If you think you’re bored and are getting cabin fever, imagine all of the animals throughout the county that are stuck in cages and kennels all day. Now imagine the struggle of keeping all of those animals, fed, entertained, healthy and safe on a daily basis. I think some parents out there might have a clue how this feels right now with our new pandemic home schooling in affect. Now imagine you have to take care of 15, 25, 45, or even a hundred plus animals a day. Feeling overwhelmed? That’s how the majority of shelters and animal care personnel are feeling everywhere, especially since the C-19 virus has plagued our world.
Now meet Doris Hatch and her son Warren Hatch of United Dog Rescue in Fort Lauderdale. The only two employees, volunteers and decision makers left of 10 – 35 dogs, daily. That means feeding, bathing, grooming, cleaning kennels, doing laundry, washing bowls, vet visits when needed, dog walking, and socializing… all while trying to run a business that saves the dogs. Which then includes, paperwork, record keeping, adoption appointments, getting the food and supplies needed, finding funding and donors, recruiting and training volunteers, on top of all of the legal things needed to run a business/shelter.
In 2016 Doris took over United Dog Rescue when she realized the dogs were not being taken care of properly. Since then she has made it her mission to save and then adopt out as many dogs as possible. From a starving dog on the street, to an abused dog from a cruel home, to a scared stray at a kill shelter, that needs a fighting chance, to owner surrenders, she has seen and done it all, with the help of donors and volunteers. “All I care about is the well-being of the dogs They are scared, hungry, alone and sometimes sick or hurt, just like many people these days. You can see the fear in their eyes, but when they feel safe and cared for, you can feel the love and gratitude in their heart.”
This virus has hit everyone hard. On top of more dogs being surrendered due to illness, fear, or an owner’s loss of income, all of the shelter volunteers have dropped off due to the stay at home directives. “On a good week I used to have anywhere from two to four volunteers within a seven day period. Since the Covid-19 virus we’ve had only a few people come in for a couple of hours. It’s just enough to get the dogs walked, or the laundry done. I really appreciate it, but we really need more help. It is hard work and we are just keeping up the best we can”.
Sitting in the outdoor play area, Doris spends quality time with Crystal, the beautiful mixed breed mother of a pack of puppies that were rescued from a kill shelter that had no room to take them in. You can see by looking at her that Crystal has been bred multiple times. But that is outshined by the happiness she shows sitting outside in the fresh air and playing like a puppy with anyone that will pick up a toy. After a few moments of play time with her (the best part of this article) she sat down in the shade and took a nap, happy to have some quiet time from the puppies.
The rescue is small, with only eight indoor air conditioned kennels, and lots of cages on hand when needed. Anywhere from one to four dogs can share a kennel depending on the situation, and they like to keep families together whenever possible.
When I asked what keeps them going emotionally every day, with no help, Doris paused and said
“Knowing that we are making a difference. Crystal and all of her beautiful puppies would have been euthanized. But because we got them, here they are running around and playing, happy and healthy, and they will make a great addition to someone’s life one day soon. Every adoption changes lives, both for the dog and the owner. It’s all about getting the right home for the right dog. That makes it worth the work.”
Adoption fees can go anywhere from $100 to $700, depending on the dog. There are times when the dog is older, depressed, has medical needs, or has been there for a while. They will give a dog to a grateful owner, who has the love and the ability to care for the dog and make it part of their family. Those perfect matches are seldom, but worth their weight in gold. “It’s good to know the dog will be happy and in good hands.”
The adoption fees cover all medical needs, which differ with each dog, spaying/neutering, deworming, vaccinations, and being chipped. With puppies, multiply those vaccinations and deworms by three. The most difficult part is that they have no medical facility or staff on site. So, all medical needs must be paid for by United Dog Rescue, so the animal will be healthy and available for adoption. The dogs range in size from 5 lbs. and up, from puppies to older dogs that have many times lost their family due to illness or death, and that was before coronavirus. There are a lot of special dogs with needs, but also a lot of love to be found.
If you are in a position to help, please get involved in any way you can. Aside from financial needs, shelters desperately need volunteers that are 16 years and older, as well as supplies. This is the case at most of the animal shelters across the United States, and was even before C-19 hit us. But now it is needed more than ever.
If you have any of the following to spare, please donate: Cleaning supplies, bleach, bedding, sheets, blankets, towels, animal toys, animal accessories, animal foods and certificates to get food, and most importantly YOU. A few hours a week to help with daily shelter and interact with the animals will make all the difference. The animals are as lonely, scared and bored as you are, so why not be there for each other? Foster opportunities are also available.
If you have the time, (and who doesn’t?) need volunteer hours, or would like to go into the shelter, veterinary or animal field, this is a great opportunity to learn those skills. Get hands on training learning animal care, veterinary care and animal behavior from experts in the field. On the business side learn how to run a business, customer service, vetting skills, record keeping and what it takes to run a successful animal shelter or office. If you can help, please contact Doris: 954-371-0046.
There are over 100 animal organizations throughout Dade, Broward and West Palm. Search Google for shelters and rescues that are closest to you or that speak to your heart, and get involved!
Trust me, the need is great and everything you do will make a difference. Till next time, Be Good, Be Safe and Be Kind!
Kim is a South Florida native with a background in Non-Profit work, Special Events, Public Speaking, Community Outreach, and Development. Oakland Park has been her home for 20 years. She is a creative catalyst who enjoys creating win-win relationships on whatever project she puts her mind to. She is involved in Animal Rescue, Art events, C.E.R.T., and an American Red Cross volunteer. In her spare time, she does photography, writing and the outdoors.