all looked like they could have done well in any show ring within the breed. The males, less than so. The males tend to be just a head and four legs, they have no body fat or muscle tone.
Whenever I post a new rescue, I get some doubters somewhere but every single hound that I say is a Hamiltonstovare follows the pattern mentioned above. Some have asked why don’t I go into that area and find the source? Well, I want nothing more than to shut whoever is doing this down. The problem is that if somebody manages to tip this person off the “breeder” of these dogs has a rare breed then we will have an even worse problem. Then there will be a puppy mill situation where this person will see a $2,000+ per puppy price tag and never look back. I NEVER want that to happen. I’d much rather help with the 2-4 hounds I see a year than the hundreds that it could be.
The most shocking thing that takes place now with the shelters that I talk to is price gouging. The Hamiltonstovare Club of America does not have the funds, space or number of people to be able to pull animals from shelters. So the only option that we have is to alert the shelter of what they have, help network to find a home, offer AKC/UKC rescue registration, and offer any breed specific advice. Generally we only hear back from 20% of shelters in a positive manner. Most of the time, as soon as myself or the rescue coordinator sends an email out to the shelter/rescue the animal either is sent to a wealthy urban rescue or if they are already at a wealthy urban shelter then the adoption fee goes from $100-$150 to well over the $300 mark.
One case specifically still leaves a mark on me. This was a hound who was found in King William County on New Year’s Eve 2013, so she was called Eve. I saw her on January 3rd 2014, emailed the local shelter. They emailed me back and I immediately started trying to get a rescue to pull her. I had a rescue group lined up to go get her but the shelter had updated their website to read “Eve for adoption, rare Hamiltonstovare!” So within 24 hours after that update, she was “adopted” by a family posing as a local family for just $10. So I breathed a sigh of relief, another one adopted. I continued my search and then I saw a hound that looked familiar in a Northern Virginia rescue. So I emailed the rescue, they said that they had “pulled” her from the King William shelter the day before, instead of pretend to be a family interested in the breed. King William County was emphatic that the person that adopted Eve was a young family who had researched the breed and thought that Eve would be a good fit, instead of a rescue coming by with a van picking up dogs. To my knowledge, King William County does not have a rescue relationship with this organization.
However, the rescue accepted my offer of help and I sent them 3 prospective owners, one in the DC area, one in Ohio and one in Goochland. Each home was turned down for one reason or another. Within 24 hours of Eve arriving in the rescue, her adoption fee went from $150 to $300. I did my best to keep in contact with the shelter but they grew more and more distant. Finally, I noticed that she wasn’t listed anymore so I asked via social media and some person let it slip that she was “adopted” 3 months after she was rescued for a whopping $500! When I questioned them about it they said that as she stayed then the higher her adoption fee went. Prior to Eve arriving at the rescue, she was spayed and up to date on all vaccines, she even tested negative for parasites and heartworm. The only thing medically with her was that she was about 10lbs underweight and needed a nail trim. There is no reason why her adoption fee is that high. That rescue made around $300 in profit for one dog alone, assuming $200 in food for 3 months which is high.
So each time I send an email to a shelter/rescue, I have to be extra careful because they will see dollar signs too. There are some incredible shelters in the area that do the right thing, however there are some that do not.
One incredible case is a dog that we fostered, his name was O’Leary but we called him Finnick, a play on the Swedish word for goofy “fanig”. Fin was a silly young male dog who had been confined a lot. So when he got to my house of nearly an acre of fenced in land, he was ecstatic. He gained weight quickly with a high protein grain-free diet. However, being a young male Hamilton meant that he had energy to burn. He was poorly socialized and had a lot of fear issues. Every single time somebody got in the shower or cut on a water hose, he would freak out. He had stress sores that were constantly infected. We desperately tried to find a home for him before we went to New York for Meet the Breeds, nothing came up. So we had to return him to the shelter, thankfully he was adopted to a loving family in rural Pennsylvania. He is settling down with having ample room to run.