Carthage Humane Society featured in YouTube series with Josh Duhamel

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Susan Redden
The Joplin Globe

CARTHAGE, Mo. — One thousand dogs at one time cared for by the Carthage Humane Society now have "forever homes" after their adoption through shelters in and around Minneapolis.

They are dogs that were picked up at the Carthage shelter for the daylong journeys made by the Rescue Waggin', a program funded by PetSmart Charities designed to improve the odds of adoption for once-homeless dogs.

Glenda Erwin, director of the Carthage Humane Society, said the shelter has been a part of the program for three years.

The local effort has received renewed attention from a web series produced by actor/producer Josh Duhamel. Production crews filmed the local episodes last November, Erwin said.

"They spent a day here, filming the dogs and us getting them ready for the trip. We've gotten a lot of good feedback from it," she said.

In the series, shelter workers tell each dog's story.

The first two episodes of the series aired Monday, and two more episodes will be released each Monday throughout March, according to Steve Pawlowski, media relations manager for PetSmart Charities.

The goal is to show the dogs from their beginnings, either being picked up off the street or surrendered at the shelter, to their new homes and the families that adopt them.

One of the featured dogs is Porter, a beagle whose leg had to be amputated after it came to the shelter with a broken scapula.

After the surgery, shelter workers rehabilitated the dog, which was adopted almost immediately after his arrival in Minnesota, Pawlowski said.

"He was on the floor for five minutes before he was adopted," Pawlowski said. "It goes to show the length that organizations like the Carthage shelter will go to save these dogs."

Another focus of the series is Stubby, a long-haired dachshund "adopted" by the Carthage shelter right after the Joplin tornado. Erwin said a couple brought the dog to the shelter, saying it suffered from epilepsy and asking that it be euthanized.

 "We had a lobby full of people trying to find their pets because it was right after the tornado. But there was no way I was going to put that dog down; that's not what we're here for," she said.

She got treatment for Stubby, and he's been living happily at the shelter ever since, Erwin said.

"He runs the place. He follows all of us around and goes back into the kennels with the vet," she said. "He greets dogs when they are brought in, and he plays with the cats, which makes it easier if they get adopted by people who already have a dog."

The series includes cameos from celebrity pet adoption advocates including Kristen Bell and Bret Michaels.

The production then "follows" the dogs on the journey as they make the 600-mile trip to a shelter in Green Valley, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb, for a better chance of being adopted.

The Rescue Waggin' makes trips to Carthage four times a month, normally taking 60 to 70 dogs for adoption. The program makes similar trips in other parts of the country and is active in 25 states, Pawlowski said.

Erwin said dogs are more in demand in states where more dogs are spayed and neutered.

"In some places it's the law, and in others, it seems to be more tradition," she said.

Another 30 dogs, on average, are adopted each month from the shelter.

"But we fill right back up," she said. "Because not enough people spay and neuter their dogs around here, and this are is still the puppy mill capital of the world."

Missouri voters several years ago approved a ballot measure designed to impose stiffer regulations on pet some breeders. From her perspective, Erwin said, the measure didn't do much but "drive the puppy mill people further back in the woods."

"It made things more expensive for us because it raised the cost of fees shelters have to pay to the state," she added.

The Rescue Waggin' program has helped shelters improve their operations through spay/neuter programs, grants and mentoring. Erwin said the program includes requirements that help shelters improve overall operations.

The program is funded by PetSmart Charities, an animal welfare organization separate from the retail store, that provides more funds to animal welfare operations in North America than any other.

Pawlowski said more than 70,000 dogs have found new homes as a result of that program, and almost 6 million dogs have been placed through adoption efforts run at PetSmart stores.

Attention getting

Those big numbers were an impetus for the web series, which puts a name and face to the program, he said -- and they loved working with the people in Carthage.

"They bent over backward to accommodate us," Pawlowski said. "They weren't media trained, and everything that came out of their mouths came straight from the heart."

He said Duhamel came up with the idea after learning about Rescue Waggin' when he participated in a program promoting PetSmart charities surpassing the 5 million mark in dog adoptions.

"That was two years ago, and when he had time, he got back to us and said, ÔThis is a story I want to tell people about,'" he said. "He has a small production company, and what they've done really paints the picture."

Erwin said the shelter does not have to pay anything to participate in the program. She said she's a strong supporter because the effort saves dogs that otherwise might have to be euthanized.

"What people need to understand is that shelters have good dogs that need to be adopted," Erwin said. "But it costs more if you focus on the dog, making sure they're healthy and getting them adopted."

The shelter's $323,000 annual budget comes primarily from grants, donations and estates. Those who want to support the operation can visit the shelter just off Cedar Road south of Carthage, or mail checks to  P.O. Box 1064, Carthage, MO 64836.

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