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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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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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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A Smart Way to Help a Public Shelter

A Smart Way to Help a Public Shelter

I believe it was Margaret Mead who said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.

SCAMP (Saving Cheatham Animals Mission PAWSible) is a smart model for how small group of committed individuals can help a publicly funded shelter. There’s so much to love about SCAMP (including its namesake pup!).

SCAMP is a 501c3 organization that raises money to directly help the animals at Cheatham County Animal Shelter. SCAMP provides immediate help by purchasing needed supplies, veterinary services, and pretty much anything outside the budget that a shelter would have to requisition the county government to obtain.

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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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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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