In all her years of rescue work, the one dog Carolyn Janak will never forget is Spade, a Giant Schnauzer who’d been kept in a small crate for up to 21 hours a day for much of her young life. When Spade was relinquished to Janak’s Denver, Colo., nonprofit HT-Z Giant Schnauzer Rescue and released into the yard, “she ran like a Greyhound for about 20 minutes … it was the most freedom she had ever had,” recalls Janak, who for two decades has dedicated herself to rescuing (and living with) Giant Schnauzers. Spade, then about four years old and suffering from chronic ear infections, initially wanted little to do with people. But over time, with medical care, patience and love, she was successfully rehabilitated, and Janak placed her in a home with a couple who had a huge back yard and a male Wheaten Terrier to be her companion.
All neglected, abused and abandoned animals deserve such a happy ending, and thanks to the hard work of animal rescuers nationwide, many are given the chance to find loving homes for life. A subset of the animal rescue movement, breed rescues devote all of their resources to a particular type of dog. Depending on the group’s size, it might also take in related breeds, as does Illinois Birddog Rescue, which is devoted to both Pointers and Setters; if resources allow, many breed rescue groups will also take in mixes of their breed.
According to the HSUS , one in four shelter dogs is purebred, and many shelters have developed official in-house purebred rescue programs. For example, at the Louisiana SPCA , rescue coordinator Laurie Weisberg keeps track of purebred dogs who come into the shelter and contacts breed rescue groups immediately. This gives the group precious time to find a foster home, raise funds needed for temporary boarding or make travel plans for the rescue representative. If the dog is a stray and not claimed after the mandatory hold period, a breed rescue volunteer will pull him from the shelter.
When a purebred dog comes into the Roscommon County Animal Shelter in Prudenville, Mich., animal control officer DeeDee Mendyk and a volunteer contact the appropriate breed rescue. She believes this gives the dog a better chance of being matched with the right home, because the rescue understands its breed’s particular traits and needs. It also frees up space for another dog; when a group pulls a purebred from a shelter, it is potentially saving two lives.
The Roscommon shelter often takes in abandoned purebred dogs such as Beagles and German Shorthaired Pointers after their respective rabbit- and bird-hunting seasons are over and the hunters no longer have a use for them. Mendyk has seen an increase in Labrador Retrievers since the release of the Marley & Me book and movie, and shelters across the country are expecting to see more Great Danes when the Marmaduke movie comes out later this year. Unfortunately, not all shelters are willing to coordinate with breed rescue groups. “Some are just dog pounds— it’s a misnomer to call them shelters,” says Mary DuPont, a Texas rancher and founder of the national nonprofit rescue group Catahoula Rescue. “They’re run by a sheriff, or deputies run them. They give the animals the legal amount of time and don’t want to fool around with rescue. People need to realize that calling it an animal shelter doesn’t necessarily make it a safe haven.”
Who Does Breed Rescue?
Hundreds if not thousands of people across the country volunteer their free time to breed rescue. They can be categorized into three general groups: independent rescuers, nonprofit rescue groups and American Kennel Club (AKC ) parent clubs.
Typically, individuals partial to a particular breed stumble into rescue work. A friend or family member knows they have a soft spot for a breed and brings a dog to their attention, or they happen to learn that a dog of “their” breed is at the local shelter. Sometimes they’re shelter volunteers who recognize that certain purebreds are not popular adoption candidates due to their size or reputed temperament. They help just one purebred dog; then a second one shows up. Before they know it, they’re breed rescuers.