Mid-Missouri Nonprofit Struggles to Help Dogs in Need

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BOONE COUNTY - As winter weather sweeps through mid-Missouri, an anti-chaining and penning organization is struggling to keep up with demand to shelter dogs. Missouri's chapter of Dogs Deserve Better has been flooded with calls, e-mails and Facebook messages concerning dogs left outside in below-freezing temperatures on a chain or in a confined space.

Melody Whitworth, state representative for DDB, described the organization's mission, "Our main goal is to bring the backyard dog into the home as a family pet," she said. The nonprofit strives to accomplish its mission through several means,"Ideally, education, legislation and rescuing are the three main things we focus on," Whitworth added.

However, due to the early drop in temperatures, DDB-Missouri is receiving a blizzard of messages from all over the state, "They come from everywhere, so that is one reason it's hard to keep up," Whitworth said. In addition to receiving calls from all over Missouri, the number of dogs in need jumped after the first cold snap, "We were literally getting eight to ten a day," Whitworth said. 

It's not just uncomfortable for dogs outside during the winter; it's also dangerous. "Hypothermia can set in pretty quickly and, especially if that dog has short hair, it's only a matter of minutes before the dog starts to become hypothermic," Dr. Mary March of Horton Animal Hospital-Forum in Columbia said. March added all dogs are susceptible to hypothermia, "A common misconception is that if a dog has long or thick hair, then they're safe to be outside without shelter, which is definitely not right."

Dr. Greg Chapman of Noah's Ark Animal Hospital and Bird Clinic pointed to other dangers, "I am not against being tied out, I am obviously against being tied out for hours and hours unattended. They can get wrapped up in the chain or the tie, if they spill their water, they can get dehydrated cause they can't get to water and maybe can't get into their shelter, if they have a shelter," he said. 

When asked if DDB-Missouri was struggling to keep up with demand, Whitworth said, "Absolutely. We're foster-based and there's never enough foster homes for the dogs in need." Owners may relinquish dogs to DDB-Missouri; the organization then places them in foster homes where the dog can begin rehabilitation and eventually learn to be an indoor dog. However, rescue is only part of the nonprofit's mission. The organization also strives to educate and legislate.

DDB-Missouri works with dog owners to fight the root of the problem. Sometimes, dogs are not trained properly. Other times, owners may not know how dangerous the elements can be. Whitworth said DDB-Missouri provides services to keep dogs in their current home, "Free vetting, free spay and neutering, training, we provide crates to help them learn how to potty train, supplies. We go through a tremendous amount of food."

In 2012 alone, DDB-Missouri spent more than $4,600 on various supplies, including fencing, collars, leashes, dog bowls, monthly meds and means to run the organization. The nonprofit also spent more than $3,700 on food and nearly $6,630 on vetting last year. 

DDB-Missouri also strives to create legislation. Currently, it is illegal not to provide shelter from the elements in the state of Missouri. Columbia boasts an even stricter city ordinance, stating dogs need "structurally sound, properly ventilated, sanitary, dry and weatherproof shelter." It also states animals need access to clean, potable and unfrozen water.

For Whitworth, rescuing dogs is more than a job, "It's definitely a passion that's turned into an obsession."

Whitworth encourages people to provide a voice for dogs in need. Supporters can learn about dogs in need of foster homes and various ways to donate via DDB-Missouri's Facebook page.