Saving Shelter Dogs, One at a Time

Saving shelter dogs – do you ever think about it? Most people don’t. Until recently, I didn’t.

Lani lives a few houses away from me so I see her often around my neighborhood. A few years back, I started noticing Lani walking with different dogs in addition to her own two dogs.

Lani with rescue dog, Thema, who Lani’s sister adopted.

I found out she rescues shelter dogs that are about to be put to sleep. Over the years I’ve seen at least a half dozen different dogs with Lani. I’d see her pull in to her house with dogs she’d just saved from the Apple Valley shelter (90 minute drive each way). Recently, I even saw she hired dog walkers to walk her rescued dogs when she wasn’t home. “Who does this?” I thought to myself.  “Who makes the time?” People like Lani do. And thank goodness for them. They are the reason so many shelter dogs have a chance at life.

Snoop (right) with new family Harmony on (left)- It was love at first sight.. This is within an hour of meeting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to foster and find a home for Snoopy, a dog who had been rescued by Picklepantsrescue and taken by my friend Christine on his death day from the South LA shelter. He had been there for almost 3 months with a broken leg.  That experience really opened my eyes to this problem so many of us don’t realize exists.

Here is Lani’s story. My hope is that it educates you about how fostering works and how these innocent animals need all the help they can get.

Lani’s Story

I began rescuing animals accidentally, approximately 25 years ago when I lived in Venice, Ca.  I frequented the night club Hals. It was where everybody knew my name – lol… one night, the parking lot attendant called me over. He had discovered 8 mixed lab puppies that someone dumped off in a box. He asked for help, so I took them home and cared for them.  One by one, each was adopted through me. It wasn’t an easy task.

Originally, I went to the shelter to ask for help. But I learned the shelters in Los Angeles would kill these pups if they weren’t adopted quickly. In Los Angeles, Governor Jerry Brown reduced the time dogs have as a mandatory shelter hold to 3 days. What this means – after 3 days, a shelter dog can be put to sleep. Not a lot of time to notice a future pet in a sea of other dogs!

I ended up keeping one of the pups for myself – I chose the laziest guy as a companion to my hyper border collie, Scout.  I named him Beckett, and he was the most highly trainable, most mellow dog I’ve ever owned.

Lani and Beckett

How Lani Got Involved in Rescuing Shelter Dogs

Years later, after both dogs passed, I went to the Carson Shelter to find a new dog.  I found myself feeling anxiety and overwhelmed. The shelter conditions were abysmal – dark, smelly and completely depressing.  I left without saving a dog, and I felt pretty sad.

A few days later, I saw a dog rescue event in a park and started talking with the rescue owner.  She explained how fostering can save animals’ lives.

You can foster a dog to:

  • See if you can handle being an owner,
  • Test if you like a particular dog.
  • Give an animal a chance to be in a safe environment to show its personality.
  • Help a dog get cleaned up and presentable for potential adopters.
  • Save a dog’s life.

That day, I filled out an application, and that began my interaction with rescue groups and fostering dogs.  Since then, although I am not a rescue, I will adopt dogs from the shelter who are scheduled for death.  I am only able to help 1 dog at a time, which is clearly not enough.

Finnigan, rescue dog

Misconception About Shelter Dogs

No dog is safe in LA shelters – pure breds, puppies, hard to adopt breeds, frightened dogs, senior dogs, even your own dog!  So many people want to buy a pure bred instead.  It’s very sad, because it’s easy for people to ignore this epidemic. As long as you don’t enter a shelter, you can ignore the problem.

Chi Lani had for a few weeks before finding him a home.

People have the misconception that because a dog is in the shelter, there must be something wrong with the animal.

Wrong. It’s more like, what was wrong with the owner?

I am in the shelters. I see people taking their pets there and ask, “why are you surrendering your pet where you almost certainly know your they will be killed?” Their reasons – don’t have time, too many other pets, landlord won’t let me, too much work, my new boyfriend is allergic –  blah blah blah.  Why did you get the animal in the first place?  If you are not in the right situation, do not get a dog or cat – end of story.

Also, an extremely high percentage of these dogs are not neutered or spayed, which perpetuates the problem.

Social Media Helps Save Dogs

Facebook and the internet have made helping dogs and finding pets so much easier.

The shelters all post their dogs online, but beware: Some intake pictures are crummy, so the cutest dog on the planet can go unnoticed, and then euthanized.

Unless you make the trip to the shelter, you won’t see the whole package.  Many shelters have received a face lift, and/or been rebuilt because of animal activism and awareness.  And organizations like Portraits of Hope paint murals in an effort to beautify shelters to make them more appealing to the public.

Lani with rescue, Kona.

Facebook has made it easier to see individual dogs in need who may otherwise be hidden from the public because of an injury or being deemed unfit (but it’s often not true). Some shelters require owners to pay a fee if surrendering their dogs for no good reason. They therefore make up reasons to avoid the fee, such as “doesn’t get along with other dogs, behavioral problems, etc.”

What Animal Rescue Volunteers Do

  • Volunteers actually go into the shelters and take pictures and interact with the animals, and then post on social media.
  • How Pledging works: Once a dog is posted and shared on Facebook and has gained significant pledges, the animal can attract a rescue group to get saved.
  • The pledgers are individuals like you and me who want to help an animal from the ground level.
  • How it’s done is, you say, “I pledge this amount” etc.
  • If the animal is rescued, the rescue sends out a collection on Facebook’s messenger.
  • You can then pay by mail or Paypal.
  • The rescue group vets and cares for the animal and will spay/neuter them.  The donations received are used to cover these costs.

Rescue groups are much more apt to take a pet out of the shelter if they know they have an available foster.  Fosters are hard to come by, and they are giant lifesavers! More people are needed to foster millions of homeless dogs.

If you are interested in fostering, make sure you ask questions to the rescue group:

  • Will you reimburse for my expenses? (if you want to be reimbursed)
  • Have you had this dog vetted?
  • What if the dog is not adopted and I cannot keep longer than an agreed amount of time etc.

Your experience should be a positive one so you want to continue to help.  It’s a great way to see if your family is really up for having the responsibility of a pet.

Lani’s daughter with rescue, Samantha

Also, it’s a charity that you can get involved in with your family. Fostering teaches children about the homeless animal problem and also about empathy. Many rescues ask if you have the ability to join your foster at dog rescue adoption events so these are good opportunities to get involved with your family.

Shelters

Shelters have their own internal rules on how long to keep an animal after the initial holding period.

The SEAACA (Southeaast Area Animal Control Authority) in Downey and Carson shelters need help, so I’ve given both my attention. They have been killing very adoptable dogs. When I got involved, I was shocked at what I learned.

The Apple Valley Shelter is a state of the art facility, but many animals don’t survive – there simply aren’t enough adopters in that area, and rescues don’t want to make the drive up.  I rescued two dogs this year from Apple Valley, one was deemed friendly, but the shelter said they needed room. The other deemed feral and without interest. Both dogs were to be put down, but are now in two families whose owners are completely in love.

Consider Being a Foster

Rescue dog, Mario (top) with Lani’s dog, Ginger.

Even if for a short period of time, your willingness to open up your home and give your time to a shelter dog who would otherwise lose their life would be very meaningful. If more of us did this, so many fewer dogs would be senselessly killed. Consider fostering. You will be saving a dog’s life!

By Lani Pollock

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.