Syracuse-Based Rescue Saves Death-Row Dogs from Dallas

Twice monthly, Helping Hounds volunteers line up to help dogs from death-row shelters down south find forever homes in upstate New York.

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Since 2009, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based Helping Hounds has been matching homeless dogs from overcrowded shelter systems with loving homes. And it all began with a quest to save one mama beagle and her puppies in 2008. Last year, the rescue saw 1,678 dogs adopted — most from shelters in Texas and Alabama.

“Why not local dogs?” many people naturally ask.

Kathy Gilmour, executive director of Helping Hounds, is used to hearing it. “We have a breed-specific problem – a disproportionate number of pit bulls,” Gilmour told Syracuse.com.

She said she looked to create a stronger pipeline to get local strays into Helping Hounds’ homes, but Central New York shelters just don’t have enough “adoptable” dogs to the fill the demand Helping Hounds had tapped into. Sadly, this is because most them are wall-to-wall with pits, which many landlords and insurance companies won’t allow.

Addie, among the 61 most recent Texas pups, was adopted by a longtime Helping Hounds volunteer.

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“We can’t adopt our way out of that problem,” Gilmour said. So while pitbulls are sitting in shelters, people who want small dogs, or family-friendly breeds, like labs, are going to breeders and pet stores. At the same time, those same types of dogs are being euthanized in the south.

“So why not take them from where they are dying by the thousands to where people are lining up to take them home,” Gilmour said.

Twice monthly, sometimes more, volunteers line up to help off-load dogs that have traveled north, escaping the needles of death row, many with homes already lined up. This past Saturday, there were 61 from Texas. Thirty had been claimed by families before they even arrived.

Others line up on the days the trucks come in, eager to adopt. Crowd control has even become necessary; Helping Hands gives out restaurant-style pagers for those who are waiting.

Lexie (seated on the ground) has two new pups to play with and mom who works from home.

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Gilmour said they’ve worked more with local shelters to adopt out the more challenging cases, dogs that seem to need a different environment a little training, or perhaps access to Helping Hounds’ social-media power. Every dog available for adoption goes up on the group’s Facebook page, where 30,000 people have the chance to be smitten. Often, says Gilmour, that’s all it takes.

The average length of stay for any dog at Helping Hounds is 10 days. That’s impressive!

Humane Tomorrow is the suburban Dallas rescue that sends the Texas dogs to New York. They have no shelter. Rescued dogs pit stop for a day or so at a vet’s office, then to foster homes for three weeks before shipping out on the truck. Stacy Smith, who heads up the rescue, says it’s enough time to ensure the dogs are healthy enough to make the journey. The truck stops every hour and a half for water, and every six hours for walks. Such service costs $150 per dog.

“We see the pictures of people lined up in the winter to adopt our dogs,” Smith told Syracuse.com. “That’s immensely gratifying for us.”

As of this past Monday, only 11 of the 61 still needed homes. Are you in the Central New York area? You might consider making a Lone Star dog a little less “lonely!”

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