Nine-month old Lucille is happy and at home with her new human, Denis Powers.
And Powers has a wonderful forever-companion.
But without an innovative program at the Kitsap Humane Society, that match might never have happened.
It’s called the Rescue Me program, and it allows Kitsap Humane Shelter to take dogs, cats and kittens from other shelters throughout Washington state and southern California who otherwise would be looking at a death sentence.
According to Natalie Smith, director of Animal Welfare at KHS, Rescue Me began in 2013.
“When I came here, the shelter was doing some transfers from California, but I felt strongly that we needed to help out out own state’s animals,” Smith said.
So she worked to expand the program. The Rescue Me Program saved 1,221 dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from partner shelters in 2014.
In the case of Lucille, it was a quick 24-hour turn-around.
“We got a call (from a shelter in Puyallup) that there was this cute puppy having seizures,” said Lori Cole, transfer coordinator. “They have a very small shelter and they don’t have a vet on staff. So they said if we couldn’t take her, she would be euthanized.”
Cole and her team went to work to check that KHS had room for the dog and that the vet on staff, Jen Stonequist, who is also the director of shelter medicine, thought she could help the puppy.
Once the OK happened, Cole got in her car and drove to pick up Lucille.
Stonequist and the Kitsap Shelter’s Veterinary Services team examined her and found a medication that would control her seizures.
As the seizures subsided, it became clear that a puppyhood of neglect had left Lucille with not many manners or skills that a puppy her age should have. So KHS’s behavior and training department staff and volunteers worked with Lucille to improve her behavior.
Just a few short weeks later, she was adopted by Powers. Powers has changed her name to Kyna.
“She’s a cuddlier,” Powers said. “She’s very vocal and she loves to meet new people and new dogs.”
Kyna is at home with three other of Powers’ dogs, all whom were rescued. He said he thinks the Rescue Me program is a “fantastic idea.”
“My German Shepherds came from the Northwest German Shepherd Rescue in Bothell,” he said. “They also make trips to California to take dogs that have been abandoned.”
The story of Lucille had a happy ending. And so did other cat and dogs tales because of the Rescue Me program. But staff at Kitsap Humane Shelter know some people may question why the shelter is using resources to aid dogs from outside the county.
“Many times the dogs or cats that we take have medical issues and need to be seen by a vet and those small shelters don’t have a vet on staff,” said Smith. “In other cases, the dogs come from areas where they don’t have successful spay and neuter programs, which leads to overpopulation and too many strays.”
Stonequist said the KHS shelter has room to take in animals from other shelters because its spay/neuter program had been extremely successful and has lowered the local stray rate.
And by doing so, they provided a more diverse selection of pets for local residents who want to adopt rescued animals.
“In L.A. County alone, there are 12 animal shelters,” Stonequist said. “They are inundated with small dogs. They have a lack of resources and some shelters are in very low income areas.
“If some of their animals aren’t transferred out of there to other regions, they’ll be at risk of being euthanized.”
The program is a benefit to the local community, too.
“From time-to-time, potential adopters will come to the Kitsap Humane Shelter wanting small dogs, but there won’t be any,” said Smith. “This allows us to have a mix of all types of dogs, cats and kittens, and that means more of a chance for more animals to be adopted.”
Another example of how the program has helped was when two kittens were dumped at a shelter in eastern Washington after the mother cat was hit and killed by a car, Smith said.
“I got the text about them and began planning to go and get them,” said Cole. “The shelter that had them didn’t have a foster program like we do. So we brought them here. By the time they were check in, we had foster care all lined up.”
Transfers are usually made by car or van. Through a generous gift, KHS purchased a new, larger, more efficient transport van that holds up to 30 animals.
They also have pilots in a program called “Wings of Rescue” who will fly animals from Southern California to Washington and throughout the country to other partner shelters.
Cole found her dog, Abby, through the Rescue Me program.
“She came in as a puppy and I just fell in love with her,” Cole said of the “Chi-weenie” mix mutt.
“I kept saying I couldn’t take another dog, but when she was still available at the end of an adoption event, I knew she was meant for me.”
The program takes a lot of coordination between departments and other shelters, Smith said.
“But it’s just the right thing to do,” she added.
In addition to working with regional shelters, Rescue Me is partnering with well-respected national rescue organizations such as Best Friends Animal Society and ASPCA, both of whom have provided KHS with grants to help fund this expanded effort, KHS staff said. The program also is funded by donations and adoption fees.
Kitsap Humane Society is a private, nonprofit, charitable organization that has been caring for animals in need since 1908. KHS admits more than 5,000 animals per year and has one of the highest lives saved rates in the U.S.
To find out more, or to volunteer, call 360-692-6977, or go to www.kitsap-humane.org.