Part of the daily training for Zee and Bullet is to acclimatize them to the sounds and smells of the animals at the centre – especially the rhinos they are there to protect. You can only imagine how excited a young dog like Bullet would get to see strange (and moving) animals!
As a way of gradually introducing them to the different animals, the dogs are put on the back of an open vehicle and taken on a drive around the centre. This way we teach them that the animals are not the enemy, and that there is no need to bark at them.
While on the back of the bakkie we keep the dogs in cages – not only for their protection, but also to prevent contact with humans not involved with their training. Due to the short attention span of dogs, we only work with them for short periods of time. After their ‘drive’, the dogs are let out and allowed to run around. They’re also rewarded with a treat or two.
At HESC the safety and comfort of our animals is very important to us. We’ve included below some tips which we hope will help anyone needing to transport their canines from one point to another.
When transporting animals, it is your job to protect them from injury and to ensure they are transported in suitable containers and vehicles.
When transported, dogs should be fit and healthy for the intended journey. As a general rule, injured and/or diseased dogs should not be transported unless they are being taken to a veterinary surgeon. Whenever possible, avoid transporting distressed dogs. Also, if a dog is caused distress during capture, allow it a short period to calm and settle down before transporting it to a kennel. Sometimes the enclosed, dark atmosphere of a kennel/cage in a vehicle can assist with this.
Journeys should be kept as short as possible, but if not possible, the general rule during longer journeys is a minimum 30 minute break (for water & toilet) every two hours. The dog should also be transported straight to the kennel it is bound for, so avoid additional stops.
Lifting to the vehicle
Where possible, the dog should be encouraged to get into the cage/vehicle unaided as this provides the best protection for both the handler and dog. If a dog needs help, it should have both front paws placed on the ledge of the van/vehicle and then assisted in by placing a hand on its rump. Alternatively, it can be lifted with an arm around its rear and front legs. Just be aware that both procedures place the dog in very close proximity of the handler’s face. If there are concerns that the dog may attempt to bite it should be muzzled, preferably using a basket muzzle or a length of bandage can be used to muzzle the dog for a short period of time. A dog should never be ‘handbagged’ or ‘scruffed’ (i.e. lifted by grabbing the skin on the dog’s back and/or neck).
There are ‘dog ramps’ available that can assist with moving dogs and these are likely to be safer and less stressful for the animal (and handler). They are especially useful for moving/loading large or heavy dogs.
During a journey dogs should be securely and comfortably confined. If a dog is transported alone in a container, he or she should have enough space to stand, sit erect, lie in a natural position and turn around normally while standing up. If transported with other dogs, there should be sufficient space for all the dogs to carry out abovementioned behaviours. We do recognize that in urgent/emergency situations this is not always possible.
Cages in vehicles should have solid walls between them to prevent injury to animals, and must be cleaned and disinfected after every use.
Dogs must never be left unattended in a vehicle for any length of time. It is also important to ensure that all vehicles used for transportation of animals have the necessary ventilation and temperature control so that the dog’s needs are met during the journey, no matter the outside temperature.