By Amber Franklin
Pets are special, any animal lover would agree. There is a bond between a pet and their owner that is often ignited when they first meet, or developed over time.
Inspired by that bond, Chandler resident Josephine Morris spends her free time saving the lives of pets in need of homes, one dog at a time.
As a board member of Help A Dog Smile, Morris and her fellow animal advocates go beyond their 9-to5 jobs to help dogs in need.
Help A Dog Smile, or HADS, is an all-volunteer organization based in Phoenix that was founded about four years ago. After several HADS volunteers worked with a different animal rescue that went into hiatus, they decided to form their own.
“I have been rescuing dogs for the past 13 years,” Morris said. “I found a stray dog roaming around in downtown area and after not being able to find his owner, he just stayed with me.”
HADS, a non-profit organization, is a New Hope partner with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. Being a New Hope partner means that they have a contract with that county which enables them to obtain dogs in need of rescue, free of charge from the shelter. Although there are no fees involved, HADS is 100 percent responsible for the dog’s care. This includes everything from neutering and spaying to check-ups and vaccinations.
Once the dogs are in their homes, they work to find them permanent adoptive families.
To be eligible for New Hope, an animal cannot be aggressive to other animals or humans, but animals on the euthanasia list are able to become New Hope pets. HADS tries to pull any adoptable dog they can.
Across the country, approximately 1.5 million animals are euthanized each year, 670,000 of which are dogs, according to the ASPCA.
According to a 2015 report, 7,417 dogs and 907 cats were euthanized in Maricopa County alone. Although that number may seem high, it is actually an 18 percent decrease from 2014 and a 67 percent decrease from 2010, according the the yearly report.
“We do very important work,” Morris said. “The mission is that we want to save lives.”
HADS saves about 100 dogs per year.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control works with more than 100 animal and welfare groups, according to MCACC communications director, Melissa Gable.
“It’s the worst thing ever when you have to pick and choose which dog can be fostered and placed,” Morris said.
Being a New Hope partner is not the only way HADS finds a way to rescue dogs. They are also part of the Phoenix Animal Care Coalition 911, or PACC911. PACC911 brings together about 300 animal welfare and rescue groups across the state of Arizona for adoption events, to promote animal education, to fundraise and more.
“PACC911 is really a great organization,” HADS volunteer Mary Berg said. “They bring all of us out here together to work and share with one another.”
The majority of HADS organizers and volunteers have their own dogs and other animals, but they often open their homes to multiple dogs at a time. This allows them to adjust dogs to a home setting and gives dogs an opportunity to socialize with other dogs.
HADS encourages home visits or bringing fellow dogs that are already in the home to see if it will be a good match.
According to the ASPCA, about 1.6 million shelter dogs were adopted nationwide in the last year. Although people are adopting dogs, there is still much more that can be done for the dogs and animals without a home, the advocates say.
“Becoming a foster parent to dogs is one way that we can keep dogs, and animals really, off the street,” Berg said.
Morris typically fosters mamas and their puppies until they are ready to be adopted. The process can become difficult at times when an adoptable dog stays in the foster system for a long period of time.
Bunny (pictured left) was roaming around the streets of Phoenix as a stray after breaking loose from a chain kept outside, Morris said.
“Someone had tried to keep her chained outside but she broke loose,” she said. “She came into our rescue and was not adopted after two years of fostering.”
Bunny is a very sociable dog that is great around children and other dogs, but, according to Morris, the stigma that pit bulls have associated with them make it difficult for them to be adopted.
“We decided to keep her as part of our family, and she has been an excellent breed ambassador the whole seven years we’ve had her,” Morris said.
Bunny even has tea parties with Morris’s 6-year-old daughter and her friends.
Morris also advocates for animals in her day job. She has worked in several different positions within communications and started a business of her own. But when she spotted a position that combined communication with her love of animals, she found her dream job.
“Jobs in animal advocacy are extremely hard to get, and they don’t come along often,” Morris said.
As a farming outreach coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States, Morris works with health care providers, universities, school districts and corporations on integrating plant-based foods into their dining plan.
Adopting a dog, or animal, can bring challenges when it comes to adjusting a pet to a new environment. Not every transition is the easiest, but it can be rewarding, according to Tempe-based roommates Scott Malobicky and Ryan Blake.
Pet owners share their dog adopting experiences. In order: Jenny Vasquez, Devin Whiteaker, Taylor Layton-Simington, Ryan Blake and Scott Malobicky, and Connor Jones.
“It was a little tough at first,” Malobicky said. “He destroyed a lot of the house.”
“Especially the blinds,” Blake added. “He really liked to destroy the blinds.”
“It kinda had us questioning if it was worth it, but then you know we just kind of trained him and worked with him,” Malobicky said.
Fast-forward a year later, and Bronson is now a happy, trained dog that loves to be outside and go swimming the pool, Blake said.
Whether someone is to adopt a dog or foster until they find their forever home, caring for their well-being is a connection made on its own.