For almost a month, a local real estate agent faced a dilemma. A property listed with her agency had three hungry dogs roaming the property, jumping on cars as they approached, looking for food, their owner, or both.
As the agent attempted to locate the dogs’ owners, checking with neighbors and even posting online via various lost dog websites, no one came forward to claim the animals; a boxer, a hound mix and a smaller dog. Over the course of three weeks, she fed out 50 pounds of dog food to the homeless animals.
In the past these dogs would have found refuge at the Animal Shelter of Texas County. Closure of the facility has reverberated throughout the County, with reports of stray dogs increasing in local police reports. Fortunately, there are private individuals and small organizations stepping in to bridge the gap.
Shayla Black of Rolla is doing her part to address the problem. Living in a rural area as a child, she recalls, “animals just showed up at our house.” Her parents still have a kitten, now a cat, who showed up at their door almost 20 years ago. At age 15, Shayla (now 32) performed her first animal rescue when she and a teen friend found six abandoned puppies in a field. They divided the puppies, with Black taking three of them home. Although she treated the pups for their roundworm infestation, one died. She re-homed the second dog, and the remaining dog stayed with her, just passing away last year.
A little over a year ago, Black read about Bark Plaza in the Intercounty magazine, and volunteered to work for free; mostly doing transports and rescue, taking a van load every other week of dogs and puppies to other rescues and forever homes. After TASTC closed in January of this year, Black, along with another volunteer Debbie Lemon, attempted to keep up some of the important work previously performed by the shelter, creating the Barking Bridge Project. In the words of Shayla Black, “We call it a project, because it’s not just a shelter or rescue. We are trying to meet needs as a whole to address the problem of overpopulation and reach out to the community with education. People can be part of the solution, but they can also be part of the problem. “
When asked what is meant by the term “rural dog poverty,” Black explains, “The combination of the rural setting (populations spread out over large areas), many being low-income, and a lack of resources for pets, leads to people owning pets they cannot properly provide for. The end result being that many pets are not spayed/neutered leading to unaltered males roaming and becoming lost, some are dumped due to overpopulation, many are not taken for routine vet appointments, and in other ways are not properly cared for causing low life expectancy rates. We aim to provide resources to address many of those problems.”
To achieve these goals, the Barking Bridge Project has partnered with PAWS and Kindred House to get dogs off the street and into a loving home. They also assist in low cost spay and neuter programs, based on sliding scale due to income. The next spay and neuter clinic is October 19th, and making an early appointment is suggested by calling 314-202-2183. Sponsored by BARC St. Louis and Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic, the clinic will pick up and return your pet for spay and neuter appointments at their clinic in St. Louis at no additional cost. Animals stay overnight in St. Louis as they recover from their procedure and are returned to Texas County the following day. Dr. Dunn and Dr. Buttress are contracted locally for rechecks.
In regard to funding sources, the Barking Bridge Project relies on donations, but at this time the volunteers bear much of the cost of transport out of their own pocket, including vet bills. For those who would like to contribute, there is a donation tab on the Barking Bridge Project Facebook page.
Black is realistic, and knows some people will always prefer a breed-specific dog. She does caution that when purchasing from a breeder to always research your breeder, look at the facility and the mother of the puppies and request vet records.
And the stray dogs, possibly abandoned when the owner moved? The concerned real estate agent got in touch with the Barking Bridge Project, and all three dogs are on their way to loving homes.
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Barking Bridge Mission Statement: To reverse rural dog poverty in Southern Missouri through rescue work, low cost alteration options, and community based education and to provide a blueprint to guide other rural communities.
Photos: Shayla Black gets a “thank you” from a canine friend.
2242: 3 dogs left on their own at an empty home.
7031: Oh, the comfort of knowing you are safe.
7053: Barking Bridge does 1 -3 transports weekly, getting dogs and puppies to a stable home.
7083: Little dogs lives matter!