Rescue Realities

Written by Michelle Mantor

The Long & Lonely Road To A Forever Home 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnimal rescue is a big topic with many facets. When I first began thinking about the issue, I was struck by how difficult it is to define what rescue is in a succinct manner. Is it stopping to pick up a lost dog? Is it putting together a group to go and lure/catch homeless dogs living in the barrios? Is it adopting a pet from a shelter? Is it taking an aggressive dog from an owner that wants to euthanize the animal and rehabilitating it? Perhaps it is all of these scenarios and more.As I worked to figure out exactly what information to cover in this article, I thought about the things I know for sure. I know there are thousands of dogs and cats euthanized in the Houston area shelters each year; I know that stray animals pervade numerous neighborhoods in Houston and those animals are starving, injured, riddled with fleas or heartworms and live in deplorable conditions; I know that unfortunately there are people who get a pet and are irresponsible or have financial challenges which result in the pet being surrendered to a shelter or rescue group; I know the vast majority of the Houston pet owning population has little to no idea how dark and difficult the homeless pet situation is; I know that Houston has a strong rescue network comprised of shelters, breed and general rescue organizations and individual citizens that step up to rescue animals in need simply because they want to help; I know as a committed community, we can make a difference.I also know that an entire book could be written on the subject and for the purposes of an article, I needed to focus on specific areas. PetTalk has often published information on our local shelters as well as the initiatives to combat homelessness including the all-important spay and neuter programs of great organizations like SNAP. As such, I felt that perhaps this article should focus more on the stray animals that have not yet reached a shelter and the efforts to save them, the rescue groups that are not shelters housing animals but are rescuing, vetting and fostering animals in their homes and the incredible amount of time, resources, money and heart it takes to save an animal.

I would love to have the space to mention every organization and individual that has already made a difference in our pet community but fortunately, there are too many to mention! That is good news. To those people and organizations, I would like to thank you for your efforts and please know that you are doing important work and your efforts are appreciated. One element of this feature story is a resource guide to a myriad of rescue related groups. The list only skims the surface but I hope it is a good starting point and you can find additional resources on our website at www.houstonpettalk. com/resources.

The world of rescue is dark, heartbreaking and emotional but it is also filled with positive stories and pieces of light that shine through. My hope is that at least one reader discovers they too want to join the fight to create a community of empathy toward God’s creatures. It does take a network to help those that cannot help themselves and every helping hand in the web of saviors is just as important as the next.

STRAY ANIMALS

Ok, rescuing animals is hard work, tearjerking and sometimes even dangerous. Why you might ask? Because often the animals are in high-crime/low-income areas where they are breeding as strays or possibly dumped at particular parts of town known for dumping. Sometimes the animals are feral (living as a wild animal not accustomed to human interaction), have been struck by a car and are maimed, have other health conditions and so forth making them difficult to capture.

Several rescue groups or coalitions have emerged to address these stray “hotbeds” in Houston as well as city animal control may be called to come and trap/pick up the animals.

Some of you may remember one such group dubbed “Corridor Rescue” whose founder, Deborah Hoffman, was chosen as one of CNN’s weekly heroes in 2010 and was featured in a poignant segment about an area known as Corridor of Cruelty near I59 and York. Deborah was one individual that took a major step when she encountered numerous dogs roaming the area that were starving and in very poor health. (If your heart can stand it, go to www.houstonpettalk. com keyword search “help Charlie” and you will see one dog in such shocking condition that you will wonder if it is a dog. BTW – he was saved!). The situation was so dire in this area of town that anyone with empathy for other living beings could hardly stand to see this travesty and not leave with tears in their eyes.

By rallying people to the cause, Deborah and her allies created an effective rescue organization, Corridor Rescue, that not only goes out regularly to assist animals in need and secure veterinary care but they also have developed an adoption program and community outreach that includes spay and neuter programs for corridor residents (they attempt to make this as free as possible) as well as Feed Our Friends, a program that currently feeds the pets of 50 families.

Corridor Rescue is working to help stray and abused animals and one can just imagine the amount of volunteers, money and coordination (and Kleenex) needed to make this effort viable. Another group working to make a difference is Forgotten Dogs of The Fifth Ward Project led by Kelle Mann Davis.

To get an up close understanding of this type of “stray rescue”, photographer Robyn Arouty accompanied Kelle’s group on a rescue mission to Houston’s Fifth Ward and captured the day in photos. Robyn interviewed Kelle about the rescue’s mission and we share this “journal” with you on page 27.

FOSTER GROUPS

Houston has a number of shelters with dedicated employees and volunteers working hard to save and adopt animals (see the resource guide) and those animals are available for the public to view during open hours. But did you know that there is a multitude of other organizations that rescue pets, take care of their health issues and house them in a network of homes while working toward the goal of finding them a permanent home?

These groups are often alerted to situations and save pets from dangerous situations, from owner surrenders and at times, they take pets from shelters if they are well suited to their particular program (such as specific breed rescue). Once secured, veterinary care is the next step for these animals and this step is not only costly but can require many trips to the vet’s office and care at home for a period of time until the dog or cat is ready to be adopted.

This veterinary care can include surgeries, spay/neutering, heartworm treatment and even behavioral training. This “journey to health and home” takes place in an individual’s home that is fostering the pet. Not all foster animals need this level of care… some just need a safe warm bed and food!

Almost every rescue organization as well as shelters need foster homes and by having a strong foster network, less dogs and cats will be put to death via euthanasia. Why? Because there is simply not enough space and resources to take care of the thousands of homeless animals in our city so if private citizens can step in to be the safety net until homes can be found, many more lives are spared. Most groups host adoption events at various retail locations and events around town as a means to find homes for the animals.

If you would like to be a foster mom or dad, the opportunities are endless. Perhaps you would like to help disabled pets, a specific breed, aged pets, puppies or kittens. No matter your heart’s desire, there are needy pets ready for you! Just contact the group of your choice and they will guide you as a “newbie” and introduce you to this rewarding endeavor.

What Should You Do If You Find A Stray/Lost Pet?

You can’t help an animal if you become injured yourself. Use prudent judgment; do not cause a traffic accident or endanger yourself.

• Catching the animal – many animals are frightened or injured and behave unpredictably. Stay in your car if you are not sure of the situation. Don’t make sudden movements. Speak calmly and entice with food if you have any. If necessary, call animal control (Houston: call 311 non-emergency service).

• Lure them into your car – if you have been successful in catching the animal, check for tags or take them to a veterinary clinic to check for a microchip.

• Now what? You have a decision to make – you either take the dog to an animal shelter (private shelters can refuse the animal; only the city shelter is required to take all turn-ins) or you take them home. If you take the animal home, do not expose your other pets. Keep them separate for both health and safety reasons. You must determine the animal is disease free and will not act aggressively before you can mix your pet posse with the rescued animal.

Tips For Rescuing Strays

• 1. Keep a “rescue kit” in your car (leash, water bowls, strong-smelling food like dried liver, first aid supplies).

• 2. If the animal seems to be a lost pet, post “found” signs near where the animal was picked up including retail stores, veterinary clinics; post the pet and/or search for lost pet notices on www.petfinder.com, www.craigslist.org, newspaper, BARC and local shelters. There is also a FACEBOOK page for Houston Heights Lost/Found pets.

• 3. Require some type of proof from anyone claiming the pet belongs to them (veterinary records, identifying distinct markings, etc.). Unfortunately there are people who claim to own a pet but are selling them to research or using them for “bait” as practice for dog-fighting.

• 4. If you pick up a stray/lost pet, you have taken responsibility. You must follow through; you cannot expect your friends that are involved in rescue to always step up and take the animal. They are already burdened and they may want to help, but don’t expect it and be ready to see the situation to its end.

Rescue Reality

• 85,000 dogs and cats must be euthanized every year in the Houston area because they are unwanted. You can be a responsible pet owner by spaying or neutering your pet to help reduce this number.

• Although Houston has a strong rescue network of individuals taking it upon themselves to raise money, spend their own money, save strays from the streets or shelter animals on “death row”, etc., it is not enough. YOU can also help by joining the network, creating your own rescue, donating money, volunteering, etc.

• Many rescue groups and shelters are FULL and cannot accept more animals. There is not enough rescue resources so any additional help from our community is welcome.

• Rescue animals often need extra love, attention and training if they have been through a bad experience. Be patient but also be prepared to get them the veterinary or training resources they need to recover and rehabilitate.

Originally published in October 2012 issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *