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A Day in the Life of a Detroit Rescue: DAWG

Submitted by: Kelley LaBonty CRNA, PhD and DAWG Founder (Guest Blogger)

In Detroit, a poor automotive economy and a dwindling population have resulted in a rise in crime and dog fighting. Animals have no value in this harsh world and are tossed out without food, water, and shelter to fend for themselves on the brutal streets. Learn about the horrific realities through the eyes of Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG) volunteers as they comb the desolate streets to help the thousands of homeless animals in need.

It was another day of below freezing temperatures when the volunteers of Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG) packed up their vehicles with food, straw and water to drive to the once bustling and now forgotten city of Detroit, Michigan. With a poor automotive economy and a dwindling population, crime and dog fighting are on the rise. Animals have no value and are tossed out without food, water, and shelter to fend for themselves on the brutal streets. Dedicated DAWG volunteers regularly comb the desolate streets to help the thousands of homeless animals in need.

As a foster based rescue with over 100 volunteers they are always full, and since foster homes are limited, they must prioritize which animals are in emergent need of medical care and which won’t last another night in these temperatures. In just two quick hours the volunteers round up 15 dogs and 1 cat and head to the vet to have them examined and receive the care they need. They fret as they make the drive, as they know too well that some in the group will be heartworm positive and may have parvo. History repeats itself as the ones with chains and embedded collars will require surgery, the Great Dane shot in the leg may also, and the one with its teeth ground down will take extensive rehabilitation from being used as a bait dog.

The volunteers worry about funds to care for them all. As seasoned rescuers they know that getting them off the streets is the easy part and the rehabilitation to make them adoptable is the painstakingly hard part. The severely emaciated will take time to recover and trust and will likely have some short term food aggression, but they know with a little time, love and patience each of these dogs will bloom into a new and beautiful soul full of love – thanks to those that took the time to make a difference.

It takes a special team to see the vast suffering on a daily basis and forge ahead. The key to change is in education so they stop and talk to the locals and inform them on proper pet care and provide houses, straw, transport for spay or neuter and other assistance to the low income community.

The phone rings and it’s a real estate agent who hears dogs barking in a home he is trying to sell and needs help. The DAWG director makes a call and has a volunteer on his way. They find two pit-bull pups locked in a room left to starve and freeze when the family moved out. “What are two more?” they say as they pack the pups in the car. Then another call comes in: A mom has been in labor for three days and has one live pup, the rest are stuck and owner cannot afford care for her and would like to surrender her. Volunteers race to save her life. She is lethargic and the smell of infection is overwhelming in the car as she is transported to the vet. Her saviors anxiously wait to hear how her emergency C-section is going and are heartbroken to learn that despite all efforts mom did not make it and left only one orphaned pup to care for. Through tears, a volunteer works on finding an experienced stay at home foster to bottle feed the pup around the clock.

The group of volunteers that went out on the frozen morning are emotionally exhausted and head home for the night to answer the daily email requests to take in animals that owners can no longer care for. As the rescuers think of the faces of the animals they had to leave on the streets, a shocking call comes in regarding three dead dogs found on the roadside in a Detroit park and a statement from a city employee who commented that they had 28 dead dogs to pick up on their route that day.

Another nearby city, Flint, the newspaper says another 12 dead dogs were found discarded in garbage bags. Volunteers cringe as they know dog fighting is a high stakes “sport” in these areas and difficult to crack. When will the torture and suffering end?

The team contacts Detroit city officials and organizes an Anti-Animal Abuse Rally the following weekend. Hundreds of advocates and local rescues join together. City officials do not respond. DAWG volunteers are disappointed and dream of a day when they have the funds to build a facility to house the many animals that they couldn’t help today and may not be alive on their next visit. One by one they strive to save them and continue to bring awareness to the problem.

If you would like to help the strays of Detroit please visit their website at www.dawghous.com.