X-Port Paws

X-Port Paws

I don’t remember if it was Michelle or Liz who told me, “You are the drop in the pond, and we are the ripples.”

It was maybe the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten. I’ve never actually met Michelle or Liz, two women who have become rescue sisters to me. Michelle lives in New Jersey and Liz lives in Florida.

I met both women as a result of my work advocating for shelter dogs. Both read my books and reached out wanting to be involved somehow. I had hoped to meet them in our travels in 2020, but like so much else, those trips were canceled.

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Top State Killing Dogs?

Top State Killing Dogs?

North Carolina has been named one of the top five states killing animals by Best Friends.

I’ve been to North Carolina. I’ve visited shelters and rescues, know animal advocates in the state, and fostered plenty of dogs from North Carolina (including the nine pups I’m fostering right now).

I’ve also traveled and visited shelters in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. I can tell you with all certainty, that there are more dogs dying in each of those states than North Carolina.

Now, I’m not going to say that North Carolina is a success story or doesn’t kill its share of animals (over 60K in 2019), but there’s a reason they were placed in the top five worst states for animal welfare and it has nothing to do with communities that don’t value animals or shelter directors who have not bought in to the No-kill formula or government that won’t properly fund their shelters.

It doesn’t even have to do with the fact that North Carolina killed the equivalent of the population of Daytona Beach in dogs and cats this past year.

It has everything to do with a very good law, a law I wish was in place in every state.

In North Carolina, county shelters are required to report their intake/outcome numbers for all the animals that pass through their care. And they publicly release these numbers so that anyone – you or me or Best Friends—can look up those numbers and know exactly how many dogs (or cats or bunnies or horses or skunks) are being destroyed by state tax dollars and how many are being adopted and how many are being transferred out via rescue in any county in North Carolina.

[And here I have to first commend North Carolina for having county shelters in place – whether they are modern state of the art buildings or the same concrete structures that have stood through hurricanes for decades. At least they have county shelters – something Mississippi and Tennessee and too many other states do not.]

If every state required their shelters to track and report their numbers publicly there would be a reckoning.

I’m certain of that because the one consistent fact we’ve discovered in our travels to nearly fifty shelters in seven states in the last 18 months, is that the public generally has no idea what is really happening at their local shelter. They don’t understand that with a limited amount of space, resources, personnel, and budget, many shelter staff conclude they have no option other than to destroy animals on a regular basis. Or to hold them indefinitely (so as to not kill them) in cruel conditions.

Sometimes it’s leadership, sometimes it’s the law, and sometimes its just the overwhelming number of animals shelters are expected to handle.

I remain convinced that if the public knew what was happening they would do something about it. If they saw the faces that we saw on every visit, they would be moved to action.


It is not that people don’t care that animals are suffering and dying in their communities, it’s that they don’t know.

So, kudos to you North Carolina for your transparency and for knowing that if we don’t identify the problem we have no chance of fixing it.

robeson 2019 numbers

If you’d like to read the 2019 numbers for North Carolina shelters, click here to see the full report.

Until every cage is empty,


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Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is an initiative of Operation Paws for Homes. If you’d like to contribute to our work, we encourage you to click on the how to help link above and give directly to a shelter. You can also donate to our work via OPH’s donation page by designating Who Will Let the Dogs Out (or WALDO) in your comments.

My upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, July 7, 2020) tells the story of not only our foster experience but some of our shelter visits and how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. It is available for preorder now and a portion of proceeds of every book sold will go to help unwanted animals in the south.


An Angel in the Tennessee Dog Pounds

An Angel in the Tennessee Dog Pounds

As we walked through several municipal pounds in Tennessee, I kept thinking, “Thank God for Amber.”


She and her husband Brandon and their rescue Halfway Home are the only hope for too many animals whose lives could so easily be snuffed out, unknown and uncounted.

As far as I can tell, ‘animal control’ in Tennessee is Read more

Hope in Hayti (and a puppy rescue!)

Hope in Hayti (and a puppy rescue!)

The first time I talked to Dave Hollingshead, the street supervisor and defacto dogcatcher for Hayti, Missouri, I learned two things—

1)You pronounce Hayti, not like the Caribbean country, but Hay-tie, as in a bale of hay and a tie that goes with your shirt.

2) the dogs of Hayti are incredibly lucky to have Dave on their side.

Hayti is the county in Read more

Attention Gibson County, Tennessee: Do YOU Know What’s Happening at YOUR Dog Pound?

Attention Gibson County, Tennessee: Do YOU Know What’s Happening at YOUR Dog Pound?

It was late afternoon on a Thursday when we reached Gibson County dog pound and the kennels were filled with dogs. The pound is tucked into a corner of the fairgrounds and you really have to be looking for it to find it.


Mike, the ACO for the dog pound, explained that the pound was completely full.

“What happens if you get another dog in?” I asked, knowing that more dogs turn up on the weekends.

He shook his head. “I’ll have to make a decision.”

I asked how he decided which dogs to kill. Read more

If Only Everyone Would Pause To Care

If Only Everyone Would Pause To Care

In 2017, the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society was killing as many as 90% of the animals it took in.

When I heard those numbers and that date, I had to ask Diana, the president of Paws To Care, to tell me again. That was only a few years ago—the year my daughter graduated from high school.

Today, Read more

Valuing Dogs Others Have Dumped

Valuing Dogs Others Have Dumped

After our day with All 4s in Memphis, we were dirty and tired but we still had one more stop—Horn Lake Animal Shelter.

We were headed there because of a woman named Julia who had contacted me shortly before we left on this trip asking if we had time to squeeze in a visit to Horn Lake. We didn’t, but Julia was compelling, so at 4:30pm on Wednesday, we found them just past the dump, sharing space with Read more

Life on a Chain in Memphis

Life on a Chain in Memphis

“I wouldn’t do that to myself, so why would I do that to him? ‘Caint take his manhood.”

“She was born to do it; I just want one litter.”

If the team at All 4s Rescue League had a dollar for every time they heard those excuses, and the many others for why someone didn’t want to spay or neuter their dog, they wouldn’t need to do any fundraising.

On Wednesday, Nancy and I spent a day on the streets of Memphis with Read more

Anger Won’t Keep the Dogs From Dying

Anger Won’t Keep the Dogs From Dying

Okay, the first thing I need you to do before you read this post is park your anger somewhere. You’ll need to set it aside and listen with an open mind and heart. And remember that anger won’t solve this problem. Hate won’t help you either.

When we finally exited off the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway and followed the interstate towards Jackson, I was already bracing myself. As we drove past the municipal facilities and a steel factory and finally pulled into the driveway of MARL (Mississippi Animal Rescue League), I had convinced myself I needed to go in with an open mind, leave my judgment at the door and Read more

What Money and Support Can Do When It Comes to Saving Dogs

What Money and Support Can Do When It Comes to Saving Dogs

Only an hour from Corinth where they are struggling to raise money for the shelter by sitting outside the supermarket collecting donations is a beautiful, brand-new 2 million dollar shelter teeming with staff and resources.


Tupelo-Lee Humane Society is blessed with Read more