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.
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:
As we walked through several municipal pounds in Tennessee, I kept thinking, “Thank God for Amber.”
She and her husband Brandon and their rescue Halfway Home are the only hope for too many animals whose lives could so easily be snuffed out, unknown and uncounted.
As far as I can tell, ‘animal control’ in Tennessee is Read more
“I wouldn’t do that to myself, so why would I do that to him? ‘Caint take his manhood.”
“She was born to do it; I just want one litter.”
If the team at All 4s Rescue League had a dollar for every time they heard those excuses, and the many others for why someone didn’t want to spay or neuter their dog, they wouldn’t need to do any fundraising.
On Wednesday, Nancy and I spent a day on the streets of Memphis with Read more
I’d heard about the Animal Rescue Corps before, snippets mentioned by other rescue people in passing, but nothing solid, nothing that I thought had anything to do with the world of dog rescue I inhabited.
I pictured a group of superheroes who swooped in during the direst of situations and rescued the dogs, but I had no understanding of how that actually worked, where the dogs went when it was all said and done, and if they were actual people or just this brilliant fantasy.
Yesterday we were on our way south to shine a light on the shelters, rescues, and pounds working so hard to save dogs, in the hopes of raising awareness and resources to help them do just that. It was our first official trip for Who Will Let the Dogs Out and we were excited to get started, maybe over eager. We woke to snow in Christiansburg, Virginia and Read more
We are headed south today. There were snowflakes falling as I walked Fanny for the last time, assuring her that she would see me in ten days, but knowing my absence will be hard on her. I am hoping it will be warmer where we are going.
Our schedule is full and what was originally a 7-day trip has grown to 10 days. We plan to visit 16 shelters, rescues, and pounds, plus check out a market where anyone can sell a dog or puppy with no papers or vaccine records or verification of any kind, just cash on the nose. That’s the plan, but you know about plans.
So much of what we will see is foreign to the part of the country where I live. In fact, as if to underline that point, on Monday, the dog warden Read more
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
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
We discovered the Franklin County Animal Control in Winchester, Tennessee just down a residential lane right next to the sewage treatment plant. It is a tiny aging building with no lobby, no indoor kennels, and just off the office, next to the front door there is still a gas chamber originally used to kill dogs.
The day we visited, the gas chamber space had been repurposed Read more
We left Shelbyville Animal Control at 10:20am, and at 10:28 we were navigating the tight, tiny parking lot of Bedford County Animal Control.
These shelters have more in common than I expected. Considering they serve the same basic public, I imagined Read more