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Animal advocate sometimes risks civil disobedience to help neglected animals

The Shepherd pup that the authorities couldn't help because the owner had him in the house. The one that started it all.
The Shepherd pup that the authorities couldn't help because the owner had him in the house. The one that started it all.

There isn't a person actively involved in rescue who hasn't thought about doing what the subject of this article has done for several years. She was the subject of a KWCH news story last week. The story got hundreds of comments, with strong feelings on both sides of what she does.

This young Pit Bull was a recent rescue when no help came during the extreme cold where he was tied outside and his bottom was frozen to the ground.

I had the chance to talk with her from a tip from another rescuer who wasn't sure this champion of animals' whole story was told. And this is one of those instances where it is good to note "don't try this at home by yourself."

"I see an animal that is neglected and I try to go through the legal system," she said. "But animals that are emaciated and obviously in bad shape can't be taken to the shelter or Kansas Humane Society. They won't have a chance. When an animal is in bad shape and no one comes when calls are made, well, I just go do it."

She noted that she has done this for several years and it seems there have been more animals the past two to three years. It's not that she's been unaware that what she does is sometimes on the edge of the law, but especially with the recent extreme cold weather, she can't watch an animal suffer and in many cases, likely die.

"The Shepherd pup tied to a tree [first photo in the slide show] is one I tried to save and that started me on a mission to hold neglectful owners accountable," said the rescuer. "I talked to his owner and even offered him $100. He refused and got angry. Animal Control came out, but the dog was gone. The police also came out, but said the dog was in the house, so there wasn't anything they could do."

Not all the animals have been removed from neglectful owners. Some she has helped escape euthanasia at the Wichita Animal Shelter. Others she has been given by owners who no longer wanted the dog. For those for which no help came when calls were made to animal control, and she takes it upon herself to get them to safety, she posts them on Craigslist lost and found to give their owners an opportunity to come and claim them. To date, she has never been contacted by the owners of a dog she has removed.

"Luckily, I have the most compassionate dogs in the world," she said. "I bring in these scared, neglected dogs and they give them comfort and make them feel safe. I worry a lot, but every bit is worth it, I just look at the girl I have here and see how happy she is. When I picked her up at Animal Control, she was scared of everything, that's why she was going to be killed."

The white Shepherd and her puppy in the slide show were rescued from a pen where they had no water, no shelter, and no food. Three other puppies lay dead in the pen. When this advocate talked to the owner, she said "take 'em, they were my ex's and I don't want anything to do with them--I can't believe they're still alive."

Her own Husky is a rescue that she paid two teenagers for because they were taking him to a place where they knew a dog fighting trainer would pay them for him. He was a stray that followed them walking home from school. She paid them the $30 they would have gotten to send him to a life as a bait dog.

"They didn't care about what would happen to the young dog," she said. "They just wanted the money."

Since the story appeared on television, she has discovered how much help there is available. "I had no idea there were so many rescues and rescuers in Wichita," she said. She wants people to be aware that there are people out there who can help when there's an animal in need. She would like there to be a pet hotline for calls regarding animals that are in urgent need of help. And she would like to see the laws changed so that pets are not considered "property" to give animal control and law enforcement more freedom to remove a neglected/abused animal.

Going forward, this lone rescuer now knows she has more resources to draw on and said she will definitely be engaging the resources to which she has been introduced. It's all been through social media and she said that it means "I can do more."

As a result of the story, a group of individual rescuers has formed the Wichita Animal Action League, a Facebook page where people who were helping animals on their own came together. You'll find animals in need of new homes, some needing foster homes, and calls for help to catch loose animals to get them to safety. It's a place to network for individuals and rescue groups, share information, engage people to make calls on behalf of animals and more. If you want to help, "like" the page and help in whatever way you can.

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