We can’t help but want to squish their adorable faces despite their stoic appearance and muscular build. They still look so sweet even when hard at work sniffing out illegal substances and explosives.
On the average, K-9s spend more than half of their life assisting law enforcement officers in providing security. But what happens to these working dogs once they retire from service?
Hound Haven (houndhavenph.org) is a rehabilitation shelter in Angat, Bulacan, for former working dogs. But more than providing a temporary home, the nonprofit organization helps these ex-K-9s get a second “career”: as normal, beloved family pets.
“Having grown up in a family of dog lovers, we’ve always wanted to put up a shelter for abandoned, abused and neglected dogs,” said Hound Haven cofounder and CEO Maxin Arcebal. “After doing more research in 2015, we stumbled upon an organization in the United States that’s dedicated to rehabilitating and rehoming retired military working dogs. We were surprised to find that no such organization was in existence in the Philippines. We knew we had to do something, and so Hound Haven was born.”
Some K-9s are lucky to be adopted out to their handlers while some are left with no choice but to spend their remaining years in their kennels. “Some handlers are unable to adopt because they are either assigned to a different location or they don’t have the capacity to care for a dog,” explained Arcebal.
Since it officially opened in 2017, the center has taken in a total of 37 dogs. It previously rehabilitated and rehomed dogs that were deployed in the Marawi Siege.
As a nonprofit organization, Hound Haven is donor-based, with a couple of ongoing fundraising programs. It has Pawcasso, a line of merchandise that features canvas totes and pouches especially designed with real paw prints of Hound Haven’s K-9s. One could also sponsor a K-9 who’s currently housed at the center. The majority of their day-to-day operations relies on donations and sponsorships.
It was particularly hard for the center during the lockdowns because they were unable to hold their usual fundraising events. Thankfully, they have been blessed with the solid support of the animal welfare community—friends, strangers, advocates and philanthropists—who would answer their calls for help.
“When our center was badly damaged by Typhoon ‘Ulysses’ in November 2020, donations poured in,” said Arcebal. “What the community gives to us, we pay back with dedication and commitment to our cause.”
Hound Haven hopes to promote higher awareness on working animal welfare. “It’s still a relatively niche part of the animal welfare industry, and we’ve barely made a dent in this space,” explained Arcebal. “By calling for more comprehensive policies on animal welfare (i.e., improving the Animal Welfare Act to include working animals), we can better respond to the needs of dogs in service.” INQ