For dogs living on the streets, it is only natural to eat garbage, be riddled with diseases and never know the love of a veterinarian or owner. It’s a game of survival and one without hope. But Happy Tails Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless and abandoned animals, has been working to change those outcomes for 10 years. The organization serves as a kind of middleman between rescuers—those who find homeless animals—and foster families. Happy Tails helps place rescued dogs in temporary homes before adoption, working with volunteers, local veterinarians and boarding facilities.
Happy Tails Rescue receives most of the dogs and other animals from pounds, and recently, via an agreement with Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, animals from the reservation. “There are a few [Happy Tails members] who have a relationship with Pine Ridge, where they are allowed to take any dogs that they find for rescue,” says Laura Westphall, director of Happy Tails. “I never know what we are going to get until the dogs are in the van.” Thirty dogs were picked up at the reservation on one weekend earlier this year, and Westphall counted on the many foster care providers who work with her organization, understand the process and are willing to help out.
These dedicated animal lovers go above and beyond to save animals. “One night, the women at Pine Ridge were out at 10 p.m. and found 20 dogs,” Westphall says. “Those who volunteer with us at the rescue were amazing. Everyone stepped up, changed their plans that night and met the transport by 10:30 p.m.” The partnership with Pine Ridge has been an abundant one for Happy Tails. They have helped more than 100 dogs from the reservation find new homes.
Finding dogs like this is the reason Westphall soldiers on. “All the Pine Ridge dogs and [others] we find just melt my heart,” she says. When dogs arrive at Happy Tails, they are spayed, neutered, vaccinated and tested for various diseases and receive a thorough cleaning. A healthier and happier animal is then ready for the adoption process.
“There is a pre-adoption application on our website that potential owners must fill out before they can be considered to take home a pet,” Westphall says. “I review them and send out an email to that family explaining how the process works. The foster family and dog meet with the family. If they feel it is a good fit, then the adoption process takes place.”
This process is usually very quick. The foster family evaluates if the home is a safe environment for pets, and it also gives the family a chance to have any questions answered, especially if they have never owned a pet before.
Happy Tails also takes in cats, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, chickens, reptiles, rats and hamsters. Westphall says if they know a vet who can see the animal and a foster home to put them in, they will help the animal.
The rescue needs monetary donations, puppy pens, kennels and crates, kitten cages, cat and dog beds and blankets, cat litter and litter boxes, toys, treats, collars, leashes, shampoo, bleach and used vehicles to help transport the animals.
“It’s so rewarding to take in a dog,” Westphall says. “Chances are it wouldn’t be alive if you had never opened your home.” To volunteer as a foster family, apply at tailsrescue.org.