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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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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So Many Shelters, So Many Dogs

So Many Shelters, So Many Dogs

So many shelters, so many dogs.

I knew at the start of this trip it would be a lot and that keeping all the dogs, directors, and shelters straight might be a challenge. Having Nancy with me helps. I badger her with questions interrupting her work (she spends HOURS editing pictures not just for me and this trip, but to send to directors to use in their efforts to get dogs adopted).

“Which shelter was the one with that cool blue dog with the Catahoula spots?”

“Do you remember what the director said about whether they give Bordetella vaccines?”

“Was there a school bus parked in the yard behind the shelter?” (I actually asked that question more than once, vehicles seem to factor largely in rural southern shelter spaces.)

Nancy doesn’t always have the answers, but sometimes she does or sometimes her pictures provide the clues.

Maybe it was easy to mix up the shelters, as we visited two of four shelters/rescues that are literally within a few miles of each other in a county southeast of Nashville. Clearly, there are many people who care about animals in Bedford County, TN, but from an outsider perspective, I wondered if they were duplicating efforts and whether working together and pooling their resources might be a smarter solution, at least for the dogs. There wasn’t much time to examine that idea as there were dogs to meet and stories to hear.

We started at Shelbyville City Animal Control, arriving late because Read more

The Mecca of Animal Shelters

The Mecca of Animal Shelters

On Monday we finally made a pilgrimage to the mecca of animal shelters. Or at least that’s the way I thought of it.

 

 

I’ve followed Nashville Humane in the news and on social media for ages, and am always impressed with their innovative programs, how many dogs they move, and their clever, clever marketing. In the world of dog shelters, they are the Ritz Carlton. For the south especially, dogs that land there have truly hit the lottery.

With a 2.2 million dollar budget (all raised through private funding), of course they Read more

Lebanon Tennessee Animal Control: Doing the Best You Can with What You’ve Got

Lebanon Tennessee Animal Control: Doing the Best You Can with What You’ve Got

I’d like to tell you about a shelter Ian and I visited on our way out of Tennessee during our trip in June. It’s taken me this long to catch up with the Animal Control Officer there to get answers to my many questions. He wasn’t avoiding me, he’s just that busy.

Zach is an example of what an ACO can be—committed, proactive, and effective. In fact, he manages to get 90% or more of the dogs that land in Lebanon Animal Control out alive. Three quarters of those dogs get out through rescue and an astounding 25% are adopted locally.

This is not the norm for too many small rural counties in the south.

We stopped at Lebanon at the urging of Laura, our host while we were in Tennessee. I think she wanted me to see 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

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