Rescue groups lead charge to save shelter dogs

WILSON — Pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, Border collies, beagles and the good ol’ stray mix. Dogs are everywhere in North Carolina and the continuous increase in the animal population has rescue organizations working overtime to help every homeless animal.”This isn’t a choice. Once you see these dogs in the shelter, you have to get them out,” said Laurie Robl Brumfield.In North Carolina, one is hard-pressed to find a county where a rescue organization is not hard at work saving dogs from shelters. In Wilson, Brumfield, founder and director of The Maggie Society of Canine Rehabilitation, Rescue and Education, leads the volunteer efforts of many to save dogs day in and day out.”We focus on helping the 11th-hour dog. Our primary obligation is to save shelter dogs,” said Brumfield.According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s 2015 Public Animal Shelter report, more than 126,400 dogs were taken in the shelters. Of those, dogs were either adopted, returned to their owner, or were among the more than 72,400 who were euthanized.”These dogs just need the opportunity and gift of time,” said Brumfield.The Maggie Society is named after Brumfield’s own rescue dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever that was deemed unadoptable until she came along. Established in 2010, the Maggie Society has saved more than 3,500 dogs. A partnership with Wags Rescue in Horsham, Pa., has a local team traveling once a month to safely deliver dogs to Wags Rescue. Up North, dogs are in short supply, and adopters are waiting in droves.”We are over-dogged in the South,” said Brumfield, “The state needs mandatory spay and neuter laws.”These homeless and shelter dogs aren’t one particular breed, but a variety of mixes including beagles and hounds, pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, poodles, terriers, German shepherds, and the list continues.”Dog ownership is a financial responsibility. We rally against the mentality of dogs as yard art. Dogs should be looked at as part of the family within the home,” said Brumfield.The top reasons dogs are taken to a shelter are due to the lack of spaying and neutering; lack of financial support for medical care; puppies left over from breeders; senior dogs who have grown old; and people getting married, having a baby or their significant other doesn’t like their pet.The Maggie Society will often meet people in the parking lot of the animal shelter to save dogs, for once they go inside the shelter, it means another animal has to be put to sleep to make room. Organizations like Saving Grace in Wake Forest also rescue dogs from rural shelters, care for them, and adopt them out to screened families that will hopefully give them a forever home.The Wilson County Animal Shelter averages a weekly intake of 20 to 40 dogs with only space for 32. Foster families take on six to seven dogs in their homes. Of the 30 dogs brought in to the shelter last week, 10 were owner surrenders. Several of the owner surrenders were making a return trip to the shelter.The animals are starved for attention and love, and are more often than not in need of medical care. It’s a daily battle for rescue organizations to obtain monetary donations to cover the cost of veterinary care. The average cost of a vet visit for a rescue dog ranges between $250-$275, if the animal doesn’t have heartworms. The cost rises to $300 if they do. Dogs are treated for skin and ear infections and even gunshot wounds.”If a dog is sick and the family can’t afford the vet care, then they turn the dog over to the shelter,” said Brumfield.Then there are those dogs who are too sick and need to ride out their last days with a committed foster family willing to provide hospice care.The Maggie Society saves 65 to 80 dogs a month, spending on average $195,000 a year. Fundraisers and donations help cover the costs, but if the money can’t be raised, then the volunteers reach further into their own pockets.Brumfield is a teacher in the public school system who everyday fields calls regarding dogs who need help. Her summer, weekends and evenings are spent saving dogs. She responds to every message.”I’m 24/7 because dogs’ lives are at stake,” said Brumfield. “Dogs can spend only 72 hours in a shelter. When the shelter is full, there is nowhere else for these dogs to go. They have to be rescued or adopted, or they will be put to sleep,” said Brumfield.The Wilson County Animal Shelter took in 1,182 dogs in 2015. Of those, 661 were adopted, 259 were returned to owners, and 262 were euthanized. Numbers across the state were staggering in showing the overpopulation of dogs. Guilford County Shelter took in the most animals at 7,823, with 2,685 saved and 2,709 euthanized. Cumberland County and Charlotte/Mecklenburg brought in more than 6,000 dogs each. While the majority were adopted, more than 1,900 were euthanized at each location.Rescue groups continue to work in saving and finding homes for shelter dogs.Brumfield added, “It takes all of us working together to save these dogs. This is a high-burnout, high-stress, non-paying job.”