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Wide-reaching websites like Petfinder. com and Petharbor.com have revolutionized rescue. Reaching out to a national audience, they allow shelters and rescue groups to post photos and bios of adoptable animals at no charge. This significantly improves adoption rates and increases the pool of volunteers.

“If you use tools available electronically, that’s the key to successful rescue,” says McMullen Salyers. “Look at it like a business, market it like a business, find like-minded people, and there’s no way you can’t succeed.”

Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have given rescue groups another way to reach the public, spotlight adoptable dogs, announce special events and raise funds for dogs with special needs.

Catherine Hedges, president of Don’t Bully My Breed, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Pit Bull advocacy and rescue group based in Chicago, says, “The three most helpful aspects of social networking are finding fosters, raising funds, and sending out info on pending breed-specific legislation and petitions. Our Facebook group has almost 11,000 members, so I can get urgent info out quickly to a huge number of people. As for individual dogs needing help, we can post a plea asking for donations for boarding an urgent dog and generally reach our goal or find a foster. I would say we do this maybe once a week.”

Facing Forward
Breed rescues—like all animal rescue groups—face a number of challenges, but two stand out. One is the sheer number of dogs who need a second chance. Ann Ewing, a volunteer for Weimaraner Rescue of the South, voices a concern shared by many involved in breed rescue: “The ratio between supply and demand is out of balance. There are simply more dogs than homes. I realize that responsible breeders work to maintain the purity of the breed, but I believe that breeders and rescuers should all work together to reduce the actual number of dogs—at least until we, the rescuers, can catch up.”

The second is a society that views everything (including animals) as disposable. New Beginnings volunteer Bekye Eckert recalls just such a situation involving a Lhasa Apso named Macey. “She used to be a beautiful blonde, but was dumped at a shelter because her family ‘couldn’t stand to look at her anymore,’” says Eckert. “She had severe allergies that caused hair loss on her underside and legs. Her skin was flaming red and itchy, and her eyes were pretty crusty, too. The shelter was told she was 10 years old. Obviously, in that condition she wasn’t adoptable, and she was depressed to boot.” Eckert later learned that Macey was 13, not 10, and that her former family had recently bought a new puppy.

Miraculously, Macey healed both physically and emotionally and, at 13 years of age, found a loving forever family. “It’s the happy endings that keep me going through the frustration and despair,” says Eckert. “One more little dog in a loving home, and especially one who might have otherwise been overlooked. That’s why I do this work.”

That’s why they all do.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 59: Apr/May 2010

Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

SpotOnK9Sports.com

Photographer, writer and shelter volunteer Melissa McDaniel knows first-hand that many dogs are surrendered for reasons that have nothing to do with their temperaments. And when she adopted a deaf dog, she learned that thousands of deaf dogs are put down simply because they can’t hear. This inspired her books Rescued in America and Deaf Dogs; she traveled the country more than a year, photographing and compiling the stories of more than 100 dogs. Her goal? Through book sales, raise $300,000 for animal rescues and shelters. Visit ThePhotoBooks.com to find out more about the projects and how you can help.

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