Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 29 – Third Coast Animal Rescue in Alabama
Third Coast Animal Rescue is a 501(3)c, all-volunteer rescue based in the Mobile Bay area, serving the greater Gulf Coast areas of the Florida panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi.  They are dedicated to rescuing homeless, abandoned, neglected and at-risk dogs, and re-homing them permanently. The dogs they take in primarily come from high-kill shelters in Mobile, Baldwin, and Escambia counties.

To learn more and to support them today, please visit their website or Facebook page!

Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the week podcast, featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals & the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues & shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

Third Coast Animal Rescue is a group of dedicated volunteers trying to make a difference in their community while working towards a no-kill nation. Not only do they save and care for homeless and abandoned dogs but they also work to ensure that every pet guardian knows how important the responsibilities of caring for a pet actually are. By doing so they provide education and resources to new adopters to make adding their new addition a bit easier.

Hey Dusty, welcome to the show. Hey, thank you. I’m really excited to have you on the show today, and you are from Third Coast Animal Rescue, located in Alabama. Why don’t you start us off and tell us a little bit about your background and maybe what you guys do there at Third Coast. We started in July of 2014. We were contacted about a dog that was walking in a rural area. He was so beat up, a mangled. He was walking on his elbows. It was clear that he had been used as a fighting dog. One of our volunteers called, like I said, it was July the fourth, and she was crying. She didn’t know what to do with the dog and said, “Oh, my gosh I would just take him home and we’ll figure it out later.” We have been doing some small stuff before that, but he was our first official dog. He was in such bad shape that the news people came out and interviewed us and looked at him, and they asked for the name of Third Coast Animal Rescue is what we’ve been calling ourselves, and then from that day forward, it just kind of took off.

We were an official group at that point. We got our 501c3 shortly after that, and we’ve been rocking and rolling ever since. That’s pretty awesome. Did you have a background in animal welfare previously to starting Third Coast? I did I was with a group prior to that, I had been with them for probably three or four years. And then I got pregnant with triplets and they were extremely premie. And once they were born, I had to take a step back. I left that group and then I kept doing some rescue here and there. But never anything really official until July the 4th 2014.

I’m always curious how people get into the animal welfare industry. Did you always kind of have animals when you were younger? Did you? Yeah, I think that that was what you were gonna do. Tell me a little bit about that. I never really thought it was anything I would get so in depth with. When I was a kid, I was always bringing home, went out cats and three legged dogs and trying to hide them in my closet. So then fast forward to my thirties and there’s a page and it’s called Mobile and Baldwin County – Urgent dogs and had never seen this page before. But one of my Facebook friends had shared it, and it was a little dog and his name was Dave. Oh. And it said dies at 4 p.m. And I’m like, What do you mean dies at 4 p.m.? What are you talking about? So I went to the shelter right then and there and got him, and I think I ended up getting 10 or 11 more. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It had never even been brought to my attention before, so I was mortified,.

And at the time I owned a business. So I reached out to the group that ended up joining and I said, “hey, you know, why don’t we have some fundraisers here?” You know, I love to help out, however I can. So we ended up having trivia. We had bingo night, so that’s kind of where it all started. For me. It’s interesting that you have such that passion such that draw at a young age. You guys are pretty far south in Alabama, and so what kind of talk about what that looks like and what the community there is like for you. Where Mobile and Baldwin County. We go back and forth between those counties are pretty close together. Like you said, it’s very rural. We deal with so much overpopulation. We blame a lot of it on education and income.

You know, there’s just so many down country places, if you will, that are just infested with stray dogs that are just multiplying, multiplying, multiplying were struggling, trying to find a way to get ahead of that. It’s a pretty common piece to animal rescue in general, but more specifically, when you get into these rural locations, what are you guys doing within Third Coast that is helping to get that word out there? Do you have any educational programs? Well, right now we’re talking to several of the schools in the area. We’re gonna try to get a program where we could have a volunteer go out once or twice a week and talk to the young kids about how to properly care for animals and how to treat animals and things like that. Does a lot of these behaviors start in the home and it’s hard to reach the people who are so rural.

So we’re thinking that maybe reaching out to the school systems first and trying to educate these children as their younger about heartworms and heartworm prevention and the importance of spaying and neutering and things like that. So we’re gonna start there and see where that goes. And there’s PetSmart, Petco, and that are always willing to educate the people coming in and out to on those important things. Even if you do convince someone, spay and neuter your dog, and then you have to turn around and convince them. Hey, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a heartworm pill for $30 or $40 a month, depending on the size of the dog. That’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of income, though we also try to offer low cost options to them. Sometimes we’ll approach them like, Hey, you know, I let us help you get your dog up. Today, let’s get your dog neutered and let’s help you try to keep your dog, obviously you love your dog, and then there’s several times we’ll send them on their way with a six month supply of hardware meds and my phone number and tell him to call me in the future so it’s really sad.

A lot of people want to do right by their animals that they just don’t have the income to afford it. So you had mentioned the financial support, one of the things that really caught my attention, and that was that You’re reaching out to them and offering them that assistance. It almost feels like either a they don’t know about you or they don’t know that your resource for that is absolutely triggered. And we’re dealing with a lot of older people. They don’t know how to contact people, and some of don’t even know that the resources are out there. That’s a major challenge. Every shelter in the area has my number, and if somebody tries to surrender adult, we try to intercept them before they even make it into the shelters that even the shelters are overflowing, too. So that’s definitely an issue.

What else are you doing to financially to support those and how are you deciding or finding the people who need that support? We are fortunate enough to have several vet clinics that give us great rescue pricing. Everything we do is 100% fundraised. If we rescue a dog in bad shape, we’ll start a go fund me and you caring and kind of raise money for that one and very, very rare occasion. If we have 200 bucks left over from what we raised, then you know we can take that money and we can put it back into the community like that. It just goes full circle. Fundraising is another challenge that I think every rescue deals with We rescue and then we have to figure it all out later. Basically, is pretty much how it works is definitely true, right? We’re more passionate about saving the animals and less worried about the money.

And as a rescue with all volunteers. Do you have a team that kind of focuses on fundraising and events? Or what do you do in that regard? Yes, we do. So we have one volunteer that processes our applications. We have another volunteer. He is kind of our boots on the ground. He’s going all over town. Taking dogs to vets and back and forth, and then I’m the transport coordinator and I kind of do a little bit of everything as well. I’m the one who reaches out to the other state rescues and pitches the dogs that we have. My Co-founder, she’s amazing at raising money, so I just kind of let her run and do that. She has t-shirt fundraiser. She’s really good at posting individual fundraisers for dogs that we might have. We have a rescue van right now that’s broken down. And so she’s in the process of getting a fundraiser started to get the money to get that back up and running. Everybody just pitches in and does what they can do to keep it running smoothly.

So now you have been around for about five years, where you guys at in your growth? Where did you start from a volunteer perspective and where you guys at now? And how are you able to grow that volunteer program or maintain it? We are way bigger than what I had ever thought in my mind that we would be. Wow. Yeah, and we honestly, the day to day operations run on 4 to 6 people doing everything we have. A network of Foster’s of probably 100 20 fosters that don’t always have a dog, but when they’re able, they’ll take it all it’s easier to get volunteers, especially fosters involved. If they know a short term, we’ll have a dog on the kill list of the shelter. I immediately will start pitching it. Are you interested in this dog? But as soon as I have an OK from someone, we need a two week foster and people say two weeks, short term. They’re more willing to do that when they know there’s an end in sight, then they are if it’s a long term foster, so that works best for us. And that is how we get most of our volunteers and fosters.

And then we have some that have been around as long as I’ve been here and they don’t mind keeping, um, long term. It’s interesting to me that you have found that the short term foster works better than the long term. So when you have started, what was your vision to the foster program for you guys? I really didn’t wanna be in a position where we were having local adoption events, and we were having a ton of dogs and foster just because it is hard to find volunteers to show up to run those events and to get their dogs there. But it just kind of morphed into something much bigger. And now it’s working. We’re adopting out as many dogs locally. It’s definitely changed for my original vision of what it would be. But we’re good. We’re trucking along.

You had mentioned that you’re adopting out about the same as you are is transferring out. So tell me what those numbers look like for you. We usually average anywhere from 1200 to 1500 dogs a year, and that’s including puppies. And we transfer out, I would say, anywhere from 700 to 800 dogs a year. We have certain rescues that we work with that take breed specific. We have some that we know take pregnant dogs. We have some that we know, take mom’s with nursing babies. And so I have a list, and as soon as I get one in, I immediately just start trying to pitch him because the faster we can get him out of here then the more we can pull from the shelters and do it again The next days. When I talked to a lot of rescues to hear their challenges that they feel like when they get to a certain point in their community that they don’t have any more choices to adopt locally anymore.

So then they get in this quandary of nobody in our community is adopting. So we have to send all of our dogs north, and you is consistently for five years have still been able to find adopters and that 50/50 balance. And so I want to know how you’ve been able to make that successful. We put all of our available dogs on Pet Finder, and we list them on Facebook and our fosters are really good at sending videos and pictures. So it’s much easier to adopt them out to people locally when they have so much information about the dog or they go with cats or they are potty trained. Are they good with kids? And I’ll tell you one thing that’s very interesting. We are in one data down here with brown and black dogs. We just call in Alabama brown and black dogs because they’re everywhere and they do not move. We cannot hardly get them adopted out there so many, and they just get overlooked. But I’m telling you, we send them north and they’re the first ones to go. It’s unreal. Really?

That’s definitely interesting. I am curious since you call him Alabama Brown and Black. Are they a mixed breed? Are they a specific kind? Like what I’m getting at is, I want guys in the north. You are listening who might have space and he won’t say, “Hey, we can take some to where I highly adoptable.” I want people to be able to reach out to you and say, “tell me what you’ve got. Let’s work.” Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we don’t discriminate on breed. We’re one of the only rescues, we’ll, take Pit bulls. We’ll take Chihuahuas. We’ll take three legged dogs. We’ll take anything. We don’t discriminate with that and a lot of people do. And it’s very sad because we have a lot of our Alabama Brown and white dogs are pity mixes or their lab mix says you name it, and we have it if I run into somebody and they want to buy a designer dog. But can you just give me one week cause I guarantee you I can find you either that dog or something extremely similar in a shelter somewhere.

I love that there’s no discrimination and you’re open to working with organizations from anywhere. Transport is obviously a hot topic these days? So you’re transferring out about half of the dogs do you have in your care? You’ve had some time in the animal welfare industry. More importantly, five years specifically with Third Coast. How are you finding those organizations to work with what’s been your process? When you look for partners, each state has their own laws. The first thing you have to do is you have to learn the laws of every state because you don’t want to do anything wrong. That’s really important to know the laws and not only your own state, but others as well. Most of the rescues. But we work with their very loyal they know how we do things. I know how we operate. And no, we don’t cut corners. The dogs come to them fully vetted. And we have certain prices that we work out and we do get reimbursement back our processes, we get the picture. We have very little information from the shelter. We pitch them out of state rescues, and then if somebody will agree to take them, or even if we don’t have a state rescue. But we have a local foster that’s willing to step up to keep the dog from dying. We’ll pull it will spay and neuter it, and then we’ll put it in the foster.

Then we’ll just keep either trying to adopt it locally or send it out of state, whichever one comes first. I think that’s one thing that a lot of people forget is the state laws, and that’s a big thing. And you guys are in a unique area. When you’re looking for new partners, how do you go about doing that? Do you do it by referrals? Are you searching and Google? Are you picking up the phone and cold calling? How do you go about finding new partners to work with? How have you done that in the past? In the past, I have Googled. I have kind of researched that way. But now Facebook has become such a wonderful tool. There’s different pages for specific needs. There’s a page called Pregnant Nursing Moms and High Kill Shelters. I’ll post a pregnant dog or a mom and nursing puppies on that page. And just from that one post on might make 5 to 6 new rescue contacts that strictly specialize in that. And that’s how a lot of it worked.

We run a page called Mobile and Baldwin County – Urgent Dogs Page, and there’s a huge following all over the US on that page, and that’s where we’ll post our urgent dogs and so rescues will see it or somebody will share it with them. Then they’ll contact us and say, Hey, what do we have to do to pull this dog? So Facebook’s an amazing tool because there’s pages like that all over. One of the major challenges that I hear is there so many organizations that are looking to send dogs and it’s so unbalanced, meaning that it’s hard to find organizations or groups that are taking animals. You can’t have 80% sending organizations in 20% receiving. It doesn’t work. We need more of a balance. We need to find a way to identify who those receiving groups are, so that we can somewhat start to partner them together. It’s one consistent challenge that I see with almost every conversation I have. And so that’s why I wanted to understand that.

And before we move on, I’m curious. You guys are in Alabama. How are you transporting dogs to California, Colorado, Washington? Were talking like States away. Are you guys using commercial transporters? How are you making that connection? No, we do not use the commercial trains, but I don’t think it’s just not affordable. I mean, it would be nice. We do our own volunteer leg to let transports, so we used do both. I’ll create my run on my notes on my computer and then I’ll put it on Facebook and I’ll share it to all the transport pages on Facebook. And then I’ll take that run and I will upload it to Doobert. And then they send it out to all their drivers in their database. So it’s very tedious work. I mean, there are some weeks where my husband’s like you’ve got to get off this. It’s 60 hours a week. Sometimes it’s tough.

One weekend we had one going to California. We have one going to Washington State. We had one going to New York, and we have one going to Minnesota? Yeah, all in the same weekend. It’s a lot. Yeah, you’re balancing that with triplets. I mean, I don’t have kids, so I’m thinking how you handle a family life. Do the rescue like that’s what you no indication it is an I don’t think I do it well, everybody else thinks I do, but of course I feel like I’m just constantly unorganized, but my kids is really fun to have them involved, too. Somebody through here needs a leg bone. Kids, let’s go grab this dog and they’ll say, were they going to kill it, Mommy? and I’ll be, you know, said, sadly, they were, But we’re gonna get him to safety. So now they know when I have my computer, they want to know what the dog’s name is. They want to know if I have a video and they like seeing me do that now. They’re to the age now where it’s kind of fun to share it with them.

I think that’s important stuff to share with the next generation, specifically your kids. I want to kind of bring this back around to the community a little bit. I wanted to talk about what the microchip clinics look like for you guys. And then I want to spend a few minutes talking about how the community feels or how that operates from a low cost janitor clinic. Are you guys doing that? What are the challenges? That kind of things We have been involved in the past and, like all stay and neuter clinics. You give vouchers out and things like that and Alabama did used to have a program where, if people were on Medicaid, think was either $10 or $20 that they could have their animals spayed and neutered. But they quit even that program because people were abusing it.

So do these spay and neuter clinics and the people that you’re trying to target generally, if they don’t have enough money to spay and neuter their dogs, they really don’t even have the $20 even pay for the voucher. So you end up seeing a whole lot of abuse from that. People end up with the vouchers that don’t really need it. People were given their Medicaid low cost. They ended her things to other people and charge him for it. We have just found that it doesn’t work for us. It’s just wasted. A whole lot of resource is every time were contacted by someone they need. The puppy’s gone, but they want to keep the mom and dad. Well, can we spay and neuter the mom and dad for you and get them up today? You know, nine times out of 10 they will do that. They’re not even willing to spend $20 on it. To be honest, it ends up just wasted a whole lot of resource.

So we do microchipping clinics and different types of fundraising, and we’ll just put it back into the community that way, I guess part of it is always a learning her with the community. You’re helping the animals, but at the same time you want to help the community. And if they don’t wanna work with you, right, it feels like you’re banging your head against the wall. You are. Until laws were changed and community awareness is heightened, then we won’t ever get anywhere. It’s very, very frustrating.

What happens in animal abuse cases? Are you guys working with your elected officials? What does that part look like for you guys either in your community or more completely in the state of Alabama? The state of Alabama, Mississippi and even parts of Florida and Georgia have really big dog fighting rains. Like dogs are stolen at a backyard. People are searching Craig’s list for bait dogs. We got one dog in a couple of years ago. They had branded this dog and it was a game like whoever could shoot the dog with a bow and arrow. That’s the kind of sick things that we see. And it’s not like I don’t want people to think that the whole state of Alabama is. Well, it’s not, obviously, but there are major areas of concern. We had one dog, she’s still alive. I can’t believe it. But she was kept in such a tiny cage. Her bones on the back were exposed where she had been sitting because she couldn’t stand up and she couldn’t lay down. It was awful. We knew the owner of that dog. We had his name. We had address. Nobody ever prosecuted. The last time we checked, the last case in Baldwin County that was prosecuted was 2011. Oh my goodness gracious.

It’s constant abuse cases and Another thing that you run into is the shelters are so worried about their image. I don’t know why, but you can’t even trust that they’re telling the truth where these dogs are coming from or what their kill rates are because they don’t want public backlash. So you’re also fighting with that as an animal advocate. If you come across is too radical, you’ll get banned from the shelter and then dogs are gonna die because you’re not able to pull them. So it’s a very sticky scenario that we get ourselves into a lot of times and we fight with legislators and nothing happens. We’ve had groups of people go up to Montgomery and Picket, attend meetings and things like that. Nothing ever gets done, and a lot of it is because people like to hunt down here. And if they start regulating dogs on chains or dogs in cages outside or whatnot, then they’re going to start taking off a lot of hunters. It’s just ridiculous.

We’re not asking for them to change the world. We’re just asking for no chains or prosecute these people who are constantly abusing these animals, and they won’t do it. I’m kind of back to that other comment where we talk about how do we fix the problems that exist? I just think this is one of those things where we need to get everybody involved in supporting the same cause in order to make a change. Yeah, movement it is. And I think it’s gonna have to be generational. Like you said, we’re gonna have to educate and educate, educate, and then hopefully vote these people with these old mind sets out of office and put people in that truly care. We’re not asking for crazy, crazy, crazy laws. Just simple, humane laws that will protect these animals is absolutely heartbreaking. Definitely is. I got chills a couple times as you were kind of asking through that segment. I can’t think of another word besides heartbreaking.

I want to pivot a little bit because I want to talk about something positive, the success stories, and I want to know if there is a particular story that really stands out to you, that either inspires you to keep going down this crazy path of animal welfare or just one that really warms your heart. You have a story that you want to share. Gosh. So I grew up in a very, very rural part of Alabama. My family had hunting land and they still live out there. So I grew up hating, hunting. That just made me sick, but anyways, that mentality where I grew up is still there. Every time I go home, I tell my mom I’m not going home with the dog. I’m not your animal control. Something’s gonna change. So a couple of years ago, we were driving down the road and it’s a little bitty one lane road, no lights, no nothing. And I almost hit this pit bull. Her ears had been so badly cut and just terrible. And she probably wait 20 pounds, but should have been about 50 pounds.

She was so underweight. She had been shot multiple times in her side and had been shot in the other side with the bow and arrow. They were doing everything they could to kill this dog. Miraculously, she was alive. And I told my mama said, Oh my God, I can’t leave her here And we’re talking where they lives an hour away from any vet clinic. I mean, it’s way, way, way, way, way in the woods and prompt. What are we gonna do with her? We don’t know. She’s aggressive. We don’t know whatever, and I don’t know, but I’m not leaving her here. So I let her up in the back of my brand new car and she’s bleeding everywhere, and I could hear my mom say, Don’t look at me, Don’t you get attached to me so good, because my mom has a big heart, too, and it’s killing her as well. Anyway, so the next morning alleged her up, and I called one of our vets and said, I’m on my way. I’m two and 1/2 hours away, but I have this dog that we have got to try to say, and it’s unreal to me that she even survived.

After we nursed her back to help, one of our volunteers took her as a foster, and she was dog aggressive with this particular, foster would not give up on her. She strapped a leash around her waist, and every time she was home, she would walk Athena around the house on that leash, wrapped around her waist. That way, if one of the dogs approached that she’d get to her quick. And she worked with her for probably a year and ended up adopting her. And she lived an amazing probably six years, and she had cancer, so they just recently had to put her down. But she lived such an amazing life. And I never will forget the way she looked at us. Almost like they look inside your soul. You know, most people would probably take the easy way out and euthanize her. But I wanted to see it through and see her have a good life.

And there’s so many stories like that that we have another one down. Her name was Willow, and my grandfather was 98. And he was in that mindset. You know, Dog comes in your guard, you shoot it. It’s just the way that that generation was raised and whatnot. And so she was supposedly found with a puppy. The first people that found her and called me. And when we got there, the puppy was gone and she was still there. And have you ever seen adult smile? Yeah. So she would just smile at me and my husband will tell you to this day. That’s the cutest smile he’s ever seen. Like she was just she looked like a cross between like a possum and ah, I don’t know what, but she had the cutest little smile and I was like, Oh, my God, I can’t leave her here again. She was so emaciated. And so I took her home and one of my other amazing volunteers ended up being a very good friend of mine. She said she would take her to foster, so she did. We almost had to put her down 45 times. But Kerry would not give up on her. It turned out she had Lyme disease, and I don’t know why she was never tested for that. I have no clue.

But the first day we got her and I brought her in my house, it was like she just laid in the corner and should duck her head. And she looked at me with his eyes and tail wag. Until I cannot please Joe, you stay here. I promise I won’t bother anything. Kind of how she looked at me. So she is alive and well and doing amazing and those are the two dogs I don’t think I’ll ever forget. And you can just tell they’re grateful, everything you do for them. They’re grateful you don’t get that from a lot of people. So I think such a valid point. Dusty. I love those stories, and that’s why it’s my favorite part of the entire conversation. They’re things that keep you motivated, and they’re just overall impactful and has really important in this industry where compassion fatigue happens and you could get worn out quickly and you forget right doing things because you’re so in the weeds every single day that you forget to look up and right.

She ate what you have and what you’ve done and what you’re capable of. So thank you for writing those. Sure, we’ve definitely reached our limit. From a time perspective, I feel like I could talk to you. But is there anything else that we may be missed that you want to mention before we close this out? No, I think we’re good. Well, I’ve definitely appreciated my time with you and will definitely make sure you have to stay in touch and make sure that we get updated on your progress and let us know what we can do. Anything to support you guys in the future. Well, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on this I could talk about for hours. I’m just that passionate. So thanks for having me on and let me share a little bit of our story. I love it. Thanks so much. All right. Thank you.

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