What happens when a rescue has dogs that no one wants? What happens to a dog who is crated day and night because there is no foster home for the dog, no adopter?
This is a serious and heartbreaking question that shelters and rescues face when circumstances are such that a dog does not have a place to go to and is suffering in a kennel or crate. Most rescues pull the dogs who are easy to place: well-mannered dogs, gentle dogs, friendly dogs.
Puppies and kittens — especially if they are healthy — are also easy to place. That’s why they are usually adopted or pulled by rescues quickly. Small fluffy dogs usually find homes quickly, too. Rescues know that small and fluffy cute dogs will find homes easily. It’s the injured dogs, the older dogs, and the dog-aggressive dogs who take much longer and who can be a financial drain on rescues.
While some rescues specialize in dogs with huge medical needs, those are usually rescues with the financial wherewithal to deal with the medical bills, or there are enough pledges for the animal to cover the costs of medical treatment. Even just having a dog who doesn’t get adopted for months costs a rescue in terms of monthly heartworm preventative and flea treatment. Yearly exams and other medical issues that arise can become a huge financial drain on rescues when dogs remain in foster home for months without being adopted.
When a rescue recently posted the following on Facebook, there was an immediate and emotional response from the rescue community:
Unfortunately, we have 6 dogs without foster homes who desperately need one NOW. These dogs have been in boarding and without a foster home for too long! We NEED your help! SHARE!! We have reached out to other rescues and have done our best, but they cannot stay in boarding any longer as it hurts their development and overall well being. Six lives depend on all of you! Every share counts. PLEASE help us help them.
Many of the comments stated, “If you are a rescue, you are responsible for the dogs. You can’t kill them.”
Most reputable rescues do not euthanize dogs unless it is medically necessary. But what about dogs so aggressive to other animals and humans that they can’t be adopted out safely? What about dogs so dog-aggressive that in their frenzy to get to another animal, they redirect that aggression to a human? What about a dog who has lived in a crate for months on end because there is no foster and no adopter to be found?
Is it more humane to keep a dog alive in inhumane circumstances than to euthanize the dog? Is “alive at any cost” the right thing to do?
Lyndsey Adams started Mickey’s Haven 4 Pit Bulls for all the right reasons. To save lives. That’s why it’s especially difficult for her to try to rebuild the rescue after leaving it in the hands of someone she trusted, but who couldn’t run the rescue successfully.
When her beloved pit bull Mickey died in a car accident almost three years ago (he was inside the car), Lyndsey fell apart. (She still can’t talk about him without getting emotional.) She was depressed and angry.
“I was really depressed for a long time — I still have a hard time talking about it. I started looking to rescue a dog and I started to see how many pit bulls were in shelters and needed help. I decided one day, I got out of bed, and decided that I needed to stop being depressed and do something about it. I got a few friends…”
And with those friends, Lyndsey started Mickey’s Haven 4 Pit Bulls. It started small, but within a year she had foster homes and had placed many pit bulls with loving families. Her rescue was respected in the community, and she had built relationships with boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals.
But that has all changed. After leaving Fayetteville, North Carolina, to move to Oregon with her husband, she has seen the rescue suffer. Adams left her beloved organization in the hands of a friend. And while the friend offered to step in and help, she may not have been prepared for the intensity and immensity of the responsibility.
Adams told ShelterMe, “I think that she was overwhelmed and couldn’t handle it. She couldn’t maintain relationships with people to keep them volunteering and donating. I thought I had a friendship with her, and that she was honest with me. Everyone quit because of how she treated and talked to people. She never followed through with things. I think it was because she was in over her head, and she couldn’t handle it. It’s a lot for someone to handle.”
While Adams believes that her temporary successor’s heart was in the right place, she said, “Dogs weren’t getting what they needed and deserve and the bottom fell out.” Now, Mickey’s Haven 4 Pit Bulls rescue has around $10,000 in boarding and vet bills that need to be paid. They have over a dozen dogs in foster-to-adopt situations waiting for vetting so that they can finally be adopted. Vetting that has never been done.
Scariest of all, six of the remaining dogs are in one foster home in a county that has a three-dog limit. Adams and Tara Dawdy, the director of operations, are terrified that if local animal control gets called to the residence, they will confiscate all the dogs. The dogs would probably be euthanized by animal control. They urgently need foster homes for the dogs.
Maddox is a very sweet dog. He is great with kids, but he is dog selective. He and a female were taken by animal control from their owner after they were both tied up outside. Animal control called the rescue because both dogs were very sweet, just scared. He is a young dog — only two or three years old. He does need training.
Usually, finding foster homes wouldn’t be that difficult, but four of the six dogs are either dog aggressive or dog selective. That makes it much more difficult to find a foster for them; they must be the only dog or in a situation with an experienced dog owner who can keep dogs separated while working on training. There is a local trainer willing to work with these dogs.
Because of the bridges burned in the last year with local boarding facilities, that is not an option. It probably wouldn’t be a good option anyway as these dogs do not need to spend more time in cages. They have been kept in crates for far too long in their current situation. They need a loving home and training.
Adams told Shelter Me that all those involved in the rescue at this time are also veterans, like her. Adams was a medic in the Army; Michael Kucik, volunteering with her, was an Army Ranger until he was injured and forced into a medical retirement. With other friends, they are determined to save as many pit bulls as possible — with the intention of training those dogs and getting them to help other veterans.
Kucik told Shelter Me that his pit bull saved his life. He said:
“I felt purposeless. There were days that I opened my eyes and didn’t want to get out of bed- but thanks to my pit bull Tabasco I had to. He was hungry, he needed to pee and he got me out into the sunshine. During my hardest times he was my constant companion, always at my side. When my son was with me- they were inseparable. This is what led me to begin my personal mission of training him as a service animal and it has been extremely rewarding.Once the time came close for me to actually depart the Army I started meeting other disabled veterans more frequently and I noticed a definitive gap in the need for service animals and the amount available to veterans. This coupled with the vast amount of pit bulls euthanized in shelters every year birthed a new focus for me. I began formulating a plan for the long term goal of opening a shelter for pit bulls to rescue them from kill shelters and train them as service or companion animals for Veterans.”