pet news

Rescues save pets and people but can use our help too

By Marielle D. Marne | March 17, 2010

golden retreiversNowhere in Arizona will you find a group of people with bigger hearts than in the Desert Foothills. Put out a call for a sick child and neighbors pitch in to help. Someone in an accident? We send food. That selflessness extends to those with paws instead of hands, fur instead of skin. Yes, we love our companion animals! The majority of households in the area have pets, be they horses, dogs, cats or guinea pigs. We do our collective part to help them all!

Then, there are some who go above that and aim for the stars. These are the folks who establish rescues and the volunteers who pitch in to assure they keep running.

Our best known rescue
Foothills Animal Rescue is probably the best known rescue in the area. While it may have moved from its last adoption location, Dawn Kavanaugh, executive director, assured "they are very much a part of the community and are still serving all of Maricopa County."

FAR is looking to be in its new digs on Pima Road in April. Absent in the 7,000 square foot facility will be a shelter feel. "It will be more spa-like; we'll take it up a notch. It will be like going into your living room at home."

A commendable aspect every rescue person stressed was the need for education and guidance for pet owners. Puppies are adorable, no doubt, but a four-month-old pup can equal trouble, Kavanaugh chuckled. So, know what you're getting into!

Breed specific rescues
Patricia Daigle, executive director of MinPinHaven Rescue, echoed similar sentiments. "I've talked more people out of adopting miniature pinschers." She said potential adopters don't always realize the energy levels of the dogs and that they can be quite the pint-sized escape artists. Be aware of this, and they can be wonderful companions ... for the right family.

Animals with special needs
Since 2002, Four Peaks Animal Rescue has been adhering to its own Three Rs: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Resituate. Nancy Borkowicz has carved out her own niche in the rescue world. She primarily focuses on cats and dogs with medical needs. "This could be anything like bottle babies, soft tissue damage, dog bites or even puppies." However, she is one to plunge in to her efforts, heart and soul. "If I have room for it, I will take it," she admitted.

A common thread many of these rescues share is that they often pull dogs off the euthanasia list at the Maricopa County shelters. For whatever reason, sometimes people have less than stellar opinions of the staff at the county shelters, but Daigle sees it differently. "They really work with the shelters to save the dogs," she said. If a certain breed (or mix thereof) comes in, employees will try to reach one of the many breed-specific rescues and get someone there to take it. Incredibly, countless purebred animals are turned into shelters each year. And many potential adopters wrongly assume these ?are only problem dogs. Not true at all!

When dogs are pulled via what is known as the New Hope Program, a considerable benefit is that the county has already done behavior evaluations. It’s just another way to assure adopters can commit a lifetime to their new friend, as they will have greater input about the animal.

This network saves lives
There are numerous ways to dive in and help. Carrie Singer said her husband was rather speechless when she told him she'd like to quit her job and start a rescue. She is the backbone of Animal Guardian Network. She's fortunate in that she was able to take on such an endeavor but explained, "People think that unless they can do something huge, then they shouldn't do anything. Of course, I say that's not true. Alone, we can make a dent; together, we can make a difference."

Her difference? As her rescue name implies, she has an impressive network of people and organizations which she can call upon when the community's furry friends need her. Some of her goals are to help families keep their pets through a pet food bank and even a vet care assistance program. There's even a no-fee adoption program for seniors. It's no secret that being adopted by a pet (yes, they often pick us and make us think otherwise) can add years to one's life, lower one's blood pressure and enhance the overall quality of life.
Singer frequently hears, "I couldn't do what you do." To that she says, "Then do what you CAN do. We [as do all rescues] operate on the faith of others."

Horses need help, too
Joey Ogburn of the Luv Shack knows canines and felines aren't the only ones in need of rescue. Her group mainly rescues horses, but they pitch in and offer assistance to goats, chickens, cows, whoever needs them. The Fetch Foundation's Marie Peck can't sing Ogburn's praises enough. "She's always willing to jump in and help with the dogs and cats," Peck offered.

Luv Shack will rescue and rehabilitate horses and adopt those out who are adoptable. And what many may not realize is that day camps are available for kids and adults. There's even a scholarship program, Bravo Bucks, for those who may find it a little out of their reach financially.

Why a day camp at a horse rescue? Ogburn explained, "We rescue people, too. It's all interwoven." They even do what's known as EAL, Equine Assisted Learning, at schools. "Education is huge" when it comes to the proper care and respect of not only equines but any animal.

Ogburn opens her facility to other rescues and will hold adoption events alongside nonprofits like FAR. And she's even a foster herself.

From the greatest of steeds to some of the cutest of pocket pets, guinea pigs and rabbits find themselves homeless, too.

And for the little critters
guinea pigsAmanda Peterson, founder of Piggie Poo Rescue in Anthem, said she is the only 501(c)3 nonprofit small animal rescue in Arizona and Utah that specializes in guinea pigs. "When most folks think 'rescue,' cats and dogs come to mind. Often shelters do not advertise the literally hundreds of critter in-takes each year, or many transfer their small animal surrenders to private rescue groups – like Piggie Poo!"

It's because of this lack of knowledge, people end up buying guinea pigs at pet stores, while shelter "pigs" are often put to sleep because of lack of space and proper critter care facilities.

rabbitRabbits suffer the same plight. Currently, they are the third most euthanized animals at shelters. Erika Royal knows this all too well. Since 2000, Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue has adopted out more than 1,300 bunnies. With Easter upcoming, her plea to those considering gifting a rabbit is to jump on the "Make Mine Chocolate" bandwagon. Unless you've done your research and know what you are getting into, opt for a chocolate rabbit or even a plush one, so you won't need the services of BHRR when you realize a rabbit is likely a 10 year commitment and has developed a desire for your wooden baseboards!

In spite of the gratification rescue people garner doing what they do, believe it or not, "There's not a rescue volunteer alive who doesn't wish the need for [pet] rescue organizations could one day become obsolete,"assured Lisa Brennan, marketing director for MinPinHaven.

People pitch in in lots of ways
catThere are countless ways to get involved in the community and help animals. The Fetch Foundation, previously mentioned, is Marie Peck's contribution. Her nonprofit was established to raise money for Fido Bags. The bags contain everything a firefighter will need to tend to pets that are either involved in car accidents or suffer as a result of a house fire. The kits have oxygen masks tailored to animals, burn sheets, saline fluids, bandages, water bowls, leashes, anything that can help secure and comfort a pet in these situations. Plus, all emergency personnel are trained to use items correctly.

Many fire stations are already equipped with the bags, but ‘many’ is simply not enough; all should be.

Stumped for a gift idea for a person passionate about pets? Fido Bags are $225 a piece (tax deductible) and can be embroidered with the gift recipient's name. Or in honor of someone. Not only a unique idea, but one that may well save lives.

One of the simplest ways to help is to head to downtown Cave Creek and visit For Goodness Sake, the altruistic endeavor of Paty and Chris Williams. The store sells gently used items and profits are donated to various rescues including FAR, Halo, Animal Guardian Network, Luv Shack, Fetch Foundation and others.

Patrons can specify a group if they wish, or the donations will be divided equally. Think of For Goodness Sake when cleaning out closets or remodeling. You'll not only be helping to keep items out of the landfill, you will be helping save lives.

What can you do?
The economy may be bad, but that's no reason to let it dampen our community spirit. While every single rescue can use funds, that's not the only wish on their lists. A simple action to take at home, spay and neuter ALL pets. Shelters are packed, there aren't enough homes and too many are euthanized EVERY day. Lessen the burden on these generous people! For those who need a greater incentive, that's your tax dollars at work. Reduce euthanasia rates and perhaps there's an argument for fewer taxes. Or, adopt! Volunteers do everything they can to assure a permanent match. If for some reason the relationship fails, rescues insist you return the pet to them. Can't adopt? Consider fostering. The rewards are everlasting but the gig is temporary. Donate your time. One hour would be welcomed. Give a day and you're likely to be regarded as a deity! Animal Guardian Network is seeking professionals to help build its pet chapel. Naming rights could be involved! All groups can use people who can pick up or drop off pets to the vet or deliver fencing or hay. At the very least, drop off an extra bag of cat, dog, puppy, rabbit, bird or kitten food. Litter is needed as well. Google for other local rescues; there are many. Then, do whatever you can. This is a great time to be involved!