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American Bullmastiff Association
Rescue Service, Inc.

Virginia Rowland
United States National Coordinator
Templeton, Massachusetts

Virginia Rowland
Virginia Rowland and Mary Barbara were the original founders of the American Bullmastiff Association, Inc.'s Rescue Service under the request of their Board of Directors. With over 25 years worth of experience in not only rescuing Bullmastiffs, Virginia Rowland, is also an Author, Breed Judge, Show Chairman, and President of the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs. She is truly one of very few veteran breeders in the United States whose level of knowledge in the breed has proven to be priceless over the decades. As one of the original founders of the Bullmastiff Rescue program, what prompted the need to create this organization so many years ago?


The American Bullmastiff Association asked Mary Barbara Walsh and me to get it organized and that is how I started. The ABA may have been inspired in part by a directive from the AKC sent to all breed clubs. Describe your first rescue case.

Rowland:  As I recall, the first call we got about a dog that needed assistance was in Tennessee, in the first few years for whatever reason we got quite a few dogs in the Atlanta area, one of the volunteers in Michigan who still helps our program adopted one of the first dogs we got, a dog from Missouri. Jim Michaels now is on his third rescue. Please explain what exactly the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service, Inc. is.

Rowland:   The Rescue Service is intended to help unwanted Bullmastiffs, most of them come from shelters, but some are owner releases - with the advent and success of the Internet a lot of people who wouldn't have thought twice about taking a dog that they couldn't keep to the shelter will see if there is an organized rescue group that will take the dog and find him a home so we get quite a few dogs that are owner releases. Some of the volunteers are members of the American Bullmastiff Association, some are not. All have had experience with the breed. As Bullmastiff ownership has exploded, so has the number of Bullmastiffs coming into the Bullmastiff Rescue program. What factors do you think are the main reasons for such an increase of Bullmastiffs coming into Bullmastiff Rescue?

Rowland:  I think the increase is due almost entirely to the Internet and the visibility and accessibility it has given to our Rescue Service. Is there anything that the public can do to help rectify these factors to help reduce the number of Bullmastiffs being abandoned?

Rowland:   I am not sure if abandoned is the correct word - I think given up is better. I don't think the general public can do anything except to understand that if/when they decide to get a dog it should be a lifetime commitment, if they want to get a puppy from a breeder, they should try to choose a responsible breeder who will mentor them after they get the puppy and if necessary take the dog back if a problem develops which makes it impossible for them to keep the dog. If they know someone who has a dog he cannot keep, the advice to this person is first contact the breeder of the dog, if the breeder won't help, then rescue should be contacted. At times, there are inquiries from families wanting to surrender their Bullmastiff into the Bullmastiff Rescue program. However, when they contact the Bullmastiff Rescue Service, they are expecting the Rescue service to pay them for the dog. Does Bullmastiff Rescue buy dogs from families wanting to surrender their Bullmastiff? Why or why not?

Rowland:   If someone wants to release their dog to the ABA Rescue Service, we will not buy them. We can promise that we will find the dog a responsible, carefully screened home, that the dog will be neutered or spayed if necessary, vaccinated, checked for worms and heartworm and any other health issue cared for before the dog is placed. We ask for, but do not require, a donation when the owner releases the dog. The American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service has never bought dogs at auctions. If someone cannot keep their Bullmastiff, and they have time before they have to give up the dog, I usually suggest to them - if the breeder can't or won't help - they should try placing the dog themselves (stressing the dog should be spayed or neutered first). If they want to get money for the dog, that is the way they can do it, they won't be paid by ABA Rescue. What are some ways that the general public can assist Bullmastiff Rescue?

Rowland:  They can make donations, they can buy products that support ABA Rescue, they can help with transportation, IDing dogs at shelters, and home visits if they cannot foster. Foster homes are very hard to come by in many areas of the nation. What does a foster home need to have or do in order to qualify to care for these rescue cases?

Rowland:  It is important for a person fostering the dog to have a crate that the foster dog can be kept in when necessary if possible in a room that the person's dogs do not have access to. They must have a pen or well fenced in yard that the dog can use by himself. The most important qualifications are love of the breed, time and patience, willingness if necessary to rotate dogs. You don't have to have a kennel or 20 room house to foster. When a Bullmastiff comes into the Rescue program, the organization rarely knows anything about the dog in regard to physical health and temperament until they actually live with the dog for some time. This still does not guarantee however, that everything can be found out about the dog before placement into a permanent home. Therefore, there is a liability risk when placing rescued Bullmastiffs in homes where someone gets hurt.  What can the volunteer that placed the dog do to protect themselves beforehand in the case of a lawsuit?

Rowland:  Most dog owners should have an umbrella policy to their own insurance. This has nothing to do with a potential lawsuit from something happening as a result of Bullmastiff rescue, it is just common sense for any dog owner. Anyone who fosters for the American Bullmastiff Association has filled out our rescue volunteer form. There has never been a liability issue with our Rescue Service, but if that were to happen, the volunteer would be covered by the ABA's insurance policy.


....continue.... As well as being the National Director of the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service, Inc. you are also a Breeder of Bullmastiffs. This has to be quite a task to juggle both responsibilities at the same time. What tips can you give to Bullmastiff Breeders that would like to help Bullmastiff Rescue, but are not sure as to what they can do since they already have enough dogs of their own to care for?

Rowland:  Breeders should be more qualified than anyone to foster since they have experience with the breed and should understand temperament, health issues, etc. Fostering a Bullmastiff rescue can be time consuming if you have other dogs, but it is possible to find time, MANY of the people who foster are also breeders and they see this as their way of giving back to the breed. I know some breeders won't help because they are afraid that a dog from a shelter will give their dogs some disease. This rarely happens, I think my dogs have stronger immune systems because they occasionally are exposed to rescue visitors. I have fostered dogs when I have had a litter of puppies and never had a problem, but the rescue dog is always kept in an area of my house away from the litter and the dam. As well as the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service, Inc., there are several other Bullmastiff Rescue organizations cropping up all over the Nation. Presumably working all for the same goal, is it possible for the organizations to help each other - organization to organization - as well? Please explain.

Rowland:  There are some private Bullmastiff rescues. I am not sure we all have the same goals. If/when I know the individuals involved, I will sometimes share adoption applications. We do not provide any kind of financial assistance except to those dogs that are being fostered and place on behalf of the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service. There is at least one Bullmastiff rescue group whose motives I question and we do not work with them. We have worked very amicably with volunteers from MCOA, Neapolitan Mastiff and Dogue de Bordeaux rescue, in some cases one of them lives closer to a Bullmastiff in a shelter and will ID a dog for us and sometimes will pick a dog up for us and help transport him and our volunteers try and return the favor as well. The adoption fee for the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service, Inc. is currently $150 minimum to $300 maximum. Although the rate of vet costs and food has increased with inflation over the years, the adoption fee has still remained the same. Are there any proposals to increase the adoption fee in the future to keep up with the expensive care of today? Why or why not?

Rowland:  I don't call it a fee, I refer to it as a donation because what is given does not necessarily pay for the dog's incentives. The donation we require - which is usually $300, less for older dogs - is our only real way of raising money for our dogs. For some dogs, there are not many expenses so the $300 donated is more than we actually paid in vet expenses for the dog. However, there are many other dogs who have big vet bills from being treated for heartworm, entropion surgery, treatment for erlichia or lyme disease. Sometimes people donate more than $300, usually not at the time they get the dog, but later on, as an expression of their love for their dog. I would hate to have to ask more than $300 as a donation, the people who adopt our dogs do not necessarily have a lot of money and in the beginning they will have other expenses, like buying a crate, getting toys, a bed, enrolling the dog in obedience, taking the dog to the vet for follow up care, buying heartworm preventative, etc. For families interested in adopting a Bullmastiff from the American Bullmastiff Association Bullmastiff Rescue Service, Inc., what steps do they need to take in order to acquire a rescued Bullmastiff into their household?

Rowland:  The first step in the adoption process is to fill out an adoption application, I prefer it be done on line. I respond personally to every adoption application I get, we average 60 applications a month on line, and make suggestions, ask questions about issues raised by the answers to the questions. I also give them the FAQs on how our rescue service works and recommend books on the breed and training that I think are worth reading before adopting a dog. What expectations should these adopting families expect from both the Bullmastiff they are adopting as well as from the Rescue Organization they are acquiring the Bullmastiff from?

Rowland:  The adopter should not expect the perfect dog to start with. If I get any indication that the person is adopting on impulse and is not sufficiently patient or educated about the breed or doesn't have the proper facilities, we won't allow them to adopt a dog. We encourage the adopter to enroll the dog in obedience class, to get a crate if they don't already have one, do a lot of reading, and keep in touch with the person who was fostering the dog if there any questions or concerns about the dog's needs.

Closing Thoughts:
Participating in Bullmastiff Rescue, particularly have physical contact with the dogs by either fostering them or helping with their transportation, gives you an appreciation and a love of the breed you don't necessarily get from your own Bullmastiff(s). It teaches you that this breed has great internal beauty and huge hearts, a skinny plain headed dog that you get from the shelter smelling of disinfectant will mature into a beautiful deserving dog that can make a wonderful, trustworthy pet. There is a tremendous feeling of joy and loss when the dog goes to his new home, plus a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and pride in seeing what the dog brings to his new family. would like to personally thank Virginia Rowland for taking the time to share her thoughts and experience with our readers!  If you would like more information about the American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service, Inc. , please contact Virginia Rowland at

Blackslate Bullmastiffs
Virginia Rowland
United States National Coordinator
Templeton, Massachusetts


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