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More Dogs In Rescue

5 min read

I got a note from my friend, Mary Dike, with the Mideastern Atlantic Pug Rescue and she told me they have over 70 Pugs in their rescue right now…70! That news truly saddened me, yet I am grateful for amazing volunteers like Mary. So, I “googled” around a bit and found this article I wanted to share….

In Animal Shelters, Reminders of the Economy
Published: May 11, 2008

ON Valentine’s Day, a loved one named Riley found himself being led back into the same noisy institutional building where he was also known as No. 08-447. The floppy-eared 2 ½-year-old Rottweiler-Doberman pinscher mix had been adopted as a puppy a year earlier from the Stamford Animal Care and Control municipal shelter.

Riley’s return wasn’t a behavioral issue; according to Linda Hollywood, Stamford’s animal control officer, he is a sweet, easygoing dog who gets along well with other animals and children.

“He was clearly well cared for and loved by this family,” Ms. Hollywood said. “But their home had just gone into foreclosure, and they were unable to find an apartment that would permit pets. In general, only the more expensive rentals allow them.”

Riley could be a poster pup for a growing problem at animal shelters nationwide and in Connecticut: pets given up for adoption or abandoned when their owners lose homes owing to foreclosure or tough economic times.

The extent of the problem is impossible to quantify, because some people merely abandon pets on the street or decline to give reasons for surrendering them to shelters. But pets left homeless are putting such a strain on shelters that the Humane Society of the United States has begun a nationwide Foreclosure Pets Grant Program to help animal control agencies, shelters and pet owners cope.

“We find kittens in the mailbox, dogs tied to our dumpster,” Ms. Hollywood said. “Some people find it too upsetting to come in. But for care and adoption purposes, we’d at least like to know the animal’s age and vaccination history — whether it gets along with other dogs or cats.”

The more a shelter knows about an animal, Ms. Hollywood said, the easier it is to find a home for it.

Adrienne Stafford, shelter director at PAWS, a privately run shelter in Norwalk, said it has noticed a slight increase in people giving loss of home as a reason for giving up a pet. “We’re also getting more calls from folks worried that they can’t afford to keep their pets.”

Ms. Stafford and the volunteers at PAWS collect donations of food and supplies to help, along with information on financial options, such as no-interest medical care credit cards that can help owners pay veterinary bills over time.

Municipal shelters must accept surrendered pets, whenever they arrive.

“It’s just horrible now — every day,” said Jimmy Gonzalez, animal control officer for Bridgeport. “But honestly, it’s always bad here.” He said that his shelter is the busiest in the state, averaging 5 to 10 “owner releases” a day, and that those numbers have stayed fairly steady over the last few years.

Mr. Gonzalez said that half of his shelter’s population was abandoned cruelly and indifferently, on the streets or in vacated dwellings. But lately, during his intake interviews with people bringing in their pets, he has seen more signs of owners feeling guilty about releases attributed to economic problems.

“People are coming out and saying that they’re losing their homes and can’t keep the pet,” he said. “It’s such a big problem now, they seem to feel able to tell you the exact reason, beyond a simple ‘I’m moving.’ ”

Even the owners showing the steeliest resolve as they fill out the paperwork have difficulty with the questions Mr. Gonzalez gently asks to make sure they want to leave the pet behind. “Usually, they break down,” he said. “Or I find them outside in the back afterward, crying. Really, they’ve just given up a child. I hate to see that pain. I hate to lead the pet away. You can’t imagine the stress in this job.”

Mr. Gonzalez and his staff of three must manage adoptions, intake and care for a capacity of 40 dogs and 25 cats (soon to be increased to 80 dogs and 52 cats in a new facility, without any growth in the staff). He said that nearly every day, his team arrives at work to find dogs tied to the fence outside. They field constant calls from panicked landlords and real estate agents. “They’ll send someone in to clean a just-vacated apartment or home and find five cats or three pit bulls inside.”

Hope does spring eternal, yipping and purring, within the cages. “Adoptions are high here,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Yesterday, 62 people came in to look, and we had 13 adoptions.” Still, as the animals continue to arrive, he feels as if he’s trying to plug an ever-weakening dike. “It’s an awful thing to see. I’ve had tough gang bangers come in to look around and go, ‘Man, is it that bad out there?’ ”

The Internet has been a boon to shelters and rescue groups trying to place animals. And it was a mouse click that changed Riley’s luck. In Wethersfield, Michael Morreale, the owner of a floor covering company, found Riley’s photo and description on He drove to Stamford with Max, the family Doberman, to see how the two might get along.

“I paid $1,000 for Max,” Mr. Morreale said. “He’s a great dog. But I’ve always felt that guys like Riley should have a chance, too.”

Max and Riley hit it off, and off they went to a comfortable home with a big fenced yard; two eager children, Alexa, 9, and Nicholas, 15; and Mr. Morreale and his wife, Annamarie.

“Riley has been a total gentleman from day one,” Mr. Morreale said. “He’s great with the kids, and we often find him in my daughter’s room. He seems to find a lot of comfort there. It makes me think there was another little girl who loved him.”

The name and cellphone number of Riley’s former family cannot be disclosed by the shelter. The family did not respond to an interview request, relayed to them by Ms. Hollywood.

“I think they’re still in Stamford,” she said. “We know Riley’s had a very happy landing. I wish we could be as certain about that family.”


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