Small Paws Rescue - NWI Times Article

To the rescue

Small Paws looks out for the Bichon Frise breed

BY JEAN STARR
Times Correspondent

The National Counsel on Pet Population has determined that more than 56 percent of dogs entering shelters are put to sleep.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates 25 percent of dogs entering shelters are purebreds. From the giant Newfoundland to the tiniest poodle, each breed usually has an organization that is involved in its rescue.

Small Paws Rescue, a group devoted to the Bichon Frise, has more than 800 volunteers throughout the country. According to Robin Pressnall, executive director of the organization, Small Paws has rescued more than 3,500 Bichons in its six years of operation. Each month, approximately 150 Bichons are taken in through its foster program.

Two sources for the little white fluffballs include owners who can no longer care for their pet, and shelters. Shelter workers who find a purebred dog know that it might stand a better chance of being quickly adopted through a rescue agency. Also, since most purebred rescues operate out of foster homes, the dog can be better evaluated out of a shelter environment.

An unsettling number of Bichons in rescue come from commercial kennels, or puppy mills. These dogs have spent their lives in cages, their sole purpose to breed and turn a profit for owners. They have not been held or loved, and they do not know how to act in a home environment. 

"In most cases, their food is dropped to them through a food chute, and their water comes through a rabbit bottle," said Pressnall. One of the conditions of adopting a Bichon rescued from a puppy mill is that the home already have a dog in residence.

As soon as possible after a dog is removed from its present situation, whether it is in a home or in a cage, it will be placed in a foster home. Marti Lindell of Noblesville, Ind., is one of 22 team leaders who oversee the rescued Bichons and the volunteers in their areas. Lindell's area includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.

"Here in Indiana I imagine we take in half a dozen a month," she said. "We have a very good relationship with most of the shelters in the state, so if someone brings one into shelters, I can get them into foster homes." Small Paws Rescue does not discriminate when it comes to age, gender, size and health. "Our mission is to save every Bichon," said Lindell. "We take in 16-year-olds, dogs that are heartworm positive or have other health problems."

Small Paws Rescue pays the vet bills for its foster Bichons, which run about $25,000 to $30,000 per month.

The organization has come under some criticism for purchasing Bichons at commercial kennel auctions. Many purebred rescue organizations maintain that handing over money to the puppy mill breeders only makes the problem worse.

Pressnall has been to these auctions and said she will never forget it as long as she lives. At each puppy mill auction there are hundreds of commercial kennel owners shopping for every breed. Regardless of whether rescue representatives are present, the dogs will sell.

Last month, 33 Bichons were in foster care in Lindall's four-state territory.

As soon as a dog is ready for adoption, it is listed on Petfinder.org, an online adoption service. Lindall recommends anyone interested in adopting a Bichon fill out an application. The screening process includes two interviews and a reference check. It can take a week or two from the time an application is filled out and the dog goes to its new home.

Learn more about Small Paws® Rescue Inc. by visiting http://www.smallpawsrescue.org.