Annie Hart Talks About Movie-Worthy Rescue and the Bill Foundation

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AnnieArnold1A few days ago we featured an exciting rescue story in which Annie Hart, of the Bill Foundation, ended up racing down an LA freeway to rescue four little puppies. After featuring the story, I wanted to know a bit more about this woman who would go to such extremes to save a few puppies’ lives. So, I had the opportunity to speak with Annie about the Bill Foundation and a bit about the story we posted.

After speaking with her, I realized that Annie really is quite an example of the courage and strength that it often takes to be a rescue worker. She has spent time in the hospital after serious bites and infections as a result of her selfless work. However, she does not even think to blame the dog that bit her, but is instead motivated to find out how such a dog can receive help to address their behavioral problems.

She has also suffered from her own health challenges and yet works tirelessly without thinking of herself and mainly striving to see a better world, free of euthanasia.  I think you will find the interview as interesting as I did:

So, first of all, I think many people are wondering-have the puppies from your dramatic rescue found homes?

“They have been in foster care and are with me right now as their foster family is traveling…We discovered Luke, the smallest one that my husband went back for, is sick with a genetic problem called a liver shunt. It requires surgery but he is too little for the surgery now. However, he isn’t growing because he doesn’t want to eat as a result of the liver shunt. We thought he was just a picky eater but Dr. Ash came last week and looked at the four and then at Ash and said right away that he has a liver shunt.

…All of them are so funny, though, and have such strong personalities.

Are they up for adoption?Annie Hart of the Bill Foundation

“They will be up for adoption in one week…We wait until they are 12 weeks old. We will just tell people to watch them and guard them until they get their shots since they are so small.  Luke will also be up for adoption but will be kept with his foster home until his surgery. It’s a risky surgery but without it it’s life threatening because it just contaminates his body…He’s on a special diet right now, though. He also has a ton of energy. You would never know something was wrong except that he’s not growing like the others.”

Do you know what ever happened to the homeless guy that had the puppies? Did he mean to harm them?

“I don’t think he intended harm but he was just oblivious and thought he needed to get on the bus and so he hid them. So, I just befriended him and treated him with respect. He was very nice and the conversation ended with me giving him my card and telling him if he ever needed me to just call, even for a warm meal. Stealing puppies is not something that’s appropriate and if I just took them from him, I would be throwing out all my morals and values and going against the laws. If you don’t like the laws, then work to change them but don’t break them.”

So how did the Bill & Annie Hart foundation get its start? Tell me a bit about Bill, the namesake too. Also, how did you get involved?

“Jo and Peter Forman started it in 2000 when their dog Bill passed away. Bill  was found on the streets and he captured their heart. Once you rescue, you get rescue fever and when he passed away they decided to start a foundation in his name.

I personally began in 2012 in what was supposed to be part time volunteer work. I had become chronically ill and doctor told me not to go back to my 9 to 5 job. The doctor then asked me what I would do with my life if I had endless resources. Soon after, I saw Eldad’s video of Ralph and it changed my life. You see Ralph just resisting and Eldad wouldn’t give up. I saw the video and I just sobbed. I had given up on myself but my husband was my advocate. So, I realized dogs need advocates too. So, I visited Ralph and as I left he bit me. I then realized that he needed an advocate, he needed someone to work with him.

I didn’t even know Eldad at that time and then we began to work together.

…I never imagined when I saw that video that we would be working together so much. He is a master at rescuing dogs from the streets and I am a master at finding them a good home. It’s been a great partnership…more and more rescues in Los Angeles are joining and wanting to be a part too. When everyone is rising up together more change is happening. Seeing two rescues that are very different working together is great…all have the same goal: stop euthanasia.

…We do probably 70% shelter & 30% streets. Most of the streets are with Eldad, like Bethany-the one with Mange…Eldad asked if I could take her. When I got there, I thought she was actually dead. The mange was so bad and she had about 3 bacterial infections. Right after we rescued her, I took the picture that Eldad has…These dogs are so hopeful, they look at the rescuer and trust…

That pic with Eldad defines everything about rescue, whether you foster, rescue, volunteer, adopt or donate we stand together arm in paw united by hope…I feel that with our community on Facebook- I call it our “village”-you feel such a support system within it. Whether it’s an Eldad rescue, a Bill Foundation Rescue, we’re not just telling stories, we are helping people do things…

…I found so much courage when I would post Tessa’s photos and videos by seeing the support and encouragement on Facebook. You feel so connected because of it. Tessa was blind and couldn’t walk so it was very encouraging. I also recently had a woman who wrote me saying she was at her breaking point . She rescued a dog, was exhausted and wanted to give up. I posted this and she received over 3,000 people sending encouragement to her. People then realize they’re not the only ones but there are thousands like them.

…Sometimes there are debates that break out too…conversations and debates are how changes occur. I think it’s a positive thing. That’s why I don’t mediate our page.  I will let people talk it out…”

I love the idea of the puppy cam! Has this increased the adoption rate? How did you guys start using puppy cams and who is Ustream? How can others get access to this?

“We started it last fall, competing in the Chase Community Giving which was huge. They give away 10 $100,000 dollar grants and it was a two week competition and you really have to hussle. We had a small following of 5 or 6,000. Our goal was simple: to rescue more dogs. We were doing really well and then we suddenly fell to the fourteenth place.

I then remembered the time I used to spend during college watching puppy cams. So, I set up a puppy cam with the Attie puppies and ran it and asked people to please vote for us. It brought us up to sixth place because of the puppy cams! We realized also that this caused us to have a huge gain in Facebook fans and support.

…The biggest puppy cam event so far was the Rescue Bowl. We had two teams: Street Dogs versus Shelter Dogs and people could vote for their team. Eldad even made an appearance. 10 of the dogs got adopted because of the puppy cams. The street dogs were blue and shelter dogs were red and dressed dogs that just wanted to sit in volunteers’ laps in cheerleading outfits. It was really fun. There was this one dog that we had the hardest time getting adopted and we suddenly got like 8 applications for her…It’s great because the puppy cams really show the personalities.

To set up the puppy cam cost us about $200 but then the donations came in…Ustream has been phenomenal in helping us by publicizing it.

…It was just a $99 web cam from Best Buy and free software from Ustream…just press play. Nice thing too is there is a donate button through Ustream.

Is the puppy cam on 24/7?

“We do it 9-9…not overnight. Also some time outs during the day for socialization…”

Do you talk on it too?

“I try not to much-let other people get in there and have a conversation. Bill Foundation isn’t just me… The other day, my husband came home from work and came in and talked on the puppy cam for 30 minutes and people could ask the questions they wanted to ask from our dramatic rescue…”

Also, we [The Bill Foundation] have some awesome volunteers. There is stuff they are still teaching me about the Bill Foundation from before I was even here…”

I noticed you pride yourself on the highest quality veterinary care and that you also feature a lot of animals with physical challenges. Do you mainly focus on dogs that need veterinary care?

“We do a lot of medical and behavioral needs animals. We also do a lot of healthy ones but it’s the sick ones whose videos go out and people really try to help. For instance, we knew that when Janie-a dog with a broken back and behavioral issues-we knew we could fund raise for her. Her behavioral issues were from her pain too. We really try to use this for people to stop and take notice….

…Janie was rescued and brought to a shelter after being hit by a car with a tire mark on her. She couldn’t receive surgery or be given for adoption by law because she had a microchip. The owner no longer even lived where she was registered so I took her in under the “good Samaritan” law, saying that I would give her back if the owner came.

Her surgery was 7,000 dollars. She also wanted to bite everyone every time she was touched because she associated touch with pain. I brought Eldad in and next thing I know I was taping him working with her and then, an hour and a half later, she was in his lap! The whole medical staff thought no one could get near her and they were shocked. You could hear a pin drop!

…We work with about five different vets in Los Angeles and a variety of specialists. The most difficult go to ASEC…They have everything from great chemotherapy, to orthopedic and emergency. We also work with the City of Angels…They do a lot of neurology and ophthalmology and dentistry, even major dental work…Many of these give us a great rescue discount. We recommend them to all of our adopters.

Sometimes, we get the tough cases in which we think we’re getting a healthy bunch of puppies and then one of them has a very expensive issue, like Luke. We seem to always get these ones that are the hardest cases and luckily we have a fundraising community to tap into.

We rescue every kind of dog-sick, healthy, behavior issues…all. It’s not just healthy dogs that deserve to live, it’s all dogs. The important thing is that we need to work on the root of the issue of over population.

So, what does everyone need to do to address that and what is the Bill Foundation doing?

“We need to focus on spay/neuter, education from a young age and cutting down on puppy mills. It’s all happening-I just don’t know if it’s happening fast enough. We’re at a point where we are euthanizing the same amount-it’s not getting less and not getting more.  Overpopulation is especially a problem in the poor neighborhoods…Rescues don’t have the money to pay for all the spay/neuter needed there. The Bill Foundation has something in the works to address this but we are still working out the details. There really is a problem in these areas though…

…My dream would be to be able spay/neuter several thousand dogs in the inner city each year.”

What’s next for the Bill Foundation?

“I don’t know if we will have another bus rescue…But I never know what the day will bring. I start my day with an idea of what to do but then I get a call that a dog needs rescuing and it all gets derailed…

…So, my greatest desire is to get more rescues involved and inspire others by what we are doing. I hope by showing people these puppy cams, others will join and encourage others by showing how to rehabilitate a dog with a broken back and how it can be done….

…I also think the one thing is that everybody has something to offer. If you look into your heart about what your talent is, the rescue community could benefit from it. You don’t have to be the one going into the shelter or the streets. We all have a voice or a talent and can use that. It really does take a village-we need everybody. You never know what one share on Facebook will do to help a dog get adopted or a rescue funded.

…My very greatest goal would be to put ourselves out of business because there are no dogs needing rescue anymore…”

To view the live puppy cam click here: Puppy Cam

Visit Bill Foundation’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BillFoundationDogRescue

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