When Blayn Jeffers saw two bedraggled dogs wandering near her children's bus stop, she knew the wayward pooches were lost.
"My kids begged me not to leave the dogs there as they got on the bus," Jeffers said. She corralled the matted Shih Tzu pups and brought them to her home for a meal and some water.
After a daylong exhaustive search, Jeffers found the dogs' owners. "Through a local vet, I ended up finding one of the dog's owners who wanted the dog back, but the other dog's owner simply wasn't interested in keeping her," Jeffers said. "My friend who works at the Humane Society suggested I bring the dog in and assured me the dog would find a good home."
Lily, the dog Jeffers brought to the Humane Society of Broward County, Fla. had many adoption inquiries, but the Davie, Fla mom couldn't stop thinking about the pup.
Her home already housed several pets, including the family dog, but Jeffers couldn't shake the instant bond she felt to the homeless dog.
"We ended up formally adopting Lily after she was groomed and checked at the Humane Society," Jeffers said. "She has only been with our family for a year and fit right in immediately. She's probably the sweetest, most loving dog and our home would not be complete without her."
Local Humane Society Completes Families
Although Jeffers's story may not be the norm, her result is often what most families experience, says Caroline Crane, vice president of education programs and services at Humane Society of Broward County.
"One misconception people have about animal shelters is that our dogs are sick or abused," Crane said. "You see these images on TV that may create this impression that if you go to a shelter you will leave with a damaged animal."
"This could not be further from reality," she said. "The majority of the dogs and cats here are healthy animals. They come to us not through any fault of their own--its usually the owner with problem. What typically happens is the owner may have moved to a place that didn't allow pets, or they lost their job and can no longer care for their pet anymore."
Crane says approximately 30% of the dogs at the Humane Society of Broward County are purebred, and most prospective pet owners can usually find the type of dog they desire. "Sometimes it takes a little bit of patience, but you can find exactly what you are looking for if you can wait," she said.
She explained the detailed process and amount of money and love that goes into each animal prior to adoption. "Once the animal arrives, the dog or cat is evaluated by our vet staff and check head to toe, including the animal's heart and other issues such as hip or joint issues," she said.
Vets will treat issues like ear infections that can be resolved with medication and then document bigger problems that may ultimately need surgical intervention like hip dysplasia.
"Each animal is given the first set of vaccines, dewormed, dogs receive heartworm medication and cats receive feline leukemia medication," Crane said. "They are also checked for parasites, micro chipped and are spayed or neutered."
Ultimately the average cost put into a dog is $1,000; for cats that expense is $500. "If the owner were to receive these services through a vet, they would end up paying considerably more than what they pay to adopt through us," Crane says.
Adoption fees are comparatively lower than pet store or breeder adoptions, too. Dog adoption fee is only $100 and cats can be adopted for $30 (adopt one cat, get one free). Pet parents must be at least 21 years old with a valid I.D.
Who Saved Whom?
If you adopt through your local Humane Society and are looking for a dog with a little training or information, ask about a program like Women Offering Obedience and Friendship (WOOF).
WOOF partners dogs from the Marion County Humane Society with women inmates from Lowell Women's Prison to create a bond and training before adoption.
Julie Drexel, co-founder of WOOF, selects dogs at the Humane Society and partners the pups with special inmate trainers who prepare the dogs for adoption. "We hand select our inmates to work with and document the dog's training during the course of eight weeks," she said. Drexel is also the co-founder of Patriot Service Dogs, an organization that provides canine assistance to veterans who experience trauma post-service, which also works in conjunction with WOOF.
"Training could consist of working with a dog on food aggression or issues with males," Drexel said. "Or in some cases, the inmate is nursing the dog back to health while being treated for heartworm. Also, each inmate maintains a journal so once the dog is ready for adoption, the new owner will receive documentation about their new pet they wouldn't have otherwise."
Drexel said her experience with WOOF has been life changing for all parties. "This program is about second chances for both the dog and the inmate. Society has discarded these lives, but our program gives both our women and the dogs a second chance."
WOOF also provides valuable skills and confidence for both the dogs and the inmates, she said. "We let them know we believe in them and know they can be contributing members to society. So many lives have been changed for the better with this program." Drexel says programs like WOOF exist throughout the U.S. and suggests adoptive parents inquire at their local Humane Society. No additional fee is added to the regular adoption fee if the dog is a WOOF graduate.
Although many new pet owners adopt from the Humane Society, local rescue groups are also a great option. For rescue hero Debbie Atkins-Thorpe, receiving a call to rescue an animal in distress at 1 a.m. isn't uncommon.
Thorpe is one of the many individuals who support local rescues like Home Fur-Ever Rescue in Detroit. She houses and will nurse abused or ill dogs back to health so they can be prepared for adoption.
"I make sure the dogs are healthy and prepared to be adopted," Atkins-Thorpe said. "I bring the dogs back to my home and provide a safe and supportive environment in order for the dog to thrive."
Thorpe has hosted up to 22 dogs at one time and says some dogs experience what it means to live inside a home for the first time. "Some of the cases are very bad, where a dog had been chained up outside for years," Atkins-Thorpe said. "I make sure the dog knows what it means to have love and a safe, comfortable place to call home."
Like the Humane Society, the local rescue groups Atkins-Thorpe works with conduct a full health check, microchips and spays or neuters the dog before the animal is available for adoption. "The cost for these otherwise expensive services is included in the adoption fee, which could range anywhere from $150 to $500,"
Atkins-Thorpe rescues and supports the dogs entirely through donation support. "Recently, I transitioned to rescue full time," she said. "This isn't the kind of business you get rich from but I wouldn't have it any other way. Rescuing dogs and seeing them find love and then a safe new home is more rewarding than anything I could do."