As 2015 comes to a close, we want to reflect back on all that you’ve helped us do – our donors, supporters, volunteers, adopters, friends, partners, and fans. For starters, our Shelter Intervention Program (SIP) continued to keep pets out of the shelter this year on a much larger scale. We offered free spay/ neuter surgeries, vaccinations, and dog training. We gave away monthly food, fixed broken gates, repaired fences, supplied dog houses, and paid license or redemption fees so pets could go home. We heard from families who were assisted through SIP, and they were proud to report on how they helped others in their community after experiencing our support. This domino effect of kindness is the type of lasting change that ripples. We’re thrilled to share that since April of 2013, we’ve been able to save 5,000 pets from entering the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter.
Over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the impact of extreme poverty in Los Angeles. Our goal is always to do more. We provided free services, held spay/neuter clinics, and walked the streets of underserved communities so that we could actually talk to people and listen to them. We thought about what we heard. What resources do they need? How can we deliver? Those are the questions DDR has been and will continue to be based on. Those are the questions that fuel our ongoing programs for those who need it most.
Since 1996, we’ve provided free spay/neuter surgeries for thousands of dogs, and up until recently, we were the only nonprofit offering these services in Compton. Just us and our little project, which grew and grew. Now cut to today, and this summer we began partnering with the Southern California Veterinarian Medical Association, whose members volunteer with us in one of the poorest communities in LA. Together we’ve offered vaccinations and microchipping for hundreds of animals, but it’s been more than just about providing free services. It’s giving people who love their pets the chance at the veterinary care they want, but simply can’t afford. And in South LA, where the incidence of preventable infectious diseases such as Parvo and Distemper are high, this translated into saving lives. The best part is, the community is spreading the word for us — our spay/neuter appointments are now booked overwhelmingly by referral. We’re helping the neighbors, cousins, and friends of dog owners who we saw last month or last year. And although the year is about to end, we are holding two more clinics before the ball drops on the 31st. Plus, DDR’s partnership with SCVMA proved the value of working directly in the community. They will now be working with additional nonprofits, expanding free services in more areas of need.
As I hope you know, DDR also owns and operates its own kennel facility, located in South Gate, one of the at-risk neighborhoods we serve. It is spacious enough for 30 large-breed dogs and was designed to feel more like a home than a traditional kennel. It’s from this home base that we train and care for the DDR pack as well as our adoptable dogs. In 2015, we rescued and adopted out more than 150 dogs. This includes 109 dogs who were placed through our “Little League” program, led by volunteer Mia Gyzander, which focuses specifically on seniors languishing in the shelter, dogs needing medical care, black dogs, and many Chihuahua mixes. Puppies with mange or parvo, Pitbulls, and DDR’s specialty “return dogs” (dogs adopted as puppies and returned when they’re older) were also adopted. Because our adoption program focuses on training and socialization, we give second chances to the dogs who need it most. We see their potential. Then we help them fulfill it. 2015 was a year of so much fulfillment.
Lastly, in between my full-time job, caring for the dogs in our kennel, and the rest of DDR programs, I wrote a book! While the copyright of First Home, Forever Home reads 2015, it had been evolving for 20 years in my head, as I put together the pieces of what I was seeing on the streets of LA and in our shelters. First Home, Forever Home is a first-hand account of my work and the DDR approach to animal rescue. It is a how-to manual for others and my chance to declare the truth: what’s happening in our shelters isn’t a ‘pet problem’ — it’s a poverty problem.
All royalties from First Home, Forever Home have been (and will continue to be) used directly to raise awareness. The more books we sell, the more bus benches we will buy in Compton promoting our work. By putting proceeds directly back into the community, we’ll be able to help more people and pets, letting them know we exist for them. Several benches have already been purchased in Compton promoting free spay/neuter, and the ad was designed by a Compton resident. This has been a dream come true for me.
Even though we’re growing, we’re still the same old DDR. Our approach remains respectful, positive, compassionate, and collaborative. That’s how we’ve been able to make a difference. We don’t ever assume to know what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, especially since the majority of families we serve live at or below the poverty line. But we don’t see ourselves as simply a rescue or a resource; we work with individuals where they are, and help them however we can, because we’re trying to help solve real problems. And we’ve been able to do it because of you. We hope you will stick with us into the new year as we continue to solve more, do more, and help more.
So onwards to 2016! Here’s a preview of what we have in store: our mission is to provide free spay/ neuter surgeries and vaccinations for an additional 2,500 cats and dogs, with each of these surgeries costing us an average of $100. We’ll continue to give back to the Compton community however we’re able, promote our services for the neighborhoods, and support the people. You can trust that the gifts and donation we’re lucky to receive at Downtown Dog Rescue are never spent frivolously. We have so much to do. Our station will remain at the South LA Shelter, and our dogs will continue to get what they need, and we’ll just keep on keeping on. Because we believe in forever homes, we believe in these animals, and we also believe in the people who love them.
And we are so grateful you believe in us. We truly could never do all of this without you.