Leader Blues

Friday, January 15, 2010

TOP STORY >> Woman goes extra mile to save pets

Joy McManus is shown with Vayle, a pit bull who had been hit by a car. The dog was transported to LaMancha Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania and found a new home.

By JEFFREY SMITH

Leader staff writer

More than a dozen dogs at the Beebe Animal Shelter were recently given a second chance at finding new homes at pet-rescue centers in the eastern United States.

Joy McManus of Romance is a volunteer who organized more than 60 drivers to transport 17 homeless dogs to three rescue organizations in New York and Pennsylvania.

A team of volunteer drivers relayed the dogs from Arkansas eastward. The trip had 20 legs with three drivers for each leg.

McManus had to find overnight hosts for the dogs, including a mother dog with a litter of 5-week-old puppies, and their drivers for the two-day trip the week before Christmas.

Delayed by a snowstorm, McManus had to find temporary foster homes in the Little Rock area for the dogs until the trip was rescheduled on Dec. 26.

McManus’ involvement with shelter rescues began in August 2006, when she lived in Texas. She was a junior high school art and journalism teacher and a Web site designer. She volunteered at a shelter in Texas.

Her plan was to photograph dogs at the shelter and post them online to help increase the local pet-adoption rates.

While in Texas, she met someone who worked many years in “companion” animal-rescue work. She learned about rescuing dogs and cats scheduled for euthanasia at animal shelters with low adoption rates.

McManus moved to the Beebe area in 2007 with her boyfriend, Doug Hall. Hall was earning his bachelor’s degree and had parents who living in the area.

She received an e-mail a few weeks earlier about pets in need of rescuing at the Beebe shelter. McManus met with Beebe animal control officer Horace Taylor in February 2007 to talk about rescue work at the shelter, which is located at the city landfill off Hwy. 31.

McManus said she began managing the volunteer rescue effort at the Beebe shelter in March 2007.

According to McManus, Taylor agreed to try things out as he did not like to see the dogs euthanized.

She said, “the initial and ongoing efforts over the past years have resulted in a shift from nearly upward of 95 percent euthanizations of all unclaimed, adoptable strays to nearly zero, with the exception to a large spike in the impounded dog population during the summer of 2009, when rescue acquisition hit an all-time low due to the recession.”

In 2009, McManus moved 129 dogs from Beebe to rescue organizations across the nation. Since her work began two years ago, she has relocated nearly 400 dogs.

McManus does not find homes for the dogs staying at the Beebe shelter. She meets the dogs, takes their photos and sees how they interact over several days. She learns about the dogs’ personalities and behaviors.

She then posts an e-mail plea to nonprofit pet-rescue organizations about the dogs. The information is then posted online on discussion groups and forums.

McManus then communicates with the directors of the rescue centers. When a rescue organization agrees to take in one of the dogs from the Beebe shelter, McManus arranges for the dogs to be checked out by a vet. McManus takes the dogs to the veterinary clinic with the assistance of fellow volunteer Glenda Cranford of North Little Rock.

Then McManus works on planning the routes to rescue centers on the East Coast, Minnesota and Arizona.

To prepare the dogs for the trip, McManus makes sure the dogs have all their paperwork and health certificates so they can be transported across state lines legally. The drivers have an information sheet and a photo of each dog being transported in their vehicle.

The driver’s contact information is a record for each leg of the trip driven.

She then makes sure the dogs have collars or leashes that buckle, food and medicine if needed.

McManus is in constant communication with the dog transporters until the dogs arrive at the rescue organizations.

The transport team is a volunteer effort.

McManus said, “It is their gas money, their time and their vehicle wear and tear they are sacrificing, because they want to help companion animals get a second chance.

“They are the unsung heroes to complete the cycle from a municipal kill-shelter to rescue organizations.”

Moving 17 dogs was the largest transport McManus has undertaken.

She said, “Routine transports involve four or five dogs at a maximum. Circumstances surrounding this particular transport involved the necessity of removing all impounds from the shelter prior to the animal-control officer’s two week, holiday vacation departure coupled with several previously pulled groups of dogs that could not be transported at the time of the pull due to health reasons.”

With one group of dogs, a mother recently gave birth to puppies. The puppies could not travel to the East Coast until they were old enough to be moved from car to car safely. A second group of puppies needed two sets of booster shots over three weeks for their immune systems.

Intake coordinator Alison Abraham at LaMancha Animal Rescue in Unionville, Pa., said the organization has taken in dogs from Beebe along with dogs from other states.

She said up north, “People do not let their dogs run loose that are not spayed or neutered. A family dog would be fixed by the time they are 6 months old unless bought for breeding.

“Most dogs sleep in dog beds in the living room, bedroom or kitchen, but tied up to the dog house (outside) is very rare.”

Abraham said in the northern states there is a larger adoption rate and a lesser amount of puppies than in the South. She said people would rather adopt than purchase a dog from a breeder. People feel they are helping out an animal that didn’t have a home that would still be in a shelter.

Abraham said many families are looking for a Labrador retriever or a hound for a good family dog. She said pit bulls and pit bull mixes make up much of the populations at animal shelters in the North.

She said one of the reasons is that pit bulls are a status symbol to inner-city youth.

A majority of the dogs McManus transports from Beebe to pet rescue shelters are Labrador retriever, hound mixes, terrier mixes and stray pit bulls.

PetsAlive is a no-kill animal shelter in Middletown, N.Y. The organization takes in animals from all across the U.S. from shelters that are euthanizing dogs due to lack of space at their facilities.

Executive director Kerry Clair said the rescue center has between 60 to 80 dog adoptions a month.

“We have a 100-percent adoption rate. It is very rare to have a dog more than a month that was pulled from the South,” Clair said.

She said the dogs are adopted within a week after coming off quarantine. Five dogs from the Beebe shelter that were transported to PetsAlive during the weekend after Christmas have already found new homes.

Clair said there are more resources for pet owners in the North. Many organizations offer low-cost spay and neutering from $50 or less. She said there are more humane education programs in the school systems about pet sterilization.

She said, “If the legislatures in the South would recognize that it is cheaper to spay a female dog than to euthanize her offspring, they would offer low-cost spay and neuter clinics to the communities.”