Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dogs Crossing The Border!


ANIMAL RESCUER: Canton woman helps canines make the trip to Canadian homes
By SUSAN MENDE
JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS CANTON — Judith L. DeSantis is being literal when she says her weekends have gone to the dogs.
But the Canton mother of three isn't complaining.
Since December, Mrs. DeSantis, 57 Spears St., has helped rescue more than 50 homeless dogs that otherwise might have been euthanized at an animal shelter or abandoned to wander the streets.
"This is one of my callings," Mrs. DeSantis said. "I have a lot of blessings, and this is one way I can give back."
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As a volunteer for several animal rescue organizations in the United States and Canada, she drives the canines on a portion of their journey to freedom. The process is sort of like an underground railroad for animals.
"It's like a relay," Mrs. DeSantis said. "The dogs usually come from shelters in Southern states and start heading north with volunteer drivers."
Often, she collects the dogs from a volunteer driver in Syracuse or Watertown and takes them over the Canadian border to Prescott, Ontario, where she hands them off to other animal rescue volunteers. From there, the dogs typically end up in Ottawa or Toronto or other parts of Ontario.
"There are some breeds people want that are harder to access in Canada than they are here," Mrs. DeSantis said.
Many of the rescued dogs heading north are taken from crowded animal shelters in Kentucky and Ohio, said animal rescue coordinator Rhonda S. Frey, Union, Ky.
Each week, Ms. Frey said, she personally removes 12 to 20 dogs from shelters to save them from being killed. She places photographs and descriptions of the dogs on petfinder.com, a popular website for people seeking to adopt animals.
"This is the difference between life and death for most of these dogs," Ms. Frey said.
She also coordinates volunteer drivers to get the dogs from point A to point B, a task that's not always simple to accomplish.
"People like Judy are invaluable," Ms. Frey said. "I really count on her. She's the only person I have right now to cover that area. I've had trouble finding people in the Syracuse and Watertown areas."
Demand for rescued dogs is high north of the border because, unlike parts of the United States, Canada doesn't have an excess of animals in its shelters. Spaying and neutering are more prevalent, leaving fewer unwanted pets, Ms. Frey said.
"Canadians don't see the number of adoptable dogs ending up in shelters like we do here. We get lots and lots of purebred dogs in our shelters," Ms. Frey said.
Volunteer drivers from Northern New York can help even if they don't want to make the trip over the border. Several Canadian volunteers are available to make the border crossing once the dogs have reached that far north, Ms. Frey said.
Rescued dogs already have been spayed or neutered and received their shots. Families who adopt them are asked to reimburse the rescue agency for those costs, but no other fee is charged for the adoptions.
Before heading to their permanent homes, the dogs usually are housed with a foster family for a couple of weeks to help them acclimate to life outside the shelter.
Foster families help get a dog ready for adoption by making sure the animal is housebroken and training it to walk on a leash. They also assess its temperament, including how the dog relates to children.
Mrs. DeSantis and her family have fostered rescued dogs over the past several years. The DeSantises adopted their two basset hounds, Lily and Daisy, through a basset hound rescue organization they found on the Internet.
"That's how I got started in this," Mrs. DeSantis said. "I applied for a dog and I got one. Then I started volunteering."
Mrs. DeSantis said children Cole S., 15, Hunter K., 12, and Kendall G., 9, help to walk the rescued dogs, while husband Steven J. joins the family for some of the rescue pickups and drop-offs.
"God wants us to take care of his creatures. That's how the world goes around," Mrs. DeSantis said.
Volunteers interested in fostering dogs or helping to transport them can e-mail Ms. Frey athersheylab1@yahoo.com. Mrs. DeSantis can be reached atextinguisher1067@aol.com.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is a shame that we are bringing dogs in from the US when we have such a huge problem with dog overpopulation here in Canada. To say there is not an overcrowding of dog shelters in Canada is ridiculous and simply not true. There are tens of thousands of homeless pets needing homes in Canada, many who are euthanized. Bringing dogs in for adoption from the US takes homes away from our own dogs.

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