When Dolly’s Foundation began, back in January of 2011, we were solely focused on rescuing and rehoming dogs, specifically pit bull dogs. After spending years dumping all of our time, money, and resources into rescuing dogs, we realized that we were not making a difference for our local shelter. The intakes were at an all-time high, we were not making a dent in the overpopulation problem. We felt frustrated to say the least. We had worked so hard to assist the shelter, but ideally we’d accomplished nothing looking at the big picture. Sure, we’d helped a few dozen dogs, and we were happy about that, but we wanted something bigger. We knew there had to be a way to make a larger impact with the small amount of resources we had.
We decided to go straight to the source. We started researching where all of these pets were coming from since our local shelter did not have the data we needed. In doing so, we found that the highest intake of animals happen to be coming from the lowest income areas in our community; we often refer to these areas as “under-served”, or “resource desert” communities.
We decided to host a Community Pet Day for the specific area; we offered free spay and neuter assistance, leashes and collars, vaccines, crates, carriers, food, training advice and more. In order to target our specific area, we would have to inform the community of what we were offering. How do you do that without informing thousands of people about your free services that don’t even live in your area? Door to door outreach. We walked on foot, door to door to inform families of our services that we were offering by handing out flyers. Most people we spoke to had intact animals that they wanted spayed or neutered, and when we asked why it hadn’t been done, the answer was always the same. Financial hardships. We promised to help, and the dozens of families that we spoke to were really excited, they couldn’t wait to get their pet vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
So, the day came and we were really excited for our event. The veterinarian was all ready to vaccinate, we had the leashes paired up with matching collars, spay and neuter paperwork ready and waiting to be filled out.
…and no one came.
Okay, we had about 100 people show, but it wasn’t the people we’d had conversations with. It wasn’t the folks that had hugged us and thanked us for offering this service. We were lost, we had no idea what happened, where the disconnection was. Did they really need our help? Were they all talk? So, we went back to these homes, almost irritated that no one had showed up, when we were presented with another problem, a serious problem.
Most of the families we had come in contact with didn’t have transportation to get to us. This isn’t something we were expecting and we certainly hadn’t planned for it. Since we were offering free spay and neuter with the required rabies vaccine, pets needed to accompany their owners to our event. Well, pets aren’t allowed on public transportation. Nearly every family we spoke with told us that transportation with their pets was the biggest issue in keeping them from getting to our event. And even though the event was close, we also didn’t realize that some of these pet owners that have no access to transportation are also elderly or disabled and they’re not able to walk a mile or two in 90 degree Florida heat for our event.
So, the day we marched up to the small mobile home community, demanding for answers as to why no one showed, was the day we signed up 25 animals for free spay and neuter. Two days later, we transported every one of them to the clinic to be altered, and delivered them home, only to be greeted with tears of joy.
We all love our pets, and we all deserve to be loved back by them. We hear so often that people who “can’t afford pets shouldn’t have them”, and we couldn’t disagree more. So many of us are a paycheck away from losing our homes, or our cars, and some of us get pets before we fall into financial turmoil and we fight to keep them through the hard times. Some of us get pets when we’re enduring the hard times because pets make it easier to survive, coming home to a wagging tail or a purring kitty gets of us through the hardest times of our lives. We don’t believe that owning pets is a “right”, we believe that everyone has the right to love, and some of us need a little help along the way. That’s what we’re here for.
Dolly’s Foundation is run by an amazing group of compassionate volunteers!