Shelter Tour Week Two

Shelter Tour Week Two

Our second week on tour coincided with Hurricane Ida, which thankfully skirted around the places we planned to visit mostly dumping a bit of rain here and there. We were able to rearrange our visits and move our one all-day outside to after the weather passed thanks to the flexibility of many people.

While our visits confirmed what we learned the first week – shelters are growing crowded as owner surrenders continue to ratchet up, and puppy and kitten season does not abate. But we also noticed something else that was different on this tour than our previous ones. There are a lot more purebred dogs in the shelters.

My best guess is that this is because so many people bought puppies during the pandemic and those puppies grew into adolescent dogs which require a lot of work and don’t always live up to the expectations of owners. Plus certain breeds have characteristics that owners may or may not have anticipated or been able to handle. Beyond that, economic circumstances have a lot of people surrendering dogs they can’t afford anymore. At any rate, we saw purebred large breeds like Huskies, Rottweilers, Labs, plus many smaller breeds and scruffies.

We also saw a lot of puppies and small breed dogs, which is usually not the case as those dogs get pulled by rescue or adopted at a much higher rate. It was telling that rescue coordinators are struggling to find rescues willing to take puppies.

To me, the presence of so many ‘desirable’ type animals in the shelters is a ‘canary in the coalmine’. It is time for rescues to double-down on all that they can do to help because full shelters lead to killing dogs for space. Even at the shelters that have for many years been saving every treatable, adoptable animal, there is a fresh fear that killing for space is on the horizon if things don’t improve.

Fingers crossed for the early fall back-to-school surge in adoptions and rescue pulls.

We will tell you MUCH more about all thirteen organizations that we visited on this tour in the coming weeks. Be sure to subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!

And in case you weren’t following along in real time on Facebook, the week’s posts are pasted below.

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Fall Shelter Tour Part One

Fall Shelter Tour Part One

Traveling through the south this time around feels different. It’s not just the masks that are sometimes prevalent and other times completely absent. As we wind through the mountains on our way to Nashville, I wondered about priorities. Is it wrong to want to save dogs when people are struggling so much? Will people care what we about what we are seeing? Will they find everything as heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, as I do?

I think it’s even more remarkable how hard the people we meet are working. Despite the compassion fatigue and an often apathic public, so many continue to fight for lives, even as the wave of homeless dogs builds instead of ebbing.

Everyone said that the silver lining of the pandemic was all the adoptions, the empty shelters, the new awareness of rescue, the flood of fosters. And that was great. I’m definitely not discounting that moment. It was awesome.

But in its wake, shelters and rescues are drowning. That was the word we heard more than once from shelter directors and rescue coordinators in answer to my question, “How are you doing?”

They are drowning. Owner surrenders are at an all time high as people struggle to care for their families in uncertain times. The result of 6-12 months of no spay/neuter surgeries, puppy and kitten season is astronomical. Even now, getting a vet appointment to spay or neuter a dog can take weeks.

Rescues are full and adoptions have slowed to a trickle. Everyone either already adopted a dog or is hesitant to commit to a new life when the future looks as precarious as ever. With no dogs moving north and huge numbers of dogs arriving at the shelters via owners who can’t keep them or animal control officers who are as busy as ever, the result is unavoidable. Dogs are being killed in places that once claimed no-kill status. Parvo is rampant as puppies fill the shelters and linger instead of heading out to rescues.

I keep hoping the story will be different at our next stop, but so far, halfway through our tour, that has not been the case. We are sharing our stories in real time on Facebook and Instagram and plan to share even more via this blog and our YouTube channel once we are home. I hope you are following along. But just in case, here’s a recap:

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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

Raising the Roof at Corinth-Alcorn

Raising the Roof at Corinth-Alcorn

“What people need to understand is that they aren’t collectibles.”

This was a comment made by Corinth City’s ACO, Stephen, in reference to the number of pit bulls that populate the shelter and that he picks up in his work.

“They all want certain colors. They should get a box of crayons.”

We met Stephen shortly after we arrived at Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter. We’d just sat down to interview Charlotte, the director, when Read more

Giles County is Writing a New Story

Giles County is Writing a New Story

Our next to last shelter visit was actually two visits in one. We would visit the Giles County Animal Shelter, and also meet with some of the volunteers from the Giles County Humane Association, a foster-based rescue that supports the shelter.

This Humane Association/County Shelter partnership model is fairly common and usually turns out to be a good one for the dogs. While County shelters can’t fundraise and are limited to the budget they are given, a Humane Association isn’t and they can provide immediate support in areas where it is needed most – like veterinary services not covered in the budget, supplies, foster care, and when funds run low, collect donations of essentials like food and dewormers.

Giles County hadn’t been on my original list of shelters to visit. It was the Giles County Dog Pound back then, when a woman named Daphne, reached out to me through Facebook. “You have to see what is going on in Giles County,” she wrote.

I was intrigued and began looking into it. I was shocked by what I discovered. Read more

Saving the Giants

Saving the Giants

When we pulled up at the gate for our first stop in Alabama, enormous dogs loped towards us. “What are those?” I asked Nancy, incredulous. I’d never seen dogs like this up close.

We waited while Rhonda, the director of Brindlee Mountain Rescue put the giant creatures in their kennels and opened the automatic gate for us.

Once inside the tidy property, we met Rhonda, a smart, kind, sensible woman who had a gentle air about her, not unlike the giants we would soon meet. Rhonda created this rescue so Read more

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

Out to the west of Nashville, after a long slog on US 40 and several smaller highways that took us through Paris and Pillowville, we arrived in Greenfield. Our destination: the police station. We’d come to meet Tabi, officially the records clerk for Greenfield Police Department, unofficially—the keeper of the dog pound.

Police-Department

Tabi is a friendly, cheerful soul, despite Read more

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Yesterday’s visit to Maury County and the Williamson County shelters was an opportunity to set a bar. I wanted Ian to see a typical municipal shelter. Today we will drive 2.5 hours west to see a ‘city pound’ and a rescue that is trying desperately to help the situation.

Maury County, thankfully, was much changed from the last time I was there. That was clear from the faces on the dogs. You can see more of these images on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

I met with Jack, the new director and Maily, a volunteer leader; both are new to Maury in 2019. Both are having a positive impact on the place. Read more

Tennessee Bound

Tennessee Bound

We’re a day into this trip, but all we’ve done so far is drive (and drive). No traffic, no complaints, it just feels very anticlimactic and I’m ready to get to the shelters. I forget how friendly and sweet people are in the south until I get down here. Not sure if it’s authentic, but it sure is pleasant. I’ve already been called honey, darlin’, and sweetheart more times in twenty-four hours than seems reasonable, but I’ll take it.

Ian has snapped hundreds of pictures out the window but has not deemed any of them ‘post-worthy’. Hopefully, he’ll lower his standards soon so you can see what we’re seeing – mountains, kudzu vine swallowing entire forests along the highway, plenty of trucks,  plenty more American flags, and since we entered Tennessee, gobs of horse-trailers. The roadside signage is fairly entertaining – equally biblical messages and adult entertainment stores. The fog comes and goes. Today we’ve alternated between Ian’s 70’s Pandora station and podcasts of The Moth.

Two more hours of driving and then finally – dogs! This will be my second visit to Maury County Shelter and I’m really (really) hoping things are better this time. They have a new director, so it will be interesting to see what has changed. Maury is a large, open-intake shelter in Columbia, Tennessee with a large building, a good-size budget (relatively speaking), a big staff, and from what I remember, strong volunteer support.

The last time I was here the biggest problem was the length of time (a month or longer) that dogs were kept in ‘stray hold’ – unevaluated, unstimulated, isolated, which caused undo stress. Shelter life can sometimes be harder on a dog than life as a stray.  They get meals, but without companionship, toys, exercise, or engagement combined with the noise and tiny space, it can break down dogs quickly.  The other issue I remember at Maury was that the dogs were given no bedding and no toys because it made clean  up too difficult and clogged their drainage system. The dogs each had a tiny, hard plastic shelf in their kennels and nothing else.

Here are a few of the faces of Maury County the last time I visited. Hopefully, things will look different today.

Thanks for following – please spread the word. It’s way past time to let the dogs out.

Cara

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

All over our rural south there are dogs waiting.

Some lucky dogs are in progressive shelters who have staff, resources, and community support that allow them to place all of their adoptable dogs through local adoptions and outside rescues.

Some not-so-lucky dogs are in open intake, high-kill shelters that are routinely forced to euthanize for space. Many of the people who work in these shelters try desperately to save every dog they can but our understaffed, underfunded, undersupported and overwhelmed.

And then there are the dogs left behind at tiny municipal pounds in rural communities on back roads people rarely travel. Read more