ST. JACOBS – Hobo Haven Pet Rescue, founded in 2003, is dedicated to a mission of “no dog left behind.” Chris Schaefer, founder and president, had been working with other animal rescues, but the inspiration to form the rescue was a dog named Hobo, who was dumped as a stray.
“The shelter that he was taken to euthanized him on day three because he had an ear infection, so they deemed he would not be adoptable, which is unfortunately not true,” she said. “It is possible they were overcrowded at the time, and forever after, I felt like I had killed that dog because I surrendered him to a shelter where he was euthanized.”
That experience inspired Schaefer because she felt people needed to do a better job with stray dogs.
“We need to support our community (pounds) because they obviously can’t handle the flood of stray animals coming in,” she said. “These animals need to go into a foster family home where they can be themselves, decompress and receive medical care to heal them. That was the inspiration for the name Hobo Haven.”
Dog rescues do not take in stray animals directly.
“Legally, we cannot,” said Schaefer. “A stray dog must go through the Pound Control Act because they are not feral like cats are. They are owned at some point or abandoned.”
If the strays are unclaimed, then they may be surrendered to rescues.
“So, we take in from rural pounds,” she said. “We take in from animal shelters that are either overcrowded or have dogs that are just not doing well in a shelter environment, so they need a foster-based home to decompress to be assessed.”
Hobo Haven takes in some dogs that owners surrender when life circumstances change, making it so that people need to give up their pets.
“The misnomer of no-kill shelters is not an accurate word, and it is not the shelter’s fault,” said Schaefer. “They have minimal staff and minimal space, so they can only hold so many animals at a time.”
Many shelters have partnerships with rescues so that if they have a dog that they cannot hold in the shelter, they will reach out to the rescue partners to ask can for help.
“There are many scenarios in which animals are still euthanized, be it for their humanity if the dog is injured so badly its quality of life cannot be saved,” said Schaefer. “If it is deemed a danger to the public, you just in good conscience cannot adopt a dog like that to a family and risk the family being hurt.”
However, the unfortunate part of a shelter environment is that many dogs are horrifically stressed, and they would not necessarily be aggressive in other circumstances.
“They are just reacting to their environment out of pure fear, but it’s not the shelter’s fault,” said Schaefer. “They cannot do anything beyond what they can do. Every pound and shelter has a budget. One of the rural pounds that we deal with, we’ve taken in quite a few badly injured dogs because their choice is to euthanize or surrender to rescue period.”
Schaefer said Hobo Haven is in desperate need of foster homes.
“We are foster-based,” she said. “We do not have a facility to have these dogs live in, so we can only accept as many dogs as we have appropriate fosters. We don’t have behaviourally savvy fosters, so we can’t take in behavioural problems, which means many more dogs are euthanized.”
Hobo Haven is known as a medical rescue.
“We take in dogs where families can’t afford to do the medical care,” said Schaefer. “We do a tonne of surgeries. We have spent over $10,000 on one dog that had an amazing quality of life after the surgeries, and after the rehab, so it was a total amazing worthwhile investment for the dog’s quality of life.”
Fostering is not the only way people can help the dog rescue. Donations are also accepted.
“We are all volunteers, and all veterinarian bills come out of my pocket, which is not a deep pocket by any means,” she said. “We have some amazing people who will donate $25 per month to wherever needs it. We provide everything they need in their foster home because we don’t ask fosters to provide anything except time, care, training, and love.”
Schaefer described the vet bills as astronomical.
“We don’t just spay, neuter, vaccinate and send them away – we have a lot of rehabilitation,” she said. “We also take in from commercial breeders who are culling dogs who are retired breeders or defective. We have taken in 14 dogs from breeders in the last seven days, which puts a load on the foster homes. We work with other rescues. When we don’t have enough space, I will never turn away a dog from a commercial breeder because they are our soft spot, or our kryptonite as I talk about, these retired breeding dogs or defective dogs that would be euthanized.”
Schafer said, “it takes a village” may be cliché, but it is an apt description of the work done by pet rescues.
“The community, especially these days, people sitting on computers saying somebody should do something about this, there have to be those somebodies to do it,” she said. “Every person involved in rescue is extremely valuable. The public has no idea how many (animals) die daily. This is not just in the Waterloo region and surrounding areas. Never mind all of Ontario, all the northern communities that are horribly underserviced that we take when we can, but we never have enough fosters. I am turning away dogs every day because we don’t have enough foster homes. So, fosters are number one. Without foster homes, rescues could not exist. The funding, we work it out as we go along. I have a line of credit on my house, and it will never be paid off. It’s something that we struggle with constantly.”
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