Shelter Dog Meal Donation Count:

Learn More

Dedicated Dog Lovers Show The Word How To Save Rural Shelter Pups

Written by: Molly Weinfurter
Molly Weinfurter is a writer for iHeartDogs, and she’s passionate about helping animals in need. She volunteers for Bailing Out Benji and a local dog rescue.Read more
| Published on February 4, 2022

Many people don’t realize how many homeless dogs are in the United States. Even though the streets aren’t filled with strays, hundreds of thousands of dogs are being euthanized every year because shelters are overcrowded. It’s easy to ignore the problem when you don’t have to see it first-hand. But once you realize what’s going on, you may be inspired to make a difference.

That’s why a team of dedicated animal lovers has come together to show the world what goes on in these underfunded shelters. They hope that by seeing the harsh reality, more people will be compelled to save dogs and help fix the problem.

Sad rescue dogs

“Who Will Let the Dogs Out?”

Who Will Let the Dogs Out? is an organization run by a group of animal advocates. Cara Achterberg, Nancy Slattery, Patty Larson, and Ian Achterberg all play a role in the important volunteer work and advocacy that this website is known for. Cara Achterberg is also the author of two dog books that document her journeys with fostering and helping rural shelters.

Cara Achterberg hugging dog

This group’s mission is to spread awareness and collect resources to help homeless dogs and the people who fight to save them. Southern states like Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama have some of the most stray dogs and crowded shelters. Many rural shelters in the United States are understaffed and underfunded, but the public rarely sees that side of animal rescue.

So, these dedicated animal lovers have made several trips across the country to help out the shelters that need it most. They’ve visited over 70 shelters and rescues across 11 different states. During their time there, they bring donations, document their experiences, and offer help in any way they can.

Puppies at rural shelter

What Happens in Rural Shelters?

Sadly, many of the shelters that this team visits are known as “kill shelters.” There’s a common misconception that kill shelters are cruel places, but in reality, the staff and volunteers at these facilities want to save as many dogs as they can. Since the shelters don’t have enough staff, donations, or support, they are forced to make heartbreaking decisions.

Shelter dogs outside

Some dogs are even left behind at municipal pounds far away from where most people travel. The pounds have few resources for these dogs, and many animals don’t make it out alive. So, rescues often pull these pups from high-kill areas and transport them to places where adoption rates are higher, which is often in northern states.

The problem is that many people don’t know about or understand what goes on in underfunded shelters. So, Who Will Let the Dogs Out? posts stories and shares photos of the sad reality. They even created a documentary called  Amber’s Halfway Home. It shows the efforts of Amber Reynolds, who runs a dog rescue from her home in Tennessee. People like Amber make a significant difference for many dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.

sad dog at shelter

How Can You Save Shelter Dogs?

What the dog lovers at Who Will Let the Dogs Out? do is incredible, but not everyone has the time to travel to the shelters that need the most help. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help these dogs from your home. Even small gestures like spreading the word can go a long way.

Woman kissing shelter dog

Here are ways to help save at-risk dogs:

  • Find out details about your local shelter. If you think there’s room for improvement, then speak up, volunteer, and help out in any way possible.
  • When looking for a new pet, consider adoption before all else. Encourage others to adopt too.
  • Consider fostering a dog from a local shelter or rescue if you’re able.
  • Donate to shelters and rescues, even if they’re not “no-kill.” Shelters need lots of support to reach no-kill status. So, consider helping out the places that this team has visited.
  • Spay/neuter your dogs.

Puppies rescued

“At any given moment, there are more people looking to add a new pet to their family than there are dogs in shelters. If just half of those people who plan to buy a dog, instead adopted one, our shelters would be emptied in a day. Imagine that.” – Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

The team at Who Will Let the Dogs Out? and the amazing shelter staff they’ve met do so much for dogs in need, but not every gesture has to be grand. Even if you can’t foster, adopt, volunteer, or donate, you can still spread the word. Many people don’t realize the severity of the issue, so even talking or posting about it could influence more people to help out.

Shelter dog with kind human

If you’d like to learn more about this group of dog lovers and how you can make a difference, visit Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

Watch the Emmy-Nominated Documentary Here:

Images provided by Cara Achterberg

Recent Articles

Interested in learning even more about all things dogs? Get your paws on more great content from iHeartDogs!

Read the Blog