For more than a decade, the crew of Rescue Rebuild have been crisscrossing the country, making lives better for shelter animals from coast to coast. Though you may not have heard of them, they are one of the best friends that animals in need, and the shelter teams who love them, could ever have.
Happy animals are more adoptable, and the Rescue Rebuild crew and founder Bryna Donnelly are focused on doing everything they can to get more animals into loving homes. After identifying a shelter or rescue in need of building repairs and improvements, additional exercise yards, cat enrichment areas, meet-n-greet rooms, etc., the team actually goes to each site and repairs, improves, and beautifies the shelter and grounds, thereby improving the lives of the adoptable pets, shelter staff and volunteers. All work is completed by Rescue Rebuild and community volunteers, with some financial assistance through public donations and corporate sponsors.
This past week they were in Tucson, AZ, where their crew joined forces with 450 associates from MARS‘ Petcare division. The MARS team was in town for their annual sales meeting, and, as part of their team-building tradition of community service, MARS and Rescue Resource spent the day building places for pets to play at the Pima County Animal Shelter and Christopher Columbus dog park.
They assembled agility equipment for the play yards, put down new turf, painted, baked tasty treats for the residents, and made new cat scratchers.
The Care Center Director said,
“Every project they’re doing directly impacts the dogs and cats at our shelter (and) are going to be used for many years to come.”
That same week, Rescue Rebuild was in Nashville, TN, building 50 feral cat feeding stations and 50 cat shelters with the city’s Pet Community Center and local MARS volunteers. Nashville’s Pet Community Center works towards ending the pet overpopulation problem by offering free or low-cost spay/neuter, rabies shots, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) services to their community. The feeding stations and shelters were placed in established cat colonies that were already s/n.
Women in abusive situations may feel they have nowhere to turn, especially when there are pets involved. They refuse to leave their pets behind, and not every city has pet-friendly women’s shelters. For the Longview project, the construction engineers handily converted three spaces into welcoming, pet-friendly rooms, complete with outdoor runs, in a women’s shelter. By creating spaces where they could live together in an existing shelter, women in that city are now able to leave abusive situations without fear of what might happen to their pets.
100 shelter renovations in 48 states in 10 years deserves a big WOW! ‘Duke’, Rescue Rebuild’s all-purpose tool transport vehicle, has been a trooper, racking up the miles. But it’s time for Duke to be retired, and, in order for Rescue Rebuild to be able to continue transporting their tools of the trade to help the nation’s shelters, they need to find a replacement. If the truck dies, the work stops. If you can help them reach their goal, you’ll be helping animals around the country as well. Please click on this link if you can help in any way.
Rescue Rebuild is a volunteer and community-driven nonprofit program of GreaterGood.org and The Animal Rescue Site. Are you a shelter in need of assistance from Rescue Rebuild? Perhaps you’d like to volunteer your services or would like to participate in a team-building experience. This link will take you to all the resources on Rescue Rebuild’s website.
Like that? Check out ShelterMe.tv’s newest episode here, or click here and learn about how to safely organize a doggie play group in a shelter! And don’t forget to subscribe!
Change is in the wind for a 30-year-old animal shelter in Central Florida. And a great deal of the credit for that goes to animal activists in the community that shelter serves.
In October 2016, acting on letters and calls from citizens asking for better care for the animals at Orange County Animal Services in Orlando, Florida, Orange County Commissioners met to discuss the lack of air conditioning and resulting high temperatures in the dog section of the shelter.
With no air conditioning in that area, the ancient fans, when they’re working, just push around the hot air. Not the ideal situation for the animals or potential adopters. Last summer, records show that temperatures were in the 90’s in that part of the shelter. On the average, this ‘open admission’ shelter takes in 50 animals per day, and those numbers may double during the summer months.
The County started listening to the advocates, and, just four months after their initial discussions, improving the shelter is slated to become a reality.
In February, Commissioners approved spending 1-point-1 million dollars on the current facility. $350,000 of this will be set aside to improve the ventilation system, with construction slated to be completed by summer 2017. They are already taking bids on the project! There are also plans to expand the outdoor play area as well as the area where many cats are housed.
And even bigger changes are just over the horizon. Over the past few years, a number of plans, including renovating the current facility, remodeling and opening an additional location, or relocating some of the animals to a different building had all been discussed in an effort to expand services for the growing community. When Commissioners voted in February to upgrade the cooling system, they also started discussions about building a NEW shelter! The plan is to build on the current site, possibly in 2020.
At the time of the February meeting, Christopher Hunter, Director of Health Services Department, stated,
“We have the support of our Mayor and the board, and we hope to, in next several years, build a new shelter that really will accommodate the needs of what our shelter’s become.”
In 2016, OCAS was awarded “Outstanding Agency of the Year” from the Florida Animal Control Association. Despite the lack of renovation inside the kennels, through upping their awareness in the community, devoted volunteers and a boost in rescue partnerships, the shelter has managed to increase adoption numbers over the past several years, while keeping adoption costs down. All the animals pictured here are adoptable at OCAS, at 2769 Conroy Rd., Orlando, FL. The phone number is (407)836-3111 – click here or on their photos to see more!
Of the plan for a new shelter, Orange County Mayor Theresa Jacobs says, “it takes the whole board, but the board has been extremely supportive.” Not only a board, Mayor Jacobs – it takes a village!
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The stigma of being a black dog in a shelter is universal. For some reason, dogs with black coats have slimmer chance of finding their new furever home than that of their light-colored cousins. Perhaps they don’t show up as well in intake photos or on social media posts. And if you’re a black dog on the larger side, you’ve got it even rougher.
A posse of caring Scottish craftswomen recently found out about what’s known as ‘black dog syndrome‘ and creatively found a way to help end discrimination in their local shelter. To celebrate their 100-year anniversary, the Aberdeenshire Federation SWI, thought this would be a great cause so they took up their knitting needles! On behalf of the animals at the Scottish SPCA, they’ve created stylish, eye-catching sweaters for the black dogs at that shelter.
Scottish SPCA Animal Rescue and Rehoming Superintendent tells ShelterMe.tv,
“It’s known that dogs with black coats, with the exception of black labs, are less likely to be rehomed.
“We are hoping these brightly colored woolen coats will make them stand out and they are already proving a conversation point. We hope that they also play a part in helping us rehome all of our dogs, regardless of the color of their coat, quickly and effectively.”
Dogs of every breed, like Blue, above, deserve that second glance – and a new home!
Check out Sasha, a staffie from Inverness. Doesn’t she looking stunning and smart in her knitted jumper? Sasha has been waiting for her new home for 202 days….
Shelter animals the world over would love to catch the eye of a new family, and this is one way, if you have the time and the talent, you can help them out. Here’s a link to some patterns. Like many shelters, the Scottish SPCA receives no government funding; you can find out more about them here.
Pets are family members. But who among us has not paid a visit to the veterinarian or local pet supply shop, seen the charges for our fur-buddy, sighed, then looked down at them and said, “too bad you can’t get a job…”
Well, this week one state assemblyman in California introduced a bill that would give pet owners a break on veterinary expenses, allowing dog and cat owners in that state to write off half the money they spend on vet costs, up to $2,000 per year.
Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, who is pet parent to two dogs and two cats, drafted the legislation. If passed, Assembly Bill 942 would amend the state’s Revenue and Taxation code, take effect immediately, and remain a law until 1/1/2023, at which time it could be repealed, with any unused credits rolling over. The tax credit would be in effect for each of those six years.
This bill is for qualified veterinary medical services, including, but not limited to, vaccinations, annual check-ups, surgeries, and drug prescriptions. For those who can’t afford the luxury of pet insurance, this may mean NOT having to make a gut-wrenching decision if your pet becomes ill, as well as cut down on shelter turn-ins AND increase adoptions!
Mathis said, “This is an incentive to do the surgery and keep them in the family. It helps everyone across the state, every family and every pet lover out there.”
Always keeping his eye on how to best support his country, Assemblyman Mathis served for 10 years as a Sergeant in the Army National Guard, including two tours in Iraq. He was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving severe injury in a roadside attack. He’s still giving back to his country and community.
His proposed legislation may be scheduled to be heard in committee in March. To send your comments to your representative in CA, click here! If passed, not only would pet parents save some bucks on their furkids, but it would go a long way towards guaranteeing healthier, happier pets in that state. And that’s an idea everyone can get behind!
Like that? Subscribe to ShelterMe.tv here, and tune in to watch our newest episode, Shelter Me: Community Matters, where we take you to an animal shelter where teens provide comfort to dogs and cats waiting to be adopted by reading to them!
On February 13, 2017, a coalition of animal advocates filed this lawsuit, petitioning the USDA and APHIS to restore the crucial records they removed from a government website a few weeks ago. Though not part of the lawsuit, the HSUS is also considering legal action. Here’s what happened to prompt the lawsuit.
You might believe that ‘studies’ such as the Draize eye irritancy test or beagle testing labs are a thing of the past. Sadly, even though non-animal methods are available and utilized, these facilities still exist. Animal welfare organizations were able to track and take action on such activities and facilities through a variety of methods. One primary tool they use is the USDA’s website.
Approximately 9,000 facilities such as animal shelters, puppy mills, labs, zoos, tourist attractions, pet stores, factory farms, breeders, animal transporters, animal importers, Nosey the Elephant, etc., had information vital to animal welfare organizations on the site. This information was reported and available to the public and government watchdog groups, until a few weeks ago when it was suddenly removed. The official reason for the removal, according to multiple sources, is highly disputed.
As seen here, the White House ordered the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to censor and remove every single bit of information regarding animal welfare, including animal welfare inspection reports, enforcement records, etc., from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website. The posted reason for removing the records,
“remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”
In reality, inspection reports contain little, if any, personal information about individuals. Reports already redact locations of facilities to protect privacy.
These records are taxpayer funded. We have a right to see these records. The spokesperson claims that a FOIL(Freedom of Information Act) can be submitted for the records, but these take weeks, months, sometimes years to receive. The animals in peril simply do not have the luxury of time. If any facility begins using animals in any way, no one will know. People breaking animal welfare laws are now hidden. They are unaccountable for their crimes.
Here are the responses from animal welfare groups:
Humane Society of the United States: “This action benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know.”
Stop Puppy Mills Campaign: “The public is no longer going to know which commercial dog breeders, horse trainers, which zoos, which research labs have horrible animal welfare track records.”
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: “All personal and location information was censored before documents were publicly disclosed, so it’s unclear how the wholesale removal of these records demonstrates a commitment to transparency or privacy rights.”
Last Chance For Animals: “the USDA is committing censorship in its most insidious form, and protecting animal abusers instead of the animals that we pay them with our tax dollars to protect.”
Farm Sanctuary: “(we) encourage transparency and accountability… This change enables animal abusers, and we urge that it be reconsidered.”
Companion Animals Project: “Without a database, the public cannot easily discover if a dog or cat breeder has been abusing animals at their facility.”
Mercy For Animals: “it could just be a matter of time before Humane Methods of Slaughter Act records are removed as well.”
Born Free USA: “The public has a right to know what the government is doing, and this is a blow to both government transparency and to animal advocates’ ability to hold animal abusers publicly accountable.”
Animal Welfare Institute: “AWI condemns in the strongest possible terms APHIS’ abhorrent decision.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is “appalled by the sudden blackout. Revoking public access to these documents ensures that illegal mistreatment, which would otherwise be targeted by animal protection groups, stays hidden from the public.” Says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells:
“Scrubbing Animal Welfare Act inspection reports from the internet is an affront to the transparency vital to our democracy.”
The White House pointed to the previous administration as the guilty party, claiming that the review began in 2016, before the current administration came into office. However, a spokesman for Tom Vilsack, President Obama’s agriculture secretary, revealed that their administration had decided NOT to remove the reports; it was “not required.”
“Same option given 2 past admin. We refused. #transparency,” tweeted Matthew Herrick.
It’s probable that the reason the information was expunged was due to recent legislative activity by the White Coat Waste Project. WCWP is a non-profit campaign exposing and eliminating the government’s $12 billion+ taxpayer-funded animal experimentation budget; a taxpayer-watchdog attacking the root of the animal experimentation problem: wasteful government spending.
According to the WCWP, only two types of documents were found on the USDA site: annual reports, which are self-reported by facilities, and inspection reports, filed by USDA inspectors.
A day before the USDA site went dark, WCWP introduced a bill called the FACT Act (HR 816 – Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing). This bipartisan bill would increase transparency about secretive, expensive and ineffective animal tests for cosmetics, foods and other substances conducted by government agencies. It was thought a bill to reduce wasteful spending would appeal to a conservative White House and foster a new pro-animal coalition that refused to support ‘junk science’.
The FACT Act was introduced on February 2 with much support from both sides of the aisle. On February 3, the USDA site went dark.
One organization happy for the change of tide is The Calvary Group, who, among other things, works to protect private ownership of wild animals including bears, big cats and animals forced to perform like Nosey the Elephant. Their bio states, “The Cavalry Group exists as a firewall between our members and the bully-tactics of animal rights groups.” According to Mindy Patterson, president of the Calvary Group,
“animal rights groups… are nefariously using private confidential information handed to them by the USDA.”
They also believe the USDA has ‘succumbed to the pressure of animal rights extremists by hiring them into key USDA positions.’
There are currently a number of animal welfare cases being presented in the courts, including one for horse soring. President Trump has put a freeze on any legislation protecting Tennessee Walking Horses. All information regarding the Horse Protection Act (HPA) is now hidden from taxpayers. The Calvary Group applauded this recent action on the part of the President, claiming the legislation was “deceptive.”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is also slamming this decision, stating, “AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos pride themselves in not only adhering to, but also in exceeding, the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations.. earning the public’s trust and confidence… which is eroded by efforts that are seemingly intended to shield information from public view.”
As ShelterMe.tv previously reported, Brian Klippenstein, a defender of puppy mills, is part of President Trump’s advisory committee. Immediately following his inauguration, other information was removed from the Whitehouse.gov website, including information related to LGBTQ issues, civil rights, healthcare, climate change data, veterans assistance and Spanish translations of each area.
Last year the FBI began tracking data on animal abuse crimes. Will removal of pertinent information from this website affect animal advocates’ wish to create a national database of animal abusers? Only time will tell.
You can add your name to support the FACT Act here. You can add your name to support these petitions to restore the USDA site on these links: ForceChange.com, Change.org, the Petition Site, Care2 and HSUS. For more information on the White Coat Waste Project, click here. Here is the phone number to contact the USDA during normal business hours, E.S.T., to politely ask them to restore the site: 844-820-2234.
Please email complaints to: customerservicecallcenter@APHIS.USDA.gov. Send an email to APHIS on this link, or write to the following address:
Administrator Kevin Shea
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Ask the USDA to put back the information data base. Join the fight with any of these wonderful organizations who advocate for animals. For all of you who’ve said, ‘don’t let politics divide us, we’re here for the animals…,’ it’s time to use your voice for these voiceless animals. Please.
Animals and humans both suffer from anxiety – it’s very common, and nothing to be ashamed of, though sometimes you can feel overwhelmed. Veterans returning from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder might seek out counseling or receive medication. But what about something that doesn’t require a prescription? Here is one high-flying option!
Many of us have heard of or met therapy dogs, even therapy horses and cats… but what about therapy birds? Meet the feathered friends of Birds of Paradise Sanctuary & Rescue, located in Bradenton, Florida.
Founded in 2011, they are one of two organizations in the U.S., the other being Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, in Los Angeles, who have found a way to rescue birds who have been abused, abandoned or owner-surrendered, and assist military veterans at the same time.
Dogs speak with their eyes and body language; many birds can verbally express their empathy, which can be lifesaving. Jim Eggers, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, would have loud mood swings. When he felt one coming on, he would start saying “calm down”. His bird, an African Grey Parrot named Sadie, saw what was happening, and learned how to say “calm down”. When Eggers hears Sadie, he comes out of his state and regains control.
BOP founder, Debbie Huckaby, is not surprised, “They can understand speech and they can speak back to you. The parrots are very intuitive so instinctively if there’s something wrong with you they’re going to pick up on that.”
Parrots are intelligent creatures who can bring joy, as long as they have owners willing to spend the time and energy to care for these empathetic birds. And many come to BOP with severe issues. Birds are flock animals, and may become depressed from loneliness, pulling out their feathers. There is currently a waiting list of 40 parrots looking for sanctuary, from Ohio and North Carolina alone.
One veteran who spends much of his time alongside Ms. Huckaby, caring for the BOP birds, is Greg Para. Para, who battles PTSD after serving in Afghanistan, couldn’t go out in crowds. “I couldn’t go out with cars trying to just cut in. It created a lot of anxiety because that’s what they would do in Afghanistan, try to cut into the convoys and separate them and blow up and all that stuff.”
And then he got involved with BOP:
“The more time I spent with the birds it kind of got me out of that … my nightmares became less.”
BOP offers their PTSD program to help treat veterans like Para. The winged creatures, able to interact with other birds, flourish under their care, while the vets bond with the intelligent animals. Says Para,
“The more they get to know you, they let their guard down they start healing, you let your guard down, you forget that you are wondering if there’s a package over there that’s gonna blow up.”
As part of their program, BOP also shelters the birds of deployed veterans, such as little Paco, giving military families peace of mind. They know their feathered family members will be safe till they return from their deployment or out of country travel.
Like any rescue, they heavily on volunteers – many of whom are also veterans. One survivor who has found solace among parrots says, ‘‘Their spirit gives me the will to get up and do it another day. They’re all victims here. Kind of like what the veterans have been through, in a way.’’
BOP is a safe haven for abused or unwanted exotic birds, regardless of species, age, special needs or behavior issues. If you’re interested in assisting, please click here or here, Paypal: email@example.com or snailmail: Birds of Paradise Sanctuary, 17020 Waterline Road, Bradenton, FL 34212.
PAGO, Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, wants to help end pet homelessness. Today the Central Florida-based facility launched their Apartment Registry Program, a partnership focused on expanding the amount of pet-friendly rental properties in the area.
The program will give expanded exposure to participating properties who will, as partners, provide additional housing options to families with pets including cats and dogs, regardless of breed or size.
Says Stephen Bardy, Executive Director of PAGO,
“Of the 400 calls received daily, 20 percent are from pet owners inquiring about relinquishing their companions due to rental property restrictions on breed and size.”
In 2016, 1800 pets were surrendered to PAGO from families who were unable to find pet-friendly housing, or had landlord issues.
Of this groundbreaking initiative, PAGO’s Cathy Rodgers says,
“We’re trying to reduce the number of dogs surrendered to shelters due to housing issues. We’re trying to jump ahead of the curve and get some results!”
PAGO has designed the program to give increased visibility to housing partners who agree to lift breed and size restrictions on pets by giving them direct links on PAGO’s website. Partners will also get signage at PAGO facilities, so pet families who stop in will easily see available options if they are exploring new housing options.
They will also offer special educational and/or medical resources for residents of each complex, with the additional opportunity for residents to volunteer at PAGO facilities.
PAGO estimates that more than half-a-million residents are looking for affordable pet-friendly housing at any moment – 13 complexes are already on board!
PAGO has two locations in Central Florida; each provide education, outreach, veterinary care, adoption and shelter facilities for Florida residents. For more information, please go to petallianceorlando.org. PAGO‘s available adoptables, including Nena, featured above, can be seen seven days a week, from noon to 6 PM.