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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Dream Shelter

Dream Shelter

Imagine a shelter where, instead of cages, the dogs live in bedrooms with their buddies. Where they get to play in enormous play yards with pools and obstacles and Astro-turf (which is really good for itching your back).

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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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“I’ll Do Anything to Save an Animal”

“I’ll Do Anything to Save an Animal”

“I’ll do anything to save an animal.”

Those were the words of Remi, the founder of Paws 4 the Cause in Lexington, Kentucky. We’d just met up with him as a last minute addition to our shelter tour after that morning’s originally planned visit had canceled. It was sheer luck that we happened upon Paws 4 the Cause, or maybe my restlessness.

Twenty minutes before we were to leave for our scheduled stop that day, we got a message that the director we were to meet had a family emergency. Nancy settled in to edit pictures, and I surfed the internet. We had three hours to kill before we’d need to leave for our afternoon visit. On a whim, I pulled up google maps and searched for a nearby rescue. Maybe there was another place we were meant to be.

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Somebody Oughta Do Something About It

Somebody Oughta Do Something About It

I have something BIG to tell you. It’s exciting, and also somewhat scary for me.

Three years ago, I visited a shelter in North Carolina. I wanted to see where my foster dogs were coming from. I’d foster over one hundred by then, and I was curious—why was there an endless stream of dogs in need?

I remember that moment so clearly. The smell, the sounds, the desperation, but also all those beautiful dogs.

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Saving the Bullies

Saving the Bullies

Fact: Rescue is hard.

But rescuing pit bulls is harder. That’s why I was really excited to discover a pit bull rescue in my new hometown. And after I met Jessica, the founder and director of Margaret’s Saving Grace Bully Rescue, I was profoundly grateful that a rescue like this exists. I just wish there were more.

Traveling to shelters and rescues all over the south for the last four years, one thing has been consistent before, during, and after the pandemic: there are pit bulls everywhere and they are dying in the highest numbers.

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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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Live Release Rate: 0%

Live Release Rate: 0%

Yesterday I called an ACO (Animal Control Officer) at a county pound in Tennessee. I was inquiring as to whether we might be able to visit on our next trip in March. I’d left a message and figured I had about a 50/50 chance of him calling me back.

You see, when a writer leaves a message about visiting a pound where dogs are routinely killed, ACO’s can be a bit shy about speaking with me. I get that—most of the ACO’s I’ve met do everything they can to avoid killing dogs but ‘everything they can’ is not much when they have an unsupportive leadership system, zero budget, sub-par facilities, little or no veterinary access, a constant stream of homeless dogs, and a mandate to destroy any dog that is still there past its five-day legal stray hold.

So, when I received a call back in less than an hour, I Read more