Why rescue is so important to me.
For starters these faces:
You know, prior to a few years ago I didn’t really know anything about dogs. I didn’t know how important rescue was. And if I’m being honest, I never really put any thought into it. We didn’t have dogs growing up, and I didn’t have much exposure to them until I started dating Richard.
Full disclosure, Richard did “buy” Chance, and it wasn’t until I started learning about rescue and where Chance came from, did I realize why this was a problem. Later on, I remember asking Richard why he didn’t adopt, and he said he honestly didn’t know there were rescues dedicated to Boxers (the type of dog he wanted at the time) and he didn’t know a lot of what we learned together by getting involved. This is why education is so important. We need people to know, what we didn’t know. Now we love Chance, of course, but we both agree that we’d never buy a dog (or cat) ever in our lifetime and I’ll talk about why that is.
Side note if you want a Boxer, most rescues encounter them. I’ve seen many Boxer’s in my time with Last Hope K-9, I’ve seen them on the MSPCA site, and there is a Boxer specific rescue: The Boxer Rescue
- Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
- Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
The more I started to learn about the staggering statistics, the more I wanted to get involved. The more I wanted to learn about breeders, rescue, and the problems we face. A friend was a volunteer with Last Hope K-9, so I started by asking her questions about how to get involved. I decided then, that I needed to pursue this.
Richard and I both jumped in, and started fostering as time allowed. Sometimes just covering vacations for other volunteers, and sometimes fostering until a furever home was found. I also conduct home visits for families wanting to adopt, and have helped with applications. All of these are important aspects to an organization that runs 100% by volunteers. No task is too small. So if you were thinking about getting involved, know it’s more than just fostering with any organization. Reach out to a local shelter to see how you can get involved.
Being up here in Massachusetts, and volunteering with the rescue, I knew that there was a problem down south. I knew we got our dogs from Arkansas because of the problems they face down there, is not something we face up here. I was told about the hardships and I was told the individual stories. But going to AR to volunteer first hand, like I did, changed me. They warn you, but seeing it in person breaks your heart. I truly believe that if everyone visited those shelters, they’d never buy a dog again. It wouldn’t even cross their mind.
I’d like to talk about that experience a little bit. What I saw, how I felt.
Taking this trip was a little nerve-wracking for me to start. Richard wasn’t able to attend, and timing for work wasn’t ideal with a staffing issue. So, I’d be taking the trip alone, and having to balance work as well. Prior to the trip I really didn’t know anyone from Last Hope K-9 in real life, but I wanted to help and so I proceeded in going. Volunteers pay for their own tickets down, we take the time off work, and any money raised goes directly into the shelters. Once there, we stay with volunteers that do what we do, but down in Arkansas. Myself, as well as 2 other volunteers stayed with an amazing woman named Angie. Angie actually took time off herself to volunteer with us. She was accommodating, informative, and just overall an amazing host.
My group visited 6 shelters. When you think shelter, you probably think of a facility of some sort. A building, with kennels, and someone who manages that place. That’s what I think, when I think shelter. I think of a place like the MSPCA Adoption Center. This is not the case in most of the AR shelters. A shelter is sometimes kennels, out in the middle of a field with no one around. Sometimes a shelter doesn’t have a building, its just an outdoor place to put dogs. I think that in itself was hard. We’d visit these places, clean the kennels, make repairs, show the dogs all the love, and then leave. And when we leave, those dogs are alone. They are sitting by themselves in a field, in a kennel, in the dark until someone comes to feed them or we find a foster for them. And the dogs that do make it into a covered facility, that doesn’t mean they are safe. Each dog has a time limit in the shelter, and if a rescue doesn’t pull them, or they don’t get adopted, they are going to be euthanized. These are high kill-rate shelters. They are not like the shelters here at home.
This was Mama. Mama was at one of those “shelters” that is essentially kennels in the middle of no where. I spent a lot of time with her that afternoon. She was a beautiful, well mannered little lady. She was just so happy to be around us, walking and chilling in whatever shade we could find on this hot day. She had a collar, with her humans information, so I assume she was abandoned here. That alone was heartbreaking. Then packing up and leaving for the day, and leaving her behind also made me feel like we failed her. But what still brings me to tears, even just thinking about it now. We got a call days later, Mama didn’t make it, she died alone in the middle of the night. Heart-worms. Thinking about her, alone, scared, in the dark. It breaks a little piece off your heart.
I often get asked why Last Hope K-9 pulls so many pit-bull type dogs. Well, for one they are banned down there. If we don’t pull them from certain areas, they are going to get euthanized. Even if they did nothing wrong. Even if they are with a loving family with no bite history. The Little Rock law states:
“Banned pit bull breeds of dogs are banned entirely and may not be owned or kept within the city.”
There is no wiggle room here. If you don’t get your dog out of the city, and they know about the dog, the dog is going to get euthanized. AR isn’t the only state with breed specific legislation, so just a side note here: If you have a cuddly pittie and you’re moving out of state, it’s probably a good idea to check out the city and state laws on the breed. They aren’t doing DNA tests to determine your dog breed either, so it you have a mix that resembles a pit, that can be an issue. A volunteer had said to me during the trip “it’s a miracle that any pit makes it out of here” and after seeing it first hand, I get it.
I give my Cane extra cuddles, thinking about the miracle he is.
On another day, I was on medical duty. I learned how to hold a dog, draw blood, and do the heart-worm tests. Heart worm spreads via mosquito bites, and is preventable by putting your dogs on monthly preventatives. If your dog gets infected, it is treatable if caught, which is why it’s so important to get your dogs tested each year. Anyways, that day a lot of dogs tested positive. Wanting to know what happens next for those dogs, I asked. I was told each place is different, but at this shelter a positive heart-worm test meant the dog wouldn’t make it, and would be euthanized. My heart just sank. I now knew who wasn’t going to make it out of that shelter and it hurt seeing their faces in my head. And like Mama, so many dogs are not being treated, so if they aren’t being euthanized, they might just die from it anyways.
The south, generally speaking doesn’t view dogs the same way we do here in the north, and that doesn’t help anything. There are no spay/neuter laws, dogs live outside instead of indoors with their family, dogs serve a purpose, and if they can’t perform that purpose anymore then they aren’t needed. They aren’t apart of the family, in the same way they are for us. There are so many amazing volunteers trying to educate, and advocate for animal rights down there, but it’s an uphill battle. We were helping a shelter one day, and a man walks up, and drops his dog off. The dog hadn’t done anything wrong, the dog was loving and affectionate, but that’s what they are dealing with. People just dumping their dogs. This dog at least made it to the shelter, and on the perfect day because we were there, and got him into a foster home fast. Most of the time the dogs aren’t that lucky.
Before writing this today, I was on Facebook scrolling when I saw a disturbing story. Someone was breaking into a AR shelter at night, taking the dogs out of their kennels, putting them in smaller kennels with other dogs encouraging fighting. Dogs were seriously injured, and although the shelter is doing everything they can to make the facility more safe, it happened again a week later, taking the wind from their sails. Rescue is already an uphill battle, and then this happens. I cannot understand what type of person does this.
The South, and what they face down there, is beyond what you can imagine. We met people that own 10 dogs of their own, and after being down there, I get it. They have no resources, minimal help, and they are all doing the best they can to build a network of other like minded people, and educate the public.
No breed is immune to mistreatment, and it’s not just dogs.
After being down there, I got it. It made sense why we pull from there. It makes sense why we partner with rescues like Rescue Road. And I stand by what I said in the beginning of this, if you volunteered some time in these shelters, if you met the faces that won’t make it out. It will shift how you feel.
This isn’t limited to Arkansas. Outside of Arkansas, many other states are facing the same exact issues. Overcrowded shelters, and limited resources.
I’d like to circle back to Chance. As I mentioned, prior to us dating Richard bought Chance. Unfortunately, like many dogs that come from breeders, Chance has had a lot of medical issues that arose after he got him.
I’ve talked to a lot of friends outside of the rescue, and there seems to be a misconception, that if you get a dog from a breeder their blood line is “better”, but unfortunately you’ll often see just the opposite. Because this is a for profit business, a lot of breeders will take the “most popular dog” of right now, and over-breed them. The mamas are forced to continue to reproduce, and the welfare of the dogs are often discovered to be inhumane. Puppy-mills, and bad breeding practices are very common. Each year The Humane Society puts out a Horrible Hundred list, which overviews the worst offenders. This is from their 2018 report:
Over the 12 month period since we published our last report, USDA inspectors have continued to find conditions just as horrific as those in our prior reports, including dogs with open wounds, emaciated dogs with their ribs and spines showing, and dogs with moldy food, dirty water and filthy cages.
Now, not every breeder is doing things inhumanely, but I still think it’s irresponsible to be breeding for profit just due to the simple fact that we have an overpopulation issue right now.
No matter how you look at the issue, the idea of producing more dogs to meet the demands of people who are willing to pay large amounts of money for a purebred pup while there are hundreds of dogs waiting in overcrowded shelters is a very negative aspect of dog breeding.
I don’t believe in supporting breeders, and I know not everyone agrees with me on that, but I think we can all agree that we don’t support the inhumane treatment of dogs. So although I don’t agree with your decision to “buy a dog”, I would say, if you are dead set on a dog from a breeder, I ask that you do your research. Do not buy from a pet store, and don’t just pick a dog you found online. Take the time and dig. If you are buying local, ask to see the parents. Ask to see the conditions the dog is coming from. Ask how many litters the mama has had. Don’t go into this blindly, to only find out you are supporting a puppy mill. If we continue to support places like this, they will continue to exist.
If you have a specific dog(s) in mind, and you aren’t sure where to start, Pet Finder is a great place to start. Pet finder can help you find not only dogs, but cats, bunnies, birds, ferrets . . . you get the point. Also start following your local rescues on social media. Often as new litters of puppies come in, or a new dog is on their way up, it gets posted to social media before it makes it’s way to other sites. Visit shelters, go to events. Meet dogs, and who knows, maybe what you thought you wanted wasn’t actually what you wanted after all.
Bringing a dog into your life should be a big decision, and it should be something that you take your time with. Remember, we have a lot in our life, and we have many options, but for your dog, it’s only you. They only have us, we should do all we can not to fail them.
If you liked this, you’ll also like reading about Mallow. A pup I bonded with in Arkansas: Mallow
If you have any questions about rescue, don’t hesitate to reach out!