Fall Shelter Tour Recap

October 24, 2023

Our latest shelter tour was a little different, mostly because we didn’t have to travel far. We visited five municipal shelters, one nonprofit (with the animal control contract for two municipalities), and another nonprofit that’s just in the process of building a shelter to pull from struggling municipal shelters nearby.

We didn’t have to travel far because all of the shelters were in my home state of Virginia. On our way to visit our first shelter, we stopped at a brewery near Richmond to meet with a Books & Brews group and to host an adoption event (one of the puppies that Operation Paws for Homes brought found an adopter there!). It was a fun way to start the tour.

On the Northern Neck, we visited four shelters in two days. The shelters were all county municipal shelters, about thirty minutes apart, but strikingly different. Two of them were full to bursting and desperate to find rescue partners, while the other two had only four dogs each. Three of the four buildings were old and in constant need of work. Two had a lot of volunteer support.

We always say that what a shelter needs to be successful is strong leadership committed to saving every savable animal, access to affordable veterinary support, and community engagement. Only one of the four had all three, but the others had at least one.

Shortly after we left Northumberland Shelter, where we had the opportunity to meet many of their volunteers, their outstanding director, and their ACO, the shelter took in 22 dogs from a seizure. The shelter had been nearly full already, and when the director messaged me, I thought, “It never ends, but at least those dogs have their best chance with the incredible staff and volunteers at Northumberland.”

While we were on the Northern Neck, we also met with Terrie and Gwen from the Northern Neck Partners for Pets. We toured the beautiful grounds where they hope to put up a shelter in early 2024 to help the four shelters we visited. They can’t get that building up soon enough. We were also treated to first-class accommodations and a delicious dinner while we were there (not something we usually get in the blur and budget of a regular tour!) by one of the NNPP board members.

We also had the chance to meet the vineyard dogs at Good Luck Cellars, who patrol the vines protecting them from predators (but mostly lounging in the sun like the hound dogs they are – all rescues).

After that, we returned to the Shenandoah Valley and visited a shelter just south of me where an innovative and passionate director is always finding ways to move the shelter and the animal community forward in their thinking and actions.

We also stopped at a municipal shelter that has obviously outgrown its facility (they are slated to move to a new site at the end of 2024) and the outstanding staff and an extensive foster network are making the most of a challenging situation.

You’ll hear more about all six of the shelters we visited in upcoming blog posts. I hope their stories will inspire you to get involved in saving lives or reaffirm the work you are already doing saving lives. This current challenge calls for all of us to look for new solutions and to explore what else we can do to help.

If you’re looking for ideas, programs, resources, and/or grant possibilities, be sure to check out our Resource Guide. And if you need advice on applying for grants, check out our tip sheet and/or reach out our grants advisor.

It’s that time of year – our 2024 WWLDO Calendars are on sale. And this year, to say thanks for making our auction such a success, we’re selling these beautiful calendars at cost! They feature some of the beautiful dogs we’ve met on tour this year. Each is $15 and that includes shipping! We have a limited supply, so order yours now.

Together, we CAN let the dogs out.

Until each one has a home,


If you want to learn more, be sure to subscribe to this blog. And help us spread the word by sharing this post with others. Visit our website to learn more.

You can also help raise awareness by following/commenting/sharing us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tik Tok, and the Who Will Let the Dogs Out podcast.

To see our Emmy-nominated, award-winning short documentary, Amber’s Halfway Home, click here.

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.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or become a WWLDO volunteer, please email whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com or carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

And for links to everything WWLDO check out our Linktree.

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