In May, a photo featuring the endearing reunion of a one-eyed Dachshund and his foster mom went viral. The dog, Captain Morgan (“Cappy”), was saved from a high-kill shelter in Selma, AL, thanks to the efforts of Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue and its network of rescuers, foster families, and volunteers.
Badass Brooklyn’s mission is to rescue dogs on death row from pounds where the kill rates can reach 90 percent or higher. Often, these shelters use extremely inhumane euthanasia methods like gas chambers or heartstick. The Badass Brooklyn team works with rescuers in the south to bring as many dogs up north as they can in order to foster them and facilitate adoptions.
Since founder Sara Cross started Badass Brooklyn in 2011, 800 dogs have been rescued from high-kill rural shelters in the southern States. Cross says she hopes to rescue 365 in 2013, stating that they are well on their way to this goal.
Cross, who is a filmmaker, was working on a documentary at a Navajo reservation when she became all too aware of the appalling living conditions for stray and feral dogs in the rural, poverty-stricken south. She knew she wanted to help. Cross got involved with Blackhat Humane Society, first by donating, which quickly turned into more. Blackhat started posting photos of rescue dogs on Cross’ Facebook, and eventually she was fostering dogs, organizing rescues, and helping collect funds for other shelters. She got in contact with another woman named Sarah on Facebook, who, like Cross, was just an individual trying to help out dogs however she could. When Cross found herself with her first six foster dogs and only a one-bedroom apartment, Sarah stepped in to help.
“Badass probably wouldn’t exist if Sarah hadn’t been there for me in the beginning,” Cross notes. Sarah went on to start her own rescue, Loki Grrl Rescue, which operates in much the same way as Badass Brooklyn by fostering, rehabilitating, vetting, and finding homes for adoptable dogs from high-kill shelters.
“I didn’t plan to start a rescue,” Cross says, “but … every day Facebook was showing me new pictures of dogs about to die … and basically once you see that, you can’t turn away. You can’t forget.”
While Cross has been unable to find data that indicates if there are more high-kill shelters in the southern part of the U.S. than in the north, she makes the correlation between the number of “kill factories” in areas with lower populations and higher poverty rates. And because of massive overcrowding at these types of shelters, Cross states that owner surrenders can be killed immediately and strays often have as little as 72 hours to be claimed.
She says that in the areas they rescue from, there are virtually no spayed/neutered dogs or dogs with some form of identification. Dogs are allowed to run free unsupervised, and many are kept outside all the time, Cross says.
And when Badass Brooklyn saves one of these dogs, they really commit. All of their rescues are properly vetted before adoption, including spay/neuter, deworming, and flea preventative and treatment for illnesses such as heartworm and parvo. They also arrange for necessary surgical interventions when a dog has a broken bone, kidney stones, or other serious health issue — all of this funded by donations only and possible thanks to dedicated volunteers and foster families.
Eva Armstrong is one of those dedicated people. She’s the woman in the photo with Captain Morgan — her former foster — and is a valued member of the Badass team. In addition to fostering dogs, Armstrong runs Eva’s Play Pups, which provides dog walking, doggy daycare, and boarding in Brooklyn along with country boarding at her farm in Pennsylvania. Armstrong and her team have always offered free boarding and dog walking to help out Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, allowing them to rescue even more dogs.
And while Badass Brooklyn is not a breed-specific rescue, Cross admits she has a soft spot for lowriders (“mutts with some Basset or Corgi or something else short in them”) and black dogs.
Unfortunately, “black dog bias” is particularly prevalent in the south, and black dogs are the most commonly killed in southern shelters. Badass Brooklyn has rescued many black dogs, and according to Cross, “while they are overlooked in shelters down south, once they come here, we have waiting lists for them! I have no idea why black dogs are overlooked in the south, but when we rescue them, they don’t last long before they are adopted.”
Cross, who also has a soft spot for senior dogs, tells the story of Steve McQueen, a 75-pound hound in poor shape who Badass Brooklyn saved from the Rutherfordton Animal Control in North Carolina around Christmas time 2011.
Steve had been listed as being seven years old, but he was actually closer to 10 or 11. He was in such poor health that he needed to stay in boarding for treatment in NC for three months before being moved to a foster in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, walking on concrete city sidewalks proved too arduous for senior Steve, and so Armstrong decided to take him with her to her farm for the summer, where he “really blossomed.”
Cross knew that Steve would need to find a home outside the city, but she also knew that senior dogs were very difficult to place. Thanks to one of Badass Brooklyn’s adopters with a contact at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, Steve’s adoption listing was emailed out to its more than 15,000 subscribers in the NYC area.
Only two people replied.
Fortunately for Steve, one of those people was a great match. And so, nearly eight months after being rescued from certain death in a kill shelter down south, Steve was on his way to a new life in the countryside with Sarah Troiano and her family.
The Badass Brooklyn family likes to keep in touch with its adopters. “Every time she [Troiano] posts a picture, we tear up and she tells us how much she loves him and how much he has brought to their lives,” Cross says. “It is incredible to know that this dog was so uncared for so many years, was dumped at a pound to be killed, and now he is so valued and loved.” To which Troiano adds, “I could not ask for a better boy than Steve. Thank you, Sara and Eva, for making our family complete.”
Certainly, dogs like Steve McQueen and Captain Morgan would have had little to no chance of survival if not for Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue and all those involved.
If you’d like to know more about how you can help, please check out Badass Brooklyn’s website and Facebook page. They also regularly schedule adoption events in Brooklyn, NY, so be sure to check out the “events” page on their website for dates and locations.
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found blogging over at Crystal Goes to Europe.
Read more related stories on Dogster: