Ann Arbor-based dog rescue, FIDO, works to save the lives of homeless pets near and far
Photo courtesy of FIDO
This past week, the focus of those whose passion it is to make a better life for animals across the country has been on National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week. The phrase, “It takes a village ” is profound, and when it comes to saving the lives of animals, it rings especially true.
For one Ann Arbor-based dog rescue, making better lives for animals is a labor of love.
Finding Incredible Dog Owners, or FIDO — a no-kill organization — was established in 2009 by an experienced group of people who had worked at a larger rescue but saw the need to branch out on their own in the Ann Arbor area.
Their main mission at that time was to save the lives of homeless canines by honing in on the idea that each dog’s personality and specific needs should be the focus when adopting a pet (as opposed to the animal's breed or physical traits). That idea has served the success of FIDO well. Since January of 2010, they have successfully adopted out 393 dogs.
The rescue is run solely by volunteers that are employed elsewhere full time. FIDO is not a shelter, and they do not have a facility. Each dog that comes through the organization's intake process lives with foster volunteers, of which there are about 10-15 at any given time. Most of these volunteers have one dog; a few have two.
Daily direct attention to the dogs goes hand-in-hand with fostering, and because of the regular supervision and contact, the volunteers are able to really understand what each dog is like. This is key in matching homeless dogs with permanent adoptive families.
Other roles filled by volunteers are transporting pets from the shelters to vet appointments/foster/events (a constant activity), overseeing finances and necessary paperwork, handling social media and the website and fundraising. Some of those people have multiple roles.
Brenda Betts, vice president of FIDO is one of those who multitasks, and she is currently fostering a mother dog with a litter of newborn puppies that came from a shelter in West Virginia.
Most of the dogs rescued by FIDO are from local high-kill shelters. Many of those facilities are located in Michigan counties to the north. Others come from facilities in southern states. These areas typically have substantial numbers of homeless pets, despite human populations that are lower than in our own community, and thus, have fewer resources — financial and otherwise — to get dogs adopted out. And for most of these animals, time is of the essence.
“Many of these shelters have a time limit on how long they can hold a pet — maybe 14 days. After that, the dogs are euthanized,” says Betts. "They’ll call us as ask, 'Can you take this dog? If not, his time will be up.' In most cases, we can. But there are so many homeless pets."
FIDO has a formula that works: do not take in more dogs than you handle; assess and take care of those dogs' needs appropriately; and adopt them out to forever families that have been vetted properly. For example, adopters must apply to adopt, and a home visit is a must.
Outreach with the public is also important.
With regular adoption events at local pet stores, dogs get the visibility that they need. Other groups like Circle K International at the University of Michigan, a collegiate community service program, help by participating in adoption events, collecting donations on campus and showcasing adoptable dogs.
Social media is important in helping people to connect with FIDO as well.
Partnering with other groups like the MI Paws Dog Program is beneficial in more ways than one. The inmates that the dogs live with for weeks at a time at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility get to be a part the solution, teaching the canines basic training and offering socialization. Eight dogs have already graduated from the program, and five more are currently in the midst of it.
Adopting out healthy pets is paramount, so Village Animal Clinic of Dexter and Healthy Paws Veterinary Hospital partner with the rescue to provide veterinary care to treat the medical needs that so many of the pets that come to FIDO have: mange, fleas, kennel cough, respiratory illness, parasites — you name it. Many dogs as of late have tested positive for heartworm.
Considering the care that is given to each dog in their time with FIDO — a clean bill of health, proper socialization, training and being spayed/neutered — the $200 adoption fee is a value. Plus, the life of a pet has been saved.
"Educating the public about how important it is to care for pets properly is a big part of what we do at FIDO," adds Betts.
"Reducing the pet population is easy and spaying and neutering is effective in addressing that. Each dog that is adopted out from us that is over the age of 6 months has been spayed or neutered as part of the adoption fee."
Dogs under the age of 6 months are given a voucher for the spay/neuter procedure.
Making a difference in the lives of homeless animals does take the effort of many volunteers — in all different capacities — and it proves why so many organizations like FIDO are valuable.
More information on FIDO, volunteer opportunities and their adoptable dogs, log onto their website.
Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for AnnArbor.com. Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.