After nearly two weeks in Georgia and Florida (with one quick stop in NC), we are home and I’m sifting through all that we learned.
The chorus of too many dogs and not enough adopters, resources, or rescues were variations on the same theme. Just like other trips, we met heroic rescue coordinators, shelter directors, ACOs, kennel techs, and volunteers sacrificing selves and sanity to save dogs.
The biggest challenge continues to be changing minds and hearts. BSLs, ordinances, and prejudices condemn too many dogs regardless of the individual animal. Ignorance, culture, and too often access/affordability stymie efforts to spay and neuter to control the endless stream of puppies and kittens.
At Big Dog Ranch, a dream shelter if ever there was one, its founder Lauree Simmons repeated a mantra that sums it all up—“Education, Legislation, and Sterilization.” Those are the three keys that would unlock the answer.
We met people working in all of those areas and in the coming weeks, I will share their stories here on this blog in the hope that they will instruct and inspire others.
I’ll tell you about a new virtual reality humane education curriculum being created at Furry Friends Rescue and Ranch, a high school magnet program in Redland, Florida where the students care for the dogs (and horses, goats, cats, and chickens) learning valuable life skills and humane education firsthand, and about the ground already being prepared at Big Dog Ranch where they will build an education building to teach humane education to all ages.
We’ll introduce you to Candas of Paws Furever Home Rescue, in Tifton, Georgia, who is gathering numbers, statistics, and facts that will enable her to speak to her legislators in a language they understand about the vast need for humane sheltering. And you’ll meet Rebecca, the rescue coordinator at PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Services) in Floyd County, Georgia who is celebrating the new ordinance their county just enacted that restricts unsupervised tethering, but already working on the next ordinance coming up for a vote that would require spay/neuter.
We’ll tell you about our rainy visit with the Humane Society of Blue Ridge, where they are getting ready to build a clinic to spay and neuter not just the animals that come to the shelter, but also the community animals at low or no cost. And about Furry Friends in Jupiter, Florida where they never stopped their spay/neuter services throughout the pandemic at their veterinary clinic, and are planning to outfit a mobile spay/neuter vehicle to travel to low-income areas.
So much good is happening, and yet the challenge couldn’t be greater.
Florida continues to rank in the top five states for killing dogs. In Polk County, Georgia (number one in the state and fourth in the nation in number of dogs killed annually), there is a remarkable rescue, Polk County Bully Project, founded by two young moms that rescues 600 dogs a year, primarily bully breeds, from the euthanasia list at Polk County Animal Control (which last year took in 16,000 dogs and killed 5,000 of them).
In Georgia, we struggled to get access to many of the shelters and learned that, like Tennessee, they have a dog pound system in much of the state rather than real shelters.
In the wake of the pandemic, many shelters and rescues are full and desperately in need of adopters and fosters. Owner surrenders are up and dogs continue to be dumped in places like Redland Florida on the edge of the Everglades who see so many dogs dumped annually that a local rescue, Redland Rockpit Abandoned Dog Project, who could never have enough room for them, go out daily to feed the homeless dogs.
We made 17 stops on this shelter tour, so there are at least 17 stories of hope to tell! If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog (button on top right side), where we will continue the conversation started on this shelter tour. Change is needed, but change can’t happen without awareness. The problem of so many adoptable animals suffering and dying needlessly is fixable. Education, Legislation, Sterilization.
All of us can do something—from your computer, from your home, from your heart. One of the most exciting things that happened while we traveled, was hearing from people following the tour who told us about how they are mobilizing their rescue communities elsewhere in Georgia and in Texas to fight for change.
If you’d like to get involved, contact us and we’ll help you join the fight from wherever you are. You can volunteer directly for one of the shelters or rescues we visited. Who Will Let the Dogs Out is looking for shelter liaisons to work (virtually) with the shelters and rescues we visit, maintaining communications, sharing ideas, and offering support.
We also need help with development—working on projects (like our recent film, Amber’s Halfway Home), fundraising, networking, education, communications, accounting, and creating a resource guide for shelters. If you’ve got time to offer and a passion for saving dogs, we want you on our team.
Email us at WhoWillLettheDogsOut@gmail.com
To learn more about us and all our platforms, check out our linktree: www.linktree.com/WhoWillLettheDogsOut
Until each one has a home,
The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.
You can learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.
Amber’s Halfway Home is our short documentary film we produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for fifteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.