I was inspired today to make another blog post about the impact we and other organizations are making in the St. Louis and East St. Louis metro areas. While attending this month’s St. Louis Petlover Coalition meeting, I was listening to our own amazing veterinarian, Dr. Ed Migneco (owner of Hillside Animal Hospital) present on his clinic’s rescue work and the interesting cases they get to see because they work with rescues. (By the way, the St. Louis Petlover Coalition is our area’s group of animal welfare organizations that meet monthly to network and discuss how we are all a piece in the life-saving puzzle.) During the presentation, Dr. Ed showed photos and told stories of gun shot wounds, injuries, mange, feral dogs, TVT (transmissible venereal tumors – an STD in dogs) and embedded collars. As he was speaking, I realized that three of those things we really don’t see anymore or at least haven’t in a REALLY long time! I have to pat our Community Outreach Program on the back, again. Our work in the community both with outreach and rescue has not only reduced the number of puppies in the community but also reduced the feral dog population, diseases like TVT and neglect like embedded collars! What an amazing discovery!
After the meeting, a few of us were chatting about the presentation and the fact that other groups are experiencing the same things as us. In this power-impact conversation was Donna (fabulous Stray Rescue rescuer and all-around stand up human being), Cassidy (Stray Rescue all-star), Sandy (GPG Adoption Program Lead and one of the most compassionate people I have ever met), Katie (new Belleville Area Humane Society Executive Director), Susan (Belleville Area Humane Society Board President) and myself. We discussed how all of our groups struggle to find puppies and how our volunteers and fosters are begging for them. WHAT?!?!? That’s just crazy! What an incredible problem to have. THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN PREACHING ABOUT FOR YEARS! SPAY/NEUTER IS THE ANSWER! Even more incredible, efforts have really only been heavily concentrated for 3-5 years. That’s all it took to have a puppy shortage! WOOHOO! What is the landscape going to look like in five more years!? Thanks to efforts of not only our three organizations but organizations funding spay/neuter and offering low-cost services (like Carol House Quick Fix Clinic, BARC, OpSPOT, SNIP Alliance and the many other programs), we are making some serious changes to the landscape of animal welfare in St. Louis! The other thing Donna confirmed was the low numbers of strays roaming the streets in our service area.
Stray Rescue and GPG are the primary groups that concentrate efforts on East St. Louis. She told me today that some days, she has to drive around for 45 minutes to an hour to find a stray dog! WOOHOO again! In the old days (I’ve personally been with GPG for eight years), we would see 30-50 dogs in a two-hour jaunt around our service area. The future seemed bleak that we would ever see a change. This was telling to me because yes, rescue efforts have increased in the area BUT our owned pets community outreach is where this is coming from. Year after year, we’d rescue dogs from the streets and numbers never went down. Once our outreach program really ramped up and we discussed responsible pet ownership with residents, less dogs were roaming the streets, more pets were brought in and treated like family members and were kept safe AND less unaltered dogs were roaming because of their natural instinct to find a mate. (Canine fun fact: Male dogs can sense a female in heat up to five miles away!) No wonder so many dogs were roaming in packs, they were trying to find the ladies! Less, unaltered dogs = less wandering dogs. Period.
This all leads me to the interesting and challenging part of this new rescue landscape… we have lots and lots AND LOTS of adult dogs needing to find foster and forever homes. While puppy rescues are down, our overall rescue rate continues to increase! The 20-50 puppies we used to rescue a month is now 20-50 adult dogs. Adult dogs come with their own set of challenges (by no fault of their own). Adult dogs generally take longer to find their forever home. (Which always baffled me because I will take an already potty-trained adult dog that I know their temperament over a peeing, pooping, chewing up everything, getting into the trashcan, I-have-to-train puppy ANY DAY – but I digress). In our area, they also have a high rate of heartworm disease which is expensive to treat. They also generally take longer than a puppy to just meld into a foster family. Puppies are easy to keep separated and fairly easy to integrate into foster homes. We try to match our adult dogs and their personality to the personality of the foster family. Again, making the entire process to adoption a little longer and trickier.
With all of that being said, there’s a lot of (interpersonal) pressure on our volunteers to move dogs into their forever homes at the same rate that we always have. Until we came to this discovery of our landscape changing, we didn’t understand why the process was taking longer than in years past! I’ve discussed recently with them that they need to let that pressure go! We are dealing with a NEW rescue environment, a shift in the type of animal we are rescuing and it will come with challenges. Challenges that we will work through, TOGETHER!
This is my VERY long-winded plea for ADULT dog foster homes and forever homes. Take a chance on these amazing animals and you won’t be disappointed! We can’t thank you all enough for your dedication to GPG and the MANY organizations that have supported this change in animal welfare for St. Louis and East St. Louis areas! You are a part of this change!
If you are interested in fostering, visit: www.gatewaypets.com/foster
If you are interested in adoption, visit: www.gatewaypets.com/adopt
Again, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
Gateway Pet Guardians