I have a new granddog. His name is Rusty and he is a rescued dog from Los Angeles.
Rusty was given up by his owners who kept a bunch of backyard dogs and he wasn’t well looked after. He had a recent scar on his head and had lost hair around one eye because of an infection.
He’s now a happy, well cared for and important member of my daughter’s family in the San Francisco area.
I don’t know much of Rusty’s history except that he escaped the fate of many dogs living in the Los Angeles area. Roughly 6,000 dogs are impounded in LA shelters every year. More than 1,000 are euthanized.
Statistics about impounded pets truly are amazing, and disturbing. In the United States 6.8 million pets are taken into shelters every year. Pets of all sorts, but the vast majority are dogs and cats. An estimated three to four million are euthanized every year.
A survey of Canadian animal shelters found that 46,000 dogs were impounded in 2013. The number of cats taken in was roughly double the total for dogs.
Almost one-half the dogs taken in were strays and just over one-third of the total were given up by their owners. Of the overall total, 17 per cent were puppies.
Of the 46,000 Canadian dogs taken in, 8,000 were euthanized. That’s 1,000 fewer than in 2012, which we would like to think is because more people are becoming involved in pet rescue organizations. There are no statistics to support this, but rescue efforts seem to be attracting more people willing to volunteer their time, and in some cases their money, to ensure that unwanted, abandoned or mistreated animals are given a chance for a new life.
Two of the most interesting rescue organizations are California-based Wings of Rescue and Pilots N Paws, based in South Carolina. These are volunteer groups that recruit volunteer pilots and planes to relocate pets to areas where rescue groups are able to find them permanent homes.
Pilots N Paws has flown more than 15,000 dogs to new homes in the last two years and says it has relocated 75,000 over the last seven years.
Wings of Rescue says it has saved 5,000 dogs and cats and plans to rescue 7,000 more by the end of this year. Next week its Annual Holiday Airlift will fly 1,000 dogs and cats in 20 aircraft from Van Nuys general aviation airport in LA. The pets will be flown to various locations in the U.S., mainly on the west coast.
The flying rescues work well because there are overcrowded, high-kill shelters in some states like California. Yet other states like Oregon, Florida and New York need more pets to satisfy adoption demands.
For instance, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has many retired people looking for smaller dogs which are easier to care for but hard to come by because of high demand. So the humane society there orders a planeload of dogs under 16 pounds every month to meet adoption demands.
Yehunda Netanel started Wings of Rescue as a lone pilot who rescued 300 dogs. The number of dogs Wings now flies has been doubling every year.
Pilots N Paws reports similar growth.
"We have seen the number of animals rescued go up every year since we started in 2008," said Kate Quinn, executive director of Pilots N Paws, told the Associated Press.
"Pilots love a reason to fly,” Quinn says. “They love making these flights."
Some people raise ethical questions about spending time, money and other resources on rescuing animals when so many humans are in distress. Why rescue dogs when millions of Syrians, and others are homeless? they ask.
Obviously there is no quick and easy answer to that question. Except to say that we all have a responsibility to help alleviate cruelty of all kinds in this world. And, not spending time and resources to stop cruelty to animals will not likely do much to stop cruelty against humans.
At any rate, my granddog Rusty is certainly happy that there are people volunteering their time and resources to help abused and abandoned dogs in Los Angeles.