Like a level pack working together to follow the line, a cooperative group of staff and members at Loudoun Fairfax Hunt (VA) has grown the Foxhound Retirement Program into a successful strategy for rehoming hounds. At last count, more than 40 hounds - those whose hunting days have ended, and others who never showed promise in the field - have successfully transitioned to couch potato lifestyles, through the expert evaluation, care, and placement offered by a dedicated supporting team.
Scout and Maddy, who shared the home of Master Linda Devan.
Ginn says, "It’s my privilege and our responsibility to find these hounds that work so hard for us their forever homes." She credits former Loudoun Fairfax huntsman Andy Bozdan, now whipping-in at Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), with originating the program. "I wanted to give the hounds that had given us so much pleasure and fun over the years, a further life outside hunting," explains Bozdan. "Once I had decided that a hound needed to be retired, we started to advertise through our Facebook page and through word-of-mouth from our supporters."
Bozdan continues, "When someone was genuinely interested, I or one of our trusted friends would run a home visit to check that the hound would have a safe, secure, and happy home. If that checked out, then we asked the new adopter to come to kennels to meet their new hound. If I felt it wasn’t the right fit, we took it no further. If everything worked out, the hound was soon on its way to its new home." He adds, "Not every hound will be rehomeable, but most will. It’s also important to understand that each hunt must make its own mind up how they might run their own particular program. It’s not going to work for every pack and it is entirely up to the Masters and huntsman to decide if they want to become involved."
After life in kennels, many foxhounds are happy to transition to napping on the couch.
Ginn notes that donations help provide veterinary care for hounds before they leave kennels, so their new owners are not unduly burdened. "We provide basic healthcare, including physical examinations, oral evaluation and teeth extractions (if necessary), bloodwork and analysis, and spaying/neutering so that we are adopting out healthy hounds! We also transition these hounds to a low-protein/weight management diet, since their level of activity decreases." She praises Dr. Wendy Behm and Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates, who provide needed treatments at a discounted rescue rate to support the program.
"We always gave back up to new adopters, so they did not feel they had to do it all on their own," adds Bozdan. He and Ginn both credit Bozdan's wife Erin, foster mom Beth Dombrowsky, and former kennel assistant Madison Ross with working hard to acclimate hounds to house life prior to adoption. Ross also set up a Facebook page for the program. Bozdan says, "With a few simple safeguards in place, it can run very smoothly without putting extra work on already hard-working hunt staff." Loudoun Fairfax huntsman Stephanie Wilcox continues the program, socializing hounds and evaluating potential adopters' suitability. Wanting to please and already being accustomed to basic obedience, foxhounds are good-natured and suitable pets for many families.
Ginn adopted Fiction, pictured with his feline friend, George.
Ginn agrees that the huntsman's knowledge is essential. "It’s not hard, but it's important to match personalities of hounds with families. So it's key to get input from the huntsman to help the adoption be successful. Members are often a great first group to contact, and over half of our adoptees have gone to members of Loudoun Fairfax or other nearby hunts." She adds, "We are appreciative that our Masters support the program and the members' and others' contributions keep it going. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and been a part of."
Bozdan concurs. "As far as I can see, this is a win-win situation for the hounds and great public relations for any hunt that gets a program going, and for hunting in general. Handled properly, it’s a very simple idea that gives the hounds - who have given us so much fun - a new lease of life. Why wouldn’t you want that for your hounds?"
If you would like more information about the program, available hounds, or how to donate, please contact Kim Ginn at 703-395-2941.