Wiregrass Humane Society
DOTHAN, ALABAMA (Dothan Eagle) - Linda Maddox found herself explaining what it means when a dog is to “go down” to her 6-year-old granddaughter, Pace.
“They won’t get to live anymore because nobody wants them,” Maddox said.
“What will happen?” Pace asked.
They’ll go and live in doggy heaven, Maddox gently explained.
For 16 years, Maddox has rescued stray dogs. At any given time, she may have up to 20 or 30 rescue dogs on her large farm off U.S. 84 West outside of Dothan. Three large fenced enclosures become their homes until she can find them homes. Each day she cares for the dogs, feeding them and cleaning their pens.
“It really has blossomed into something that’s a little overwhelming, especially monetarily,” Maddox admitted. “But my thing is if it comes my way, I can’t turn it away.”
Maddox is in a unique position to help dogs nobody else wants. Her large farm allows the space, and Maddox makes sure they have the proper vaccinations and are spayed or neutered.
But for all the dogs Maddox takes in, there are many more out there still in need of a second chance – even if it’s only a temporary fix. And that’s where foster homes for unwanted dogs and cats can make the difference, local animal advocates said.
“I think the community is starting to become more aware of the importance of spaying and neutering to overcome this overpopulation in the pet population,” said Nikki Wyatt, director of the Wiregrass Spay and Neuter Alliance. “We still have a good road ahead of us to get it under control.”
Groups like Save-A-Pet and the Wiregrass Humane Society work to find homes for unwanted animals that end up in Dothan’s animal shelter, where they face euthanasia if they’re not adopted. Save-A-Pet, for instance, holds adoption events each Saturday at PetSmart in Dothan or will arrange to have dogs transferred to no-kill shelters in other states where the pet population is not so out of control and where there’s greater demand for adoptable dogs.
In today’s economy, people sometimes can no longer afford to take care of their pets, which adds to the numbers of unwanted animals. People who might be willing to adopt or foster animals don’t do so because they’re afraid they won’t be able to afford the costs. Then, there are owners who do not spay or neuter their pets. Their pets breed, further adding to the problem.
The Wiregrass Spay and Neuter Alliance opened three years ago this month as an effort to provide low-cost spaying and neutering. Since it opened, the alliance has performed 18,000 surgeries.
“We’re starting to see a small decline, but there are still so many unwanted pets,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt offers numbers to illustrate the problem. Take a city block with 30 people, four dogs and four cats. In five years, that same city block can become filled with 30 people, 888 dogs and 2,664 cats.
Marcella West, vice president of Save-A-Pet, said the PetSmart adoptions have fallen off over the years.
“At one time people were standing in line to adopt dogs,” West said. “We’d do 25 adoptions in one Saturday. Now, we’re lucky to adopt out two. That’s had a big impact on us.”
So far this year, Save-A-Pet has adopted out 65 dogs and transported 553 dogs to shelters in other states. The organization has adopted out 142 cats.
“We’re always looking for fosters,” West said.
Foster homes are particularly needed for female dogs or cats expecting litters. Of course, there are a lot of variables to being a foster home for unwanted pets. There’s no way to know how long the animal will need to be fostered.
Maddox began rescuing animals by accident. Out for a run one day, a small dog – dirty and skinny – came up to her. She tried to find its home, but nobody claimed the female poodle-Maltese mix. Sixteen years later, the dog – named Snickelfritz – is still with Maddox.
Most of the dogs Maddox takes in are medium-sized to large dogs. Out of 200 dogs she has found homes for, Maddox said she’s only had to take back four or five. She keeps a running ad in the newspaper seeking good homes. In most cases, she said she’s found wonderful homes for the dogs, but she doesn’t hesitate to turn someone away if she thinks they’re adopting for the wrong reasons or won’t provide a suitable home.
Maddox spends a lot of time socializing the dogs and trying to identify any aggression problems.
The dog rescuer, who used to breed golden retrievers and Springer spaniels, said she didn’t always understand the problem of pet overpopulation or how spaying and neutering even worked.
Today, she won’t even consider breeding dogs.
She knows there are some dogs in her care that will remain with her. Like Stanley, a dog adopted from the shelter only to be returned with a broken leg. Something about his face just got to Maddox. She cared for him while his leg mended. With half of one ear missing, a scar along one eye and a limp from the leg break, Maddox is realistic about whether Stanley will be adopted.
“But I love Stanley,” she said. “So he’ll be a keeper because I’m sure no one will want Stanley.”
After 16 years of rescuing dogs and finding them homes, Maddox said it’s still hard to see a dog go even if it is going to a good home.
“Part of my heart leaves every time one of them goes,” she said.
Copyright 2013 Dothan Eagle
Updated 410 days ago Article ID# 1534240
Wiregrass Humane Society