Why Volunteers Matter

The volunteers and dedicated staff of Alachua County Animal Services save the lives of dogs every day. They do this by marketing individual dogs on social media and in the community, by playing with and training dogs so that they are more adoptable, and by fostering dogs to make room at Animal Services for incoming strays.

Sometimes, however, the life-saving efforts of staff, volunteers, and fosters with ACAS and local rescues are more dramatic.

ACAS does all they can to avoid euthanizing any but the sickest or most dangerous dogs, but sometimes the shelter gets full. When there aren’t any more kennels, and strays keep coming in, ACAS has no option but to make some hard choices.

When it becomes clear that some dogs need to leave the shelter so that there is room for incoming dogs, ACAS staff flags the dogs that are currently least adoptable because of medical or behavioral reasons. They then reach out to local rescues to save these dogs. These are some of those dogs:

Charlie was old, heartworm-positive, and had teeth filed down, possibly because he was used as a bait dog. He was terrified to be in a crate but loved the company of friendly dogs.

Gabe had been tied to a water main in an outside porch area. He had a skin issue that was either caused by or perpetuated by the motor oil that was being poured on him, and heartworm-positive.

Andy was healthy but showed fear growling on intake, so the medical staff was concerned about handling him and his potential for being adopted.

Old Charlie found a wonderful foster home through Second Chance rescue until he finds his forever home

This is when the volunteer and ACAS staff effort really goes into overdrive. Volunteers and staff take pictures and videos and post in community groups. They ask trainers to do behavioral assessments.

They find out how dogs are with other dogs and cats, on the leash, with toys, and any other pertinent information they can gather. They contact anyone they know at private rescues or who might foster. They pester family and friends to make room for a dog.

Sweet and playful Gabe is recovering nicely from his skin condition in a foster home through Second Chance Rescue and having a great time with his foster mom and new canine sibling. His name is now Batman.

These efforts don’t alway pay off. It is hard to see sweet dogs with a few problems die because there isn’t room for them anywhere. The fact is, however, that as long as there are more dogs born than there are homes for them, dogs at County Animal Services will continue to die.

Happy Andy quickly got over his fear-driven growling with a little bit of extra time from staff and went home with a foster family through Second Chance rescue. He has since been adopted.

The good news is that often, the community really comes through for these dogs. I am so grateful to the people who come out of the woodwork and open their homes to dogs with nowhere to go.

I can’t thank the private rescues like Second Chance Rescue enough for their efforts to finance the medical care for these dogs and their willingness to take dogs that need to be saved, as long as they have a foster home to go to.

Dog rescuing can be a heart-breaking endeavor for staff and volunteers alike. Not all the dogs are saved. Those of us who know the dogs who don’t get a second chance never forget their faces. We never stop feeling like we failed them.

Dogs like Andy deserve a second chance. Thanks to the efforts of ACAS staff and volunteers, he got his. Could you be the one to help the next dog like Andy get his shot at a good life?

But then there are the faces of the dogs who do get that chance. The dogs who find their way into foster and adoptive homes. The smiles and wagging tails as they ride home to new lives inspire us to keep going, keep working for these dogs. Because they deserve it. They’re our best friends, and we owe them.

Please think about volunteering, fostering, adopting, or donating to ACAS or a private rescue. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at all about how to get involved. There are all kinds of ways you can help, from handing out treats to dogs in the kennel, to walking dogs, to making treats or toys. These wonderful dogs need you.

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