December 19, 2012
By Denise LeBeau
Fiona has found her way 3,000 miles to a forever home. An Angeleno by birth, she now lives in Maine, where her adoptive parents have welcomed her with open arms and eager hearts.
Love waiting in the wings
Fiona’s future wasn’t guaranteed to be sunny, even though she came from L.A. The shelters are full of small dogs, but through the Best Friends’ Pup My Ride program, which has recently added flights to their regular lineup of transports thanks to American Airlines, Fiona was able to land where love was waiting in the wings. The program is an exciting way to help realize the goals of No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) by saving the lives of Chihuahuas, purebreds and “designer” dogs who are at-risk in the shelter system.
“My husband and I have been talking about adding another dog to the family,” shares Deelight Zitzelberger, Fiona’s new mom. “And choosing to rescue versus visiting a breeder is part of the attraction for us. I was so excited to see Fiona and the rest of the adoptables on the Humane Society of Knox County’s Facebook page on Saturday morning that I woke my hubby up to come look!”
Humane Society of Knox County in Rockland, Maine, has been taking small dogs from Southern California since 2010. Tracy Sala, executive director, says, “We get a lot of black Labs, huskies and hounds, but very few Chihuahuas and small dogs. When I first saw how many Chihuahuas were available in Los Angeles a few years ago, I knew we could help these dogs. It’s just a great fit for us. We’re just thrilled because we have people on small dog waiting lists and their wait is over.”
Tracy also mentioned that the Pup My Ride dogs draw attention to the other adoptable pets in the shelter. “We have a ‘slumber party’ program, where potential adopters take home the pet for a week so they can make sure the adoption is a good match. We have more slumber parties when the Pup My Ride dogs are here.”
Air traffic control
Robin Harmon, Best Friends’ Pup My Ride coordinator and longtime Los Angeles animal advocate, is a driving force behind this program. The program fits nicely into the No-Kill Los Angeles mission, saving as many pets as possible, one or dozens at a time. She is excited to have so many wonderful groups on board to receive the dogs, especially two fairly new ones, the Humane Society of Knox County and Tompkins County SPCA. Robin selects which dogs will be going (they come from municipal L.A. County and city shelters), she ensures the dogs are healthy and can make the flight, and then they stay at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in L.A. for a week, again to confirm their health.
“Many of the groups we work with are not huge. They can take 15 to 20 dogs, so we want to make sure they get the right dogs, in addition to being healthy,” says Robin. “This is the beginning of an ongoing relationship (with the Humane Society of Knox County and Tompkins County SPCA), and they’re both so nice. We do at least four ground transports a month, and now with a monthly air transport, we are saving so many more perfectly adoptable dogs who just need a chance.”
Marge Fithian of Philadelphia made the original contact with the Humane Society of Knox County in 2010 for the first flight of Chihuahuas and donated the funds to initiate this ongoing project, which resulted in a series of flights thereafter. Marge is an independent rescuer who has been involved in animal welfare for many years. She’s been coordinating the rescue of small dogs out of the shelter system, not only to help the at-risk animals, but also to cut the chain of demand for pet store dogs. She hooked the new groups up with Best Friends because she sees transport as a key to stop the killing of animals in shelters.
“People think we all have the same problem, but we don’t,” emphasizes Marge. “On the East Coast, we don’t have a lot of small dogs available in our shelters, while these dogs are being euthanized elsewhere. Finding the places to place them is very rewarding.”
If you’re on the East Coast, adopt from one of our newest Pup My Ride partners:
Humane Society of Knox County (Maine)
Norfolk SPCA (Virginia)
Richmond SPCA (Virginia)
Tompkins County SPCA (New York)
If you’re out West, there are many wonderful dogs – big and small – to adopt. Check out the NKLA website for your adoption options.