Shelter Tour Wrap Up: Where We Went and What We Learned

Shelter Tour Wrap Up: Where We Went and What We Learned

Every time we go to the shelters, I learn something. This time was no different. We’ve been to over 80 shelters now, so you’d think they would all look alike. In a few ways (dogs in need, incredible people) they are, but in so many ways they are unique.

One of the projects we are working on is creating a Resource Guide for shelters and rescues (and volunteers and advocates). This guide, which is its own tab on our website, is where we collect ideas about grants, fundraising, shelter practices, volunteers, fosters, advocacy, enrichment, education, and pretty much any kind of resource that will help shelters and rescues save more animals.

The guide is changing almost daily as we add new ideas. After this tour, I’ve got a dozen new things to add to it at least. Ideas also come in via our shelter liaisons who monitor our shelter partners and share their ideas/projects/successes, so that others can learn from them. As a wise person once told me – “Copying is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Because often pictures speak louder than words, so we created a video on our YouTube channel that is a Shelter Tour Wrap-Up with information and pictures of the places we visited on this tour. We drove over 2,000 miles, and visited seven shelters in six states. There were lots of stories, and I will share those with you over the next few months, but for now, this video will give you a taste of what we saw and learned:

If you’d like to get involved, we have lots of volunteer opportunities. Fill out our volunteer form or send your questions/interests to whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com. We are already raising money for our next shelter tour, we’d love to have your support.

Until each one has a home,

Cara

Please help us raise awareness by subscribing (button on right side) and sharing this blog. You can also keep track of us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and now Tik Tok!

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 produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen 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.

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

Count Down to Shelter Tour

Count Down to Shelter Tour

A week from now we will be on shelter tour, hitting seven shelters in six states.

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T-Bone Was Known

T-Bone Was Known

Our last stop on our January shelter tour was a tiny animal control facility beside the wastewater treatment plant in Live Oak, Florida.

Mary, the sole ACO for Live Oak city shelter, was in the yard with a dog whose story haunted me the entire drive home. Mary picked up T-bone and another female dog (who could have been a mate or sister, as she looked just like him) after a woman called to say that her son had left the dogs at her house in a pen. She’d been feeding them by throwing food over the fence, but now the female wasn’t looking so good. The woman was too old to deal with the dogs, could Mary come get them?

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Bringing Change for Animals in Georgia

Bringing Change for Animals in Georgia

What an inspiration it was to meet Candas of Paws Furever Home. It was tricky to find her kennels in this very rural part of south Georgia, so we called her and she talked us in. She greeted us with us a big smile and an open heart. And what a heart it is!

Candas rescues dogs from pretty much anywhere—dogs from any of the four surrounding counties who don’t have shelters, dogs dumped by police or residents at the local vet, and lately, she gets a lot of dogs left outside the Dollar General. Where she lives in Tift County, they do have a shelter. In fact, that’s where she started.

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Too Many Lives Depend on One Volunteer

Too Many Lives Depend on One Volunteer

The Heard County Animal Control building is a small cement building, just to the side of the Police Department. It has a long history of controlling the animal problem in Franklin, Georgia by killing unwanted animals.

Enter Dawn, a tiny, determined, miracle worker of a woman who is the volunteer unofficial rescue coordinator for Heard County and is pretty much single-handedly responsible for saving the dogs who land in their shelter.

She used to volunteer in a shelter closer to her home in LaGrange, but she took a full-time job at the local elementary school and could no longer volunteer because the shelter was only open 10-2 each day.

SIDE BAR: Shelters that have restrictive hours like this are unlikely to have a robust adoption or volunteer program. They will also struggle with reclaims, as most people can’t get to the shelter during those hours to look for their dog or adopt a dog or volunteer. More people-friendly hours is one simple change that can have a profound effect on the live release rate of any shelter and on the quality of life for the animals in its care.

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The Challenge of ‘Saving Them All’

The Challenge of ‘Saving Them All’

Rebecca, a sparkly-eyed young woman with a ready smile, is the rescue coordinator/everything-that-needs-to-be-done person at PAWS (Public Animal Welfare Services) in Floyd County, Georgia. She started in March 2020, so she has yet to know what life at the shelter is really like without the challenge of a worldwide pandemic.

PAWS is a great model (imho) of the future of animal sheltering because it is a public county shelter that encompasses both Animal Control and Animal Care/adoption in the same building under the same leadership.

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Doing the Best They Can With What They’ve Got

Doing the Best They Can With What They’ve Got

Fannin County Animal Control looks like a lot of other public animal control facilities. It’s a small sturdy cement bunker type building on a small wooded lot. JR, the animal control officer who greeted us has been here for six years, but the shelter has obviously been here much longer.

Inside we met two dogs Animal Control had picked up off the highway the day before. They were housed in metal crates in the open area across from the kennels, near the space heater – which was lucky for them on the bitter day we visited. Still it was pretty sparse accommodations.

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Animal Control AND Care

Animal Control AND Care

(Gaston County Police Animal Care Enforcement, Gastonia, NC)

After visiting nearly 80 shelters and rescues, I can tell a lot about a shelter just by walking through their kennels. Whenever you enter, of course the dogs go nuts. The barking is off the charts, all conversation ceases.

I always try to keep my own energy low; I don’t look dogs in the eye, I crouch in front of kennels, and I rarely wear the ballcap that has become my favorite hairstyle these days, knowing that it can be a trigger for some dogs.

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Together We Can Let the Dogs Out

Together We Can Let the Dogs Out

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.

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The Fixer

The Fixer

On our last day of our shelter tour this fall, we made two stops in Kentucky. The first was in Franklin, where we visited The Fix Foundation and the Simpson County Animal Shelter. A remarkable woman runs both and her vision and smart policies are truly ‘fixing’ things.

Ruth started the Fix Foundation after relocating to the area from Las Vegas. She’d never been involved in animal rescue before coming to Franklin, but when she discovered the state of the shelter and the number of animals dying, she had to step in. At the time, the county shelter was killing 98% of the animals they took in.

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