The Challenge of Rescue in Mississippi

June 27, 2023

Midsouth Animal Welfare Foundation is a foster-based rescue rising to the challenge of rescue in a county that has no animal services. There are no municipal shelters in Mississippi, and in many of the counties, there aren’t Animal Control Officers. If it wasn’t for rescue organizations like MAWF and nonprofit shelters, the already high number of dogs euthanized in the state would be much higher.

MAWF rescues dogs that often don’t survive in shelters in the rural south – which includes a lot of puppies, who are completely vulnerable on their own or to parvo in the average shelter. They also take on some of the more challenging medical cases, that would have no hope otherwise.

We visited with Wanda, who is the treasurer for MSWF and one of the main volunteers. She fosters dogs and puppies on her rural property. She had 32 on the day we visited, but she’s had as many as 60 before.

Wanda is retired and lives on social security, but spends every extra cent she’s got on the dogs and puppies in her care. She depends on donations to cover everyday expenses like food, flea treatment, treats, toys, and kennels.

Listening to Wanda talk about all that she does every day to save these animals, you can’t help but be awed. She’s smart, resourceful, and incredibly generous not just with her property, her time, and her money, but her heart. She is quick to mention other rescue people in the area and how grateful she is for them and the work they do.

MAWF sends the majority of their animals to rescue partners who reimburse them for vaccinations and spay/neuter costs. The rescue depends on a local vet who is on the brink of retirement and they aren’t sure what they will do when he does. They occasionally adopt out a dog or puppy locally if they can find a good adoptive family for them.

Dogs come into the rescue as owner surrenders and strays in the area, but Rhonda, another volunteer for MAWF is sure her name and number is on a bathroom stall somewhere because people just find her.

She introduced us to three wonderful dogs she’s currently fostering.

Ram needs hip surgery for bi-lateral hip dysplasia. Finding rescue or an adopter for him has proved challenging, even though he is a sweetheart of a dog. She is also fostering a dog with a club foot. The foot didn’t slow him down a bit.

The third dog we met was, a 2-year-old brown and white dog who was shot in the face. Rhonda ended up with him because after being shot, Kaiser was wandering in the area for three weeks before someone caught him and called a police officer to come shoot him. (I had to ask her to repeat this information because I found it hard to believe, but this is what animal control looks like in places where there are no municipal shelters.)

When the officer met Kaiser, he said the dog was much too sweet and he couldn’t do it, so he called Rhonda. She took him to the vet, where he was neutered and the vet determined that while his face is slightly deformed and he lost some teeth, he is otherwise fine and has completely healed. Now all he needs is a family who will look past the odd shape of his head and see the lovely dog he is. He is friendly, housebroken, crate-trained, and fine with other dogs.

When Wanda is asked to take puppies, she asks that the mama dog be surrendered or spayed. There were puppies everywhere we looked at Wanda’s in makeshift kennels scrambled together with chain link panels and a few chicken coops (which have served her well but are falling apart after so much use).

After visiting with Wanda and seeing all the work she does (and meeting a LOT of puppies), our board decided to award an Instagrant to Midsouth Animal Welfare Foundation in the form of new kennels to replace a large chicken coop Wanda has been using. Our Instagrants are made possible by a grant-to-regrant from the ASPCA.

MSAF is almost always in need of food, so if you’d like to help, you can shop their Chewy wishlist.

You can also shop their Amazon Wishlist. Right now their most pressing needs are: Dyne High-Calorie Liquid for Dogs (to put weight on severely undernourished animals), Fence hanging feeders (link on their Amazon list), and Insulated Dog houses for small and medium dogs.

You can follow them on Facebook to find out other ways you could help. (there are two accounts for MSAF, so be sure you find the correct one – it will have current posts.)

We are in the midst of Operation Hot Dogs, raising funds to provide alternative housing for a sweltering shelter in Mississippi with no AC. Last year puppies and vulnerable dogs died due to the extreme heat. Click here to help. You can also donate by texting ‘HOTDOGS’ to 707070.

Until each one has a home,


If you want to learn more, be sure to subscribe to this blog. And help us spread the word by sharing this post with others. Visit our website to learn more.

You can also help raise awareness by following/commenting/sharing us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tik Tok, and the Who Will Let the Dogs Out podcast.

Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or become a WWLDO volunteer, please email or

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