Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 66 – Columbus Dog Connection

Columbus Dog Connection Columbus Dog Connection Columbus Dog Connection is a 501c3, limited admission dog and cat rescue organization, formed in 1998. They are a network of dog enthusiasts who rescue all breeds of dogs and cats. They promote all rescues & shelters in Ohio and be in dogged pursuit of saving every adoptable dog until dogs/cats are no longer euthanized for lack of space. They operate a high quality, aggressive, statewide mobile spay/neuter service, targeting areas with high animal population and low spay/neuter resources. They also offer a low-cost vaccine clinic on the first Saturday of the month. All dogs/cats that wish to take advantage of their low-cost services must be spayed/neutered to attend. Every dog that leaves their care is spayed/neutered, including 8-week old pups. They believe that allowing a pup to leave their care not spayed/neutered would perpetuate the problem, they work so hard to overcome every day. Non-official mission: To go out of business because our services are no longer needed. They often hear a chuckle or wishful thinking comment when they say this, and they say this often, but if they don’t believe they could end the problem of overpopulation, they have no business asking anyone to believe in them… much less to give us even one of their hard-earned dollars.
Website: Facebook: Instagram: @columbusdogconnection
“Welcome to the Animal Rescues of the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.  Columbus Dog Connection is a 501 C three limited admission dog and cat rescue organization, formed in 1998. They are a network of dog and cat enthusiasts who rescue all breeds of dogs and cats. They promote all rescues and shelters in Ohio and be in dogged pursuit of saving every adoptable dog and cat until they’re no longer euthanized for lack of space.  Hi, Kelly. Welcome to the show. Hi, Kimberly. Nice to be here. Yes, we’re so happy to have you. You’re the Director at the Columbus Dog Connection in Ohio, is that right? That’s correct. We formed in 1998 a few months in we had seen a local news story about a puppy mill situation and offered to assist this little shelter, that was obviously overwhelmed with 100 plus puppy mill dogs. This was 22 years ago and thousands of dogs and cats later. Here we are. We started out as an only dog rescue. We added cats and we added our low-cost spay, neuter, and little prospecting clinic. Oh, my goodness. So you guys definitely strayed a little bit from the initial path. It’s that good growth, you know, you added cats and you added your low-cost spay-neuter. So that’s awesome.  So how did you get started there? You know, it really all stemmed back to that news story and it really piqued my interest. I was new to Columbus, Ohio, I was not familiar with, I didn’t even know the word rescue at that point. I was not familiar with anybody doing anything aside from the two local shelters and even at that, there was very limited information because, of course, this was before anything was online. Then that really fueled it. Just with the right place at the right time. And here I am talking to you 22 years later. So you’ve been there since the beginning? Yes. We have had a small dedicated group, two of us that started the nonprofit and we’ve been here the whole time. How awesome is that? No, that’s great, because you can literally kind of give us all the ins and outs and everything that we would like to know about the organization. I love that.  So what overall is your mission at your organization? You know, our official mission is that we rescue all breeds of dogs and cats. We promote all rescues and shelters, and we’re in dogged pursuit of saving every homeless pet until they’re no longer euthanized for lack of space. We also do the aggressive statewide mobile, spay, neuter. We offer low-cost vaccine clinic, and something we feel is important is we require anyone that is hoping to take advantage of our low-cost vaccines, must be spayed or neutered, and we hope that all low-cost clinics will make that a requirement. Our nonofficial mission, though, is to go out of business because that’s right, all of our services will no longer be needed, and we often hear a chuckle. It’s like we practiced this conversation, we didn’t, but we say this often. If we didn’t believe we should be going out of business, we have no business asking anyone to believe in us, much less to donate their hard-earned dollars to help us accomplish this goal. So we’re very serious when we say our goal is to go out of business. I definitely see that that is a valid point. And, you know, this is one of those industries that’s tricky. You know, we’d like to say that we’d like to go out of business one day, but I think the reality of it is that’s just not going to happen, right? And maybe I should clarify a little. We’re always going to need the main shelters, the county dog, tax-supported organizations. But to have so many all-breed rescues like ours, it shouldn’t be needed. And you know, the light is getting very bright at the end of the tunnel. Certainly in Ohio. Back when we started, we were euthanizing 19 dogs every single day at our county shelter. Now that’s definitely not the case. There’s no euthanasia, healthy adoptable dogs. We’ve come light-years away and again, we do believe there’s always gonna be a need for the main shelters. But we hope that there could be less burden on the average rescues that seem to be like us.  You kind of touched base a little bit on Ohio and where you guys are at and some of the local organizations around you. Can you share with us a little bit more about your community? And what are some of the things that you notice? I know you have said that you guys started because of puppy mills. Is that something that’s common in Ohio? Like, what are some of the struggles that animals face in your area? I can definitely give you a lot of info in the puppy mills.. We were the lead agency that co-wrote and testified on the Ohio Puppy Mill Bill. It took seven years. We talked to lawmakers and stakeholders. We worked until we had language that everyone could agree on. That was a long haul, and I was the person sitting in the lead Amish Mons home, having tea and crumpets and talking about his interest in dogs and my interest in dogs. And I’m happy to say, after seven years, seven very long, hard years, we passed the bill that everyone could agree on. Holy smokes! That is a long, long time to pass the bill. So was that passed recently, or was it in the past? The original Puppy Mill Bill passed in 2012. We have had one upgrade since.  But to narrow down your question was that we have a problem with Puppy Mills in Ohio. I would argue that Ohio has more high volume kennels than any other state combined. I would even go as far to say we have more than Missouri and Pennsylvania put together. We are the hot, but we have the largest Amish community in the world, and I’m not singling them out. But it is an industry that a lot of Amish people take part in. We need to continue to improve on that language, but we do have the side effect of having a large breeding community in any state is something that really not a lot of people talk about, but it’s the underbelly of rescue. We call them rescue brokers in Ohio. And these are people that portray themselves as a rescue. But really, what they’re doing is going to high volume breeders, buying puppies and then putting them on Petfinder and Adopt A Pet. Where in my book, they’re worse than breeders because they’re really using the back of the good name of rescue to make money. And they’re extremely fraudulent. It’s unethical. Unfortunately, it’s not against the law. Oh, my goodness, that definitely is and I go back to what I had stated at the beginning of you guys, definitely being a little bit more unique than the average organization that I talked to because these are definitely new issues that are being kind of shared with me and with our listeners. It definitely sounds like it’s something that your state alone struggles with. That’s hard. So do animals, and by animals, I mean the ones that you care for, the dogs and the cats. Do you guys have a tendency to find a lot of strays due to the breeding issue? I would say no to that. Even, I’m in Columbus, we’re two hours away from the hub of the war just breeding community. High volume breeders are known to leave dogs loose, but they’ve come a long way. They are being more kind to the dogs in their care, so if they are no longer using them for breeding. They do know what their outlets are, and they utilize that. So they’re retiring their breeders. They’re contacting rescues. They’re contacting the Ohio Department of Agriculture. They’re trying to be good citizens and do the right thing. Well, I mean, I guess that’s one positive thing coming out of it, right?  Well, there are some other positives. I learned a lot working on the Puppy Mill Bill. In the beginning, it was us against them, and I learned through my mentors that were lobbyists, then the legislators themselves, as well as the opposition, perceived opposition. We all have a stake in the dog world, just extremely different. So we have to work together to make progress, and for us to both thrive in today’s world. And the bottom line is we want these dogs and puppies treated well, so we’ve got to come to an agreement. That’s kind of where we got. Of course, we didn’t get as much as we wanted, but we’re continuing to work on it. Even in the last five years, the role of social media and the role of all the wonderful rescues and shelters with their spay, neuter messages, we’ve really made a dent in the overpopulation problems. We hope that someday in Ohio, you know, you say, Hey, I want to get a dog. Then we say we have a list of reputable breeders and here they are because you’re not gonna find a Golden Retriever, in rescue, in Ohio anymore. That’s greatness. That’s definitely good insight, you know, for those of us who may not be in that area, cause me personally, I’m not in Ohio and I’ve never been to Ohio. So that’s definitely a good insight as to this animal welfare industry and kind of what goes on in your area and thank you for kind of sharing that.  Another one of the things that I wanted to kind of pivot to was I noticed from checking out your guys’ website that you guys offer so many resources. Like behavior tips and info and what to do if you have a lost cat or dog like I find that interesting. Can you share a little bit about how you guys go about listing those and helping the people of your community just kind of with their pets and overall information? That is one of the things we are most proud of, is our website. To my knowledge, we were the first website in Ohio that focused on homeless dogs. When we first put it together, we used to go to our Franklin County Dog Shelter, which is our large, tax-supported shelter.  We would take pictures of the dogs, bring them back home. You know, it was by digital camera and you had to download it. And this was, of course, before Petfinder was available. So when we started, day one, we listed our dogs and listed the shelter dogs and we listed other rescues and shelters. And this was my personal experience that led us to this. I wanted, at the time I was renting, I was permitted to have a dog, but I had to get a small dog. I went to the two shelters I knew about, and they only had big dogs, at the time. I didn’t know Ohio has over 500 rescues and shelters, and I thought, somebody’s got to list these. Where are these listed? And nobody had them listed. So we listed them on our website. And we’re proud to list information, for potentially any dog or cat issue or wildlife or horses, that you may need. We try and make our website a one place to stop and find relevant information for your animal issues in Ohio. I definitely say that you guys have done an amazing job at providing that. I really highly encourage our listeners to go and check it out. You guys have a ton of information on there and I find that amazing because it’s great, you know? I mean, you guys seem to answer or provide a resource for a lot of things, that pet owners may be wondering. And, you know, I’ve come to find in this industry and talking to many organizations, that they find that a lot of people are not really prone to reaching out when they need help about things, that people may, I guess, judge them for wondering. So I find it kind of awesome that you guys, you guys, are actually being a resource for them and helping them out. So that’s awesome. Well done. Thank you. We work hard on our website. It’s a constant crying baby, with broken links, and we’re always working to keep it updated. We are happy to provide this information. And if anyone’s listening anywhere, please copy it. If you want to do this in your state, you can copy it verbatim. Look, your state info. So we’ll be tickled pink to hear that. Yeah, No, definitely. I think it’s great. And I hear you on the broken links. Technology, websites, all that is, it’s like a little game, you know. You just never know what’s gonna pop up and what’s gonna happen. Such a struggle sometimes, I tell you. For sure.  What are some of the challenges that you guys face? And I know that that’s kind of a hard question right now because of the whole COVID-19 pandemic going on right now. But what are some of the challenges that you guys, as an organization specifically faced before COVID took place? And now, now that we’re enduring this pandemic, what are some of the struggles that you guys currently face? Well, broadly speaking, at any time, just like any other nonprofit, fundraising is the hardest thing we do. Everyone’s least favorite thing. You know, we want to be hands-on fundraising, you know, requires a lot of time and energy and sometimes not a great result. We live in a very philanthropic minded town, which is phenomenal, but every single weekend you will, we run into fundraisers for both animal and human needs. So we’ve been challenged by that. Since COVID, again, just like everybody else. We’re starting to ramp up, get back into the groove, and it’s made fundraising, the fundraising plans we had, even more challenging because, of course, we wanted to gather people in a small area, Kumbaya and, you know, hug it out and  make some badly needed funds for our work. But that certainly is going to be on hold. And the optimistic part of me wants to say that will just make us more creative and maybe lead us to a better event, is what my hope is.  Kelly, you’ve been with this organization from the very beginning, and one of the things that I’m curious about is how has your organization changed? When I say that, I know that you mentioned you guys started as an all dog rescue and then you added cats and your low-cost spay, neuter. But I mean, it really seems like you guys have grown a lot. But what are some of the overall changes that you’ve experienced? That your organization has gone through? The biggest change that we went through was when we were a volunteer organization and we felt like we had some good ideas. But boy doing it from 6 to 11, 12, 1 a.m. is really challenging. When if we could do this from 9 to 5, so to speak, it would be, Wow, wouldn’t it be great? We could get a lot done. Well, the more you do, the more you do. So it’s been a labor of love. We got the funding. After. I guess, it would have been seven years a volunteer only, we became, we started to add staff. I took the first paid role and then we said, All right, let’s approach this bigger picture minded. We can’t adopt our way out of this. We’ve got to spay and neuter our way out of this issue. We’ve got to put out the fire by doing adoption, of course. Getting the dogs off death row, getting the special needs down. But let’s do something bigger. So that was a really risky big, scary thing that we did. We got the funding for a $210,000 spay/ neuter vehicle, and I can only say ignorance was bliss. We thought we knew a lot and had a lot of good ideas and it’s a lot of work. So that’s been our biggest change, adding spay, neuter service. That’s a great thing to do. And oh my gosh, I did see a picture of this low-cost spay and neuter vehicle that you guys have and I love it. I love that you guys have that rap on there, and it’s like it grabs a lot of attention. It’s very engaging.  I just want to say thank you to that. We have a volunteer that works for Nationwide. Nationwide is one of our big insurance companies here. I sent pictures to the graphics guy and he said, “These are horrible. You need professional pictures”. So we reached out to all of our adopters on a very cold February Sunday, all those years ago, and said, if you’ve adopted from us, bring in your dog. So every single dog and cat on our truck have been adopted from our program. As I walk anyone around our truck. I name all the dogs and cats, and we’re so pleased with how it looks. So thank you for noticing that.. Yes. Oh, my gosh. How creative is that? I mean, there, like the fact that they’re not just, you know, random dogs and cats that you would find on the Internet. Like those are legitimately animals that have come into your care and have been adopted out. That is so awesome. Yeah, they all have stories. Every single one of them has a story and just a labor of love, that truck. I truly love that you incorporated all of them. And I’m not a designer personally, but I think it turned out great. I love that. That’s a great thing in the fact that you incorporated the animals that came into your care just makes you guys even that much more unique. Thank you. Yes. And of course.   You guys have the vehicle, I’m assuming that you guys, cause you said that you do the adoption. Are you guys foster-based by chance? We are. We have foster dogs. We have some foster cats and then not a planned situation, but our building has become basically a small cat shelter. So we’ve created isolation and as many rooms and levels as we can. We have what we call the cat house, which is off of a few windows of our building. And then we felt like they needed a little bit more. So we added on a cat gym, so they could get out 24/7. They can get out and climb. We actually cut down trees that we’ve put together outside. We have platforms for them and tubes to crawl through. The really fun part that we have found, I think we enjoy it more, watching them on the security cameras, the pleasure they get out of it. I could definitely side with that, cause I could seriously sit there and watch that old day. I love that. Well, no, that’s great.  And another question that I had was about how the animals come into your care? So I know that you guys have the puppy mills kind of thing, But do you guys pull from other shelters? Or do you take in owner surrenders? Or how do you get the animals that are in your care? Yeah, good question. We’re literally right in the one of the largest cities, in Columbus and our county shelter has a lot of support because we do have, number one, the adopters to have the foot traffic in the shelter and number two, Ohio has a lot of rescues. Our feel is that we need to go out to rural rescues and shelters that don’t have as much foot traffic and resources. We love nothing more than to go out and find dogs that have been in shelters for a while, that potentially have some medical issues from shy issues. And those are the kind of dogs typically we have in our program. You know, we do have the occasional guardian surrender. Typically, we only take those if there’s an extenuating circumstance that there’s some unfortunate situations in the household, like abuse or neglect, we train and counsel those folks and give them options.  Something else we offer on our website to somebody that needs to find a new home is will list their dog for adoption. Dog, of course, has to be spayed or neutered. They’re in charge of re-homing the dog, but we tell them, we’ll hold your hand the whole way. Which leaves the dog, they have fewer transitions and goes from that home to hopefully, it’s next permanent home. So we try to help people in that way, rather than just taking garden surrenders. Okay, well, keeping the pet in their home is a big goal and a good thing to have, you know, we would rather prevent them from coming back to an organization, right? Absolutely. And it’s better, it’s more kind to the dog or cat to go from point A to point B. Instead of taking a couple turns to the rescue and a foster home and then to the permanent home. Right. That’s definitely, you know, a good thing.  What is something that your organization is planned for 2020? Aside from COVID, what does the future look like for you guys? Well, we were ready to get back to normal. What will our new normal will be? We are excited because we’re as prepared, actually, we’re even more prepared. We added staff recently. COVID was not good timing for us because we just added staff and we were ready to hit it hard in 2020 and we will do that. But of course, you know, we feel like everybody else. We were just getting rolling and this came up. We’ve got to figure out the fundraisers, though. We could do more and do more quickly with more money. We should be helping more ferals and free-roaming and the rural groups are in dire need. Any time I think we have it bad, you know, I think about the challenges they face, and anybody in the big city really have a lot of resources at their fingertips. So doing more for the rural groups is definitely something that we will continue to do in 2020. That’s great. And I love how you point about the new normal right because as much as we want things to go back to normal, they more than likely will still have changed a little bit. Yeah.  Kelly, if somebody wanted to go about getting in contact with you guys, whether it’s to foster to volunteer to kind of help out or just you know, if they’re feeling generous, donate and help you guys out a little bit. What is the best way that they can get in contact with you? Yeah, all you have to do is remember our name. And we’re dot com instead of dot org because at the time we didn’t know the difference between what dot com and org meant. So we apologize for that. But you can find us and you’ll find all our contact info there and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Of course, use any of our links and information for any of your needs. Perfect.  So we’ve loved having you on our show today and you sharing everything about your organization and the fact that you guys are a resource for so many people and, you know, and I what I love most about that, too, is I’m not in Ohio. But I could go on and kind of learn a little bit and use it as a resource also. And so I think that’s great. But do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? Yeah, I want to tell you one of your questions was about, do I have any memorable stories? And, you know, you ask any rescue person that and we could talk to you for days, but I’ve got a dog and a foster family story that will warm your heart. We had this dog named Louis, and I say he’s a really fun dog. And I say that in hindsight, because of a happy ending. But this old boy was 10 years old. He was socially awkward. We like to say that he was a burp and fart old curmudgeon of a dog. He was a stray in a rural county, and he had been there a while. And no surprise, he was kicked out of their prison training program for biting. He got himself kicked out of four foster homes and returned from one adoption. He lifted his leg with every other step he took. He protected its food. He wasn’t neutered. He had arthritis. He had digestive challenges. But boy, he could just do his little Chow-mix smile and, you know, you wanted to start over again with him. Well, we were really lucky that we had a foster family that was able to benefit from all his failed adventures and with an armful belly band. And they knew they had their work cut out for them,  to deep were just gracious in taking on the challenge that we became. And you know, they gave Louis exactly what he needed. Probably something never had in this life, which was stability, love, direction. And this one shabby looking, bullheaded Louis transformed into a well mannered, domesticated and affectionate dog. This old dog even managed to learn some new tricks. And I just can’t thank them enough. They had him for seven months, and they made him an adoptable dog. He’s now living happily ever after with a young couple, and they think he’s the sweetest dog ever. The irony of all ironies is he has the fan following in his neighborhood because they walked him quite a bit, so that’s his rags to riches story. It is. I love that. Like he awe, and it just shows that just a little bit of hard work on our part, as humans and just taking the time to understand him and work with him and it just benefited him. And now look at him. Oh, I love that. Thank you.  Hey, I wanted to ask you, did you get a chance to look at our Elevated Dog beds? Can I tell you a little bit about that? Yeah, of course, you can. And I wanna throw this out, if there are any groups out there, any volunteer groups or shelters or rescues that need a project, this is a phenomenal project for many reasons. We came up with this idea because we used to do something, what we called Habitat For Dogs. And we would do collections or we would do shelter makeovers. And this one happened to be probably one of the smallest, most rural in the Appalachian southern part of Ohio. So we’re planning to do this makeover. We’re looking at the pictures and we see dogs laying on wet, concrete floors and we wanted to make their situation better. So we looked into buying elevated dog beds. Then we wanted to buy 50 of them, and that was cost-prohibitive for us. We decided we would come up with our own design of the elevated dog bed, and we did that. We made a YouTube video, gosh, I’d have to think about that. One day, it was like 2005 or six. Since then, we’ve made 1300 of these dog beds and donated them to shelters in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri. We’ve had numerous and pre-team building events. We’ve gone to inner-city schools. This one really got me. We went to an inner-city school where kids barely had anything for themselves, and they were all about making elevated dog beds for dogs in rural shelters. We had Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, neighborhood groups, veterinary students, retired people making our beds. Our bed designs are in Best Friends in Utah. We’ve been contacted by other countries using our design of the bed, and I’m really, really excited to say there’s a lot of copycat videos out there and I haven’t looked lately. But hopefully, someone’s come up with an even better design. An easier design, than we have.  When we started this, you know this was before,  I want to say, this was the year when YouTube started, we never thought that YouTube would be what it is, of course. How would we know? So we have one of our volunteers just put it on his YouTube page and before you know it, in a few years we had over 700,000 hits. So then we started our own organizational YouTube page. Tried to contact YouTube to say, Can we combine our hits? Because that’s a lot of hits. So I guess I’m making a plea. If anybody out there knows anyone at YouTube, I want to talk to them. I have all the statistics they would need to combine our two videos, but what I’m saying is these beds, the big thing is they are a great way to bring exposure to your dog. We have people that work on the beds and then the shelter staff take a picture of the dogs that are on the bed. Then, of course, it gets posted around social media. So the person that made the bed sees his efforts, his or her efforts of making that dog, a place that they can rest comfortably. And the best part is now the dog gets the exposure and will help them get adopted. We want to spread the word for doing a volunteer event with this, we’ve had the newspaper out. I’ve seen a kid in Utah, I think, make these beds and his news crew was there. It does a lot of things for you. Gets you donations, exposure, the dogs get adopted. It’s a great activity. And if I just can add to my favorite elevated dog bed story and I didn’t know the woman, I didn’t know the dog involved. But she sent me a note and she said she lived in rural New York and she made beds for this, her small town shelter. And she said when she sent the bed, she asked the first bed to be given to Turbo, a dog she had been watching that had been in the shelter for over a year. And the staff got back to her and said he loved the bed. And the funny thing is, within a week of getting the bed, he finally got adopted. The woman said, Well, that’s great. Why do you think that just happened? Then they said because he stopped rushing the front of his cage when anyone came to see him because he was so relaxed on the bed. And people started noticing him for the nice dog that he was. Instead of being, charging the front of this cage. Yeah, isn’t that great? I love that story. Yeah, that’s awesome.  So they’re making such a big impact, and I do, I highly suggest that people go and check it out. I did a quick little search myself just so I could kind of follow along with you sharing the elevated dog beds. Go check it out. They’re really cool, and they seem pretty easy to make too. Yeah, we have a little image on the top right page of our website and you’ll see a dog on the bed. You can click there. You can see the YouTube video. You’ll see step by step instructions. We give you tips on how to find donations. As long as you can use a drill, you can make a bed. And again, it brings every element of what you need to get a dog a home, get donations, get volunteers, get people excited about you know, they’re not just cleaning up a dog kennel or taking a dog on a walk. They see the process happening before their eyes, and really some of them are responsible for dogs getting in the home. And what better thank you can you give to a volunteer? Exactly. Thank you so much, Kelly, for sharing that I hope that, you know, some other listeners go and check those out and it’s on YouTube. There’s a video. If you have a dog, you could even create your own dog bed for your own little pup. Absolutely, you can.  Well, thanks again, Kelly, for joining me today. I’ve so enjoyed our conversation and learning more about you guys. I think what you’re doing is great and I can’t wait to see you know how the future plays out for you guys and the growth that you guys can overcome. You guys have done a ton in the, you know since 1998 so I think it’s great. Well, we appreciate this opportunity to share everything and please tell everyone they’re welcome to use anything on our site. The more all of us to do and the better all of us are the left burden on the next rescue and shelter. And you know we’re all in this together. Absolutely. You’re 100% right in that.  Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a Dooberteer, sign up for free at com. Here at Doobert, we help you help animals, and we’d love for you to join us to help save more lives.”
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