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SF animal rescue group makes homeless canines 'grateful dogs'

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 22:20:00
4 / 5 (1 Votes)
Article by:
Kim Harris
Dogs like Popo need fostering or adopting. Photos courtesy of Grateful Dogs Rescue.
Managing the pet population in large cities is often an issue.  

But with the recent economic downturn, the San Francisco Animal Care and Control – ACC – has been receiving more and more surrendered animals as many city residents face foreclosure and are living on tighter budgets.

“People can no longer afford food, vet care or people have to move where they can’t have pets,” ACC spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.

The ACC is responsible for the protection of lost, stray, sick or injured animals, and it responds to animal related emergencies throughout San Francisco. The ACC’s adoption center takes in cats and dogs that have been abandoned, surrendered or lost.  

Campbell said the ACC also has seen an increase in animal abuse cases since the recession.

“People get frustrated and take it out on their pets,” Campbell said.

Due to higher surrender rates, the ACC shelter is often filled to capacity and the agency has found itself having to “make do” with what space and resources they have. Campbell said she felt that this is why animal rescue groups that foster animals are key in keeping these otherwise abandoned animals – many of which have health or behavioral problems – safe and healthy.

“The issues that the animals have here in the shelter are often resolved in foster care,” she said.

One rescue group, which has helped ACC foster dogs for more than 20 years, is working to ensure these homeless or mistreated animals are adopted into loving families.  

Grateful Dogs Rescue was founded in 1989 by Michelle Parris and is the oldest of all-breed rescue group in the city. Grateful Dogs Rescue works exclusively with ACC to foster dogs that are unable to be put up for adoption until they are adopted into permanent homes.  

Lost and abandoned pets go through a series of steps toward adoption: For instance, ACC will hold a dog for five days to be evaluated for behavior and health. If the dog passes the evaluation, it is put up for adoption at the ACC. If the dog does not pass, it is offered to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – which may refuse any animal for health or behavioral reasons.

“The dogs that the SPCA won’t take fall on rescue groups,” explained Kim Durney, Administrative Director of Grateful Dogs Rescue.

Durney said the SPCA has funding to help some dogs who have medical conditions or injuries, but there is a shortage of behavioral specialists due to layoffs, which means dogs with behavioral problems are less likely to be taken in by the SPCA. When both the ACC and SPCA have rejected the animal, the last place the ACC can look for placement is rescue groups, such as Grateful Dogs Rescue.

“[ACC] can’t just hold a dog indefinitely because they just don’t have room,” Durney said.  

Grateful Dogs Rescue is run by volunteers and is funded by private donations and donation fees. The group has about 50 dogs in one of their 35 foster homes at any given time. The system is effective because often the foster care providers fall in love with the dogs and end up keeping them. And the dogs that find permanent homes are carefully placed. Each family is interviewed and meets with the dog before the dog is adopted.

“We do work really hard to make sure it is a good fit and it’s going to work,” Durney said. “We have a good reputation for being responsible in the way we place our dogs.”

The ACC also works closely with breed-specific rescue groups and groups who focus on finding homes for cats, such as Urban Cat Project, a nonprofit cat shelter and advocacy group. It also works with rescue groups, which focus on other pets, such as Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, Chinchilla Rescue and Save A Bunny.

Although more foster homes are always needed, Durney said one way every pet owner can help control the pet population is to have their pets spayed and neutered.
 
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