AMONG THE ANIMALS: Volunteers save animals from breeding mills, ‘death row’

Brooke, Michelle and their dog BonnieBy Christie Lagally

Oct. 12, 2011

Originally published in City Living Seattle by the Pacific Publishing Company

In the last few years, a growing number of cities have taken a proactive measure against animal homelessness by banning the retail sale of dogs and cats. South Lake Tahoe led the way with its city council unanimously voting in a ban, followed by Albuquerque, N. M. West Hollywood, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Fort Worth, Fla.; and Glendale, Calif., have most recently followed suit. The city council for the largest city in Canada — Toronto — unanimously voted to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats just recently.

These cities acted on a local level to tackle a regional problem: industrialized breeding of kittens and puppies (a. k. a. puppy mills) and pet overpopulation, leading to mass euthanasia in city pounds and shelters. Pet overpopulation is a municipal problem that costs cities and communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in shelter costs, cruelty investigations and euthanasia.

Momo is for adoption through Ginger's Pet Rescue

‘Death-row dogs’

Puppy and kitten mills are found almost anywhere in Washington state and elsewhere in the United States. And while retailers can make considerable profit selling animals, the reality is that breeding dogs and cats is not profitable under humane conditions. Hence, we have seen the rise of puppy and kitten mills, where breeding parents live in small, unsanitary cages, usually outdoors, with no exercise or veterinary care. The conditions are deplorable, and many breeding parents die before they are rescued.

City councils have discovered that by banning retail sales of dogs and cats, they can curb the economic demand for this type of breeding operation and save thousands of animals and thousands of dollars.

Like many surrounding cities, Seattle has no such ban, and backyard puppy mills and crowded shelters are common on the West Coast. Luckily, Seattle is blessed with many rescue groups that tackle pet homelessness.

But one such group, Ginger’s Pet Rescue, is dedicated to specifically saving those “death-row dogs” that are about to be euthanized in shelters from Washington state to Los Angeles and rescuing dogs directly from puppy mills.

Billy Jean, rat terrier mix available for adoption through Ginger's Pet Rescue

Foster care

Ginger’s Pet Rescue was started by Ginger Luke, who owns the Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant in Greenwood. The rescue group receives dogs from high-kill animal shelters and negotiates the release of breeding dogs from puppy mills to end the breeding operation.

If this sounds like an intensive operation, that’s because it is. Rescue dogs must be flown in from other cities or transported via car by volunteers. Each dog is given the care they need through a partnership with Greenwood Animal Hospital, but veterinary costs are high to treat so many dogs, and donations are desperately needed.

Without a centralized shelter, all the dogs are in foster care with more than 100 volunteers working with Ginger’s Pet Rescue. Volunteers provide care, love and reassurance for the dogs, and currently more foster families are urgently needed here in Seattle.

Dedicated volunteers of Ginger's Pet Rescue

While there are a lot of things that make Ginger’s Pet Rescue unique, a conversation with the volunteers reveals a very special group of people. Rescuing dogs from all over the West Coast takes organization and commitment, and a genuine feeling of teamwork was obvious during an interview with Ginger’s volunteers.

Brooke Stanton and her partner, Michelle Smith, are foster “mothers” providing care to two dogs through Ginger’s Rescue. Stanton was originally an adopter from the Rescue when she brought Clyde, as Australian shepherd, into her home. Stanton soon found that she had room for a few more souls in the house.

When Smith decided she was ready to adopt as well, the couple fostered several dogs before they met Bonnie. Now with Bonnie and Clyde at the helm, the family of four continues to give its time and love to help foster more dogs through the Rescue. Thanks to Brooke and Michelle’s foster care, Momo and Billy Jean, both female rat-terrier mixes, are available for adoption through Ginger’s Pet Rescue.

More volunteers needed

Dedicated foster volunteers make the difference between life and death for dogs in crowded, high-kill shelters or confined at puppy mills. And while municipal laws to mitigate both these problems may not yet have come to cities in Washington state, Ginger’s Pet Rescue is putting a dent in pet homelessness and preventing euthanasia by saving one dog at a time.

Currently, foster homes are needed for about 20 “death-row dogs” received by the Rescue every other weekend.

If you cannot foster, Ginger’s Pet Rescue also needs transporters, volunteers and people who can help fund-raise. Currently, the rescue owes around $28,000 in veterinary bills for care for special-needs dogs who are deaf, blind, have only three legs have been hit by cars or need cancer treatment.

For more information or to find dogs to adopt, check out Ginger’s Pet Rescue online at www.gingerspetrescue.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org.

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