I recently worked as a liaison between a family with puppies and another rescue and transported a crateful of wagging black Lab puppies to the group that was to provide foster care for them until they could be moved.

That afternoon, I received news that the pups were suffering from both demodectic mange, which is treatable and not contagious, and sarcoptic mange, which is easily cured but highly contagious. The planned foster home would not take the puppies, the original owners had no money to treat them, I could not bring them home to infect my dogs, and I couldn’t find anywhere else for them to go.  I am still haunted by the memory of seven bright-eyed, tail-wagging babies with treatable conditions who were euthanized.

When reading or hearing about dog rescue, many people say things like, “I wish I could help, but I just couldn’t take it.” Or, “I’d like to help, but I just don’t know what to do.” There are ways everyone can make a difference.

The best thing you can do to help rescue is to spay and neuter your dogs. Most dogs should not be bred. The fact that you own a Bichon Frise and a Doberman does not mean you need to create Doberchons.

If you own a purebred dog, realize that a registration certificate does not speak to the quality of your dog. Only the best specimens of a breed should reproduce and only after extensive and expensive health testing to ensure the dogs are free of genetic diseases not visible.

If you do choose to breed, examine your motives carefully and ask yourself if you are willing to provide a home for every puppy you don’t sell for the rest of its life, if necessary. If your answer is no, do not breed your dog.

Are you thinking of adding a dog to your home? Before you do so, consider it carefully.  Can you afford food, supplies and vet bills?  Will you take it with you if you move?  If you’re prepared to make a lifetime commitment, make a rescue group or shelter the first place you look for your new friend.  If you’re set on a specific breed, buy only from a responsible breeder that does health clearances on the parent dogs and screens you as well.  The puppies produced from back yard breeders or casual breeders are a large percentage of the dogs that end up homeless.

Volunteer to help your local shelter or rescue group. There are many skills coveted by rescues.  Depending on your expertise, you might be able to help with grant-writing, or website maintenance, or photography or organizing a fundraiser.

You can also donate.  I don’t know of a group that would not welcome your donation so that they can buy food, pay vet bills or tackle any of the 100 projects on the back burner.

Canine overpopulation is a problem that impacts all of us.  You can be a part of the solution.

Karlene Turkington is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.