Lakeshore Report

Local Organizations Team Up To Help Homeless Animals

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The quality of life for America’s furry friends is a cause of concern for many animal welfare advocates. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs are a part of nearly half of all U.S. families. But overpopulation in many local shelters remains a problem. While legislators and regulators look for ways to address the issue, many communities rely on volunteers to help homeless animals. Here in Northwest Indiana, two groups are teaming up to use their skills to transfer animals from death row to loving homes.

Two very special guests arrived at The Porter County Airport this week on a private flight from Kentucky.
Canines Sasha and Hank are Great Pyrenees mixes. As large breed, neglected dogs, both were facing certain death at a shelter in Kentucky with a high euthanasia rate. After seeing pictures of the dogs online, the volunteers at Giant Paw Prints Rescue in Valparaiso stepped in to save their lives.
Volunteer Jano Bartelmo explains, “This group was created by Cathy Nolan. She had worked for other organizations in the region area, and she met a dog named Gibby who was a very special needs dog. He suffered from separation anxiety and they couldn’t help him so she took him in.”
The Humane Society of The United States estimates that as many as 2.7 million companion animals are euthanized in shelters each year. Volunteer based rescue groups such as Giant Paw Prints often step in to take animals to foster homes until they can be adopted.
Bartelmo says, “Within seven to ten days they’ll be taken to Dr. Rachael Jones for a complete physical, to see about their meds, to see if they have any advanced medical problems.”
The time and funding needed to transport the dogs over land can quickly drain the resources of a small non-profit. That’s led a different group of volunteers to offer their unique services.
Jason Christensen works with Pilots N Paws. By teaming up with rescue organizations, volunteer pilots can quickly move dogs like Sasha and Hank to a new home.
Christensen says, “I love dogs, and I love being able to rescue these animals and get them to some new homes. I, as a pilot and as a member, within my certain radius get an email notification and if I can do it, I chime in and then we coordinate the flights and make it happen.”
Groups like the Purdue Veterinary School warn that with little regulation, not all rescue groups are created equal. Volunteers and potential pet owners should research the organization before becoming involved.
Giant Paw Prints volunteer Lisa Biller helps foster dogs for the organization. Biller says, “Most of our volunteers have knowledge with special needs dogs, like Jano has the diabetic dog. Well, some dogs are beat severely, and a lot of the foster parents know how to handle that.”
Giant Paw Prints works closely with local veterinarian Dr. Rachael Jones and an experienced animal trainer to make sure pets are ready to be placed in homes, and new owners go through a multi-step screening process.
“Every application has to list three references.” says Biller. She recently arranged the adoption of eleven puppies. “So we did all three references, called their vets, had to do any introductions if they have any current pets.”

Just one day later, Sasha, bathed and groomed and on a high-nutrient diet, has already begun to adapt to her new surroundings. She and Hank can now be seen on Facebook and the group’s website, awaiting a permanent home.
Christensen adds, “It’s just neat seeing them come from, you know, very skinny, very malnourished, very bad places, and getting to bring them home where they’re happy and they see some new folks. Just to see them making other people happy too.”
Jano Bartelmo concluded, “It’s a great organization and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

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