I LOVE dogs. My whole family loves dogs. We actually just love animals in general. We are definitely “zoo” people. We like to visit the zoo and like to think we have one at our house. One thing that we have always been passionate about is rescuing dogs. For years I watched Animal Planet, loving every moment an animal was rescued by the Animal Cops and adopted out to a new and loving home. You can imagine our excitement to start working with a local rescue, Recycled Tails, between our school and work schedules. Father’s Day weekend 2013 we adopted our third dog, Mikey, from Recycled Tails. 2013 we adopted our third dog, Mikey, from Recycled Tails.
He’s definitely more thrilled to be snuggled than he looks here. We had also previously rescue Molly and May from other rescues.
Somehow in the midst of crazy schedules, Heidi and I found a time that worked for both of us for me to go to the dog lady’s house and interview her!
AS- ME, Anna Swenda HE- Heidi Evans
AS: When did you start RT?
HE: I started Recycled Tails in 2011 after having worked with another rescue since 2005. I’ve been rescuing forever though.
AS: How/why did you start RT?
HE: I’ve rescued animals since I was on my own at 18. If there was an animal somebody didn’t want, I took it in. I was rescuing cats, but cats are a lot harder to adopt out, which is why I kinda switched over to dogs. I had tons of free time and decided to go all out and start my own rescue.
AS: How do you find/receive animals that you get, and where do they come from?
HE: They find me. I get emails everyday all day long. Today I just got an email with 30 dogs from South Carolina that need to go or they get put down. It was literally 30 pictures of dogs with their name, whether they are heart worm positive/negative, do they like other dogs or not and what the cost of rescuing them is. Sometimes people sponsor them which is when people pay the $35 dollars or what ever to get them out of the shelter. So a lot of our dogs come from the south but recently we have been pulling from Camden, New Jersey because they need a lot of help. Or turn ins, people who just can’t keep their dogs anymore.
AS: What kinds of animals do you rescue?
HE: Everything and anything. Everything from exotic birds to horses to pot belly pigs to lizards to rabbits, chinchillas if we have the ability to house them and care for them appropriately we rescue them.
AS: What is the craziest kind of animal you have been asked to rescue/help?
HE: An emu. I got called because if her owner didn’t find a home by Thanksgiving her husband was going to eat her. She had raised this emu from an egg in her house. It was like an ostrich in my barn, I was going to keep her but she didn’t like other farm animals. I found her a place that already had emus and she was terrified of the other emus! She finally went to a family with no other pets. She loved getting sprayed with water, you could pet her- it was one of the neatest experiences of my life. She was that friendly from being hand raised.
AS: Do they go through a process once they come to you?
HE: We don’t have a black and white process. I like to keep them for at least a week so that I know if they’re ok with other dogs, if they’re crate trained- kinda test the waters and try to place them in foster homes. I take every animal based on whether or not I personally have space for them. I don’t ever take dogs and go “Oh crap, we have no place to put this dog.” I will never take a dog that I don’t personally have the space to house. From there, after they’ve kind of been evaluated, I try to get them into foster homes.
AS: About how many foster homes/volunteers do you have?
HE: I’d say we have a good 10 regular volunteers who help do stuff. I have a woman who processes applications for me which is a huge help and another woman who does all of the technical stuff for us. She does PetFinder, Facebook, all of that stuff. She can’t foster so that is her contribution, she loves doing it and I am very grateful that she does. Those two woman are my most constant volunteers. Everyone else helps foster, comes to events that kind of thing.
AS:What does being a foster home entail?
HE: You do an application like you are going to adopt a dog. We check with your vet to make sure your other animals are up to date on shots and everything and then they can foster. During foster care all they need to do is take care of the dog. We can even provide food if they want food. They don’t have to pay for vet care, food, anything- just love, care and shelter. That is one of our biggest advertisements because people are afraid it’s going to cost money. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, we appreciate the help, flea and tick medicine, what ever you need we will provide it for you.
AS: What is the average length of time you have an animal before they are adopted?
HE: We get dogs that are adopted in 3 days and others that take a year. 2-3 months would probably be the average. When we get puppies in they fly off the shelves. Older dogs take a bit longer. A white pit bull will minimally take one year. A lot of rescues look at the adoptability of a dog, I don’t. Sometimes I have too, but I will take in older dogs. The longest I had a dog was a year and a half, and it was a pit bull.
AS: What is the average cost per animal for medical/boarding while they are with you?
HE: If they come from the South, it is about $75 to vet them- spay/neuter, vaccinate, and then $75-$100 for professional transport. There are volunteer transports, but it’s drive a bit, switch cars, drive a bit switch cars and dogs can escape. That method tends to be a bit more traumatizing for the dogs. It takes two days versus an overnight trip with the professional transporters. If they come up and they have been honest, it’s about $175-$200 a dog in total. I recently had a dog come up that needed groomed, extensive dental work, neutered, heart worm positive, by the time he’s all said and done he will cost us about $1,000 because they lied about him. The average is $200-$300, but if I get dogs from Camden they are completely vetted and they are volunteer transport so they don’t cost us anything. That’s how we balance out the money, the dogs that cost a lot verse the dogs that are low-cost.
AS: How many animals have you been able to relocate to new homes?
HE: I couldn’t even fathom. I can tell you that my goal now is 5-10 dogs a month because we are such a small operation. Some months are better, some are worse. When I worked at the bigger rescue, we could have 15+ adoptions a week. I wish I had kept track, because I’m sure it’s insane. By the time they go through the process it’s relatively time-consuming. There are places that bring dogs up from the south and have them pre-adopted for when they get here, how many returns do you think they get? I don’t get returns. I don’t want dogs to come back, so I make sure that they are with the right people.
AS: What is your favorite part of the job?
HE: The dogs. And that’s why I’m so glad that I have someone to do the internet part for me, and the paper part for me because I don’t enjoy that. It’s the dogs. It’s caring for the dogs, getting to know the dogs, seeing them fattened after they come in as skeletons, and watching them go to their new homes after being saved from death row. So many of the dogs I get I rescue from a post that says “this dog needs rescued tonight or has until 4pm today,” and all I have to say is “yes” and that dog gets spared. I may not see that dog for two weeks, but it’s alive because, I said yes. So I love meeting new dogs, and making them healthy because we get dogs that have been hit by cars, that are skeletons, that are old, and getting to help them.
AS: What are your biggest challenges facilitating RT?
HE: Finding foster homes. That is my absolute biggest challenge. Finding homes that are committed. People say “I can watch a dog for two weeks” which helps, short-term, but it doesn’t open up a space for me to get a new dog. It’s definitely finding foster homes, and finding people you can trust.
AS: Do you have a favorite adoption story?
HE: My most recent one would probably be Poppy. He was a white pit bull that I had for about a year. He ran free here, no leash, no fence. He was just going to live here forever if he didn’t get adopted. I couldn’t bring him in because he hated cats, but he is definitely one of my most recent favorites. He went to a home where they are willing to put up with anything and take care of him. He definitely fell into the right place.
AS: What fundraising/events do you do for RT?
HE: We just did, what’s become a yearly fundraiser at PJ Ryan’s [in Phoenixville]. They’re great, they let us keep the door entry fee, they don’t charge us to be there or use the space. We’re going to do another one at the Great American Pub in Phoenixville. They are turning their parking lot into a bar, they are letting us close it off, charge a fee, have bands, same type of thing as PJ’s but it’s all going to be outside. We don’t do a ton of fundraising. We live off of our adoption fees and personal donations. Basically, we charge adoption fees and hope that it balances out with the dogs that cost us a whole lot verse the dogs that cost us little to nothing. We try to stay at zero. We never have any extra, but we try to not owe anybody money.
AS: What are some other ways people can help/get involved?
HE: We always have our adoptions nights like down at First Fridays [in Phoenixville], we always need extra hands for that. We also need a fundraising coordinator. I would love that. To have someone just figuring out ways to raise money whether it’s selling pizzas or spaghetti night or what ever. It’s just too much for me to do by myself. So that would be a huge help. But there’s always ways to help. There are events, there’s a girl that comes on Sundays just to walk the dogs. I don’t always have time for that, and she can tell me how they do on the leash and that kind of thing. People are more than welcome to come and just do something like that.
AS: What are some of the most common mistakes people make after they adopt a new animal?
HE: Haha. Over-whelming the animal. Inviting everyone in the neighborhood over and being surprised when it acts out. I always tell people to treat your new animal like a new baby from the hospital. Don’t take it to PetSmart, or all over the place- you don’t know them and they don’t know you. If you get in the shower, put it in the crate, you can’t watch it. Don’t leave it with your children. A dog might be great with my kid, but interpret your child differently and act differently. You have to build trust and assess their behavior for a while. I once had people adopt a black lab, take it right to their friend’s house, the friend reached in to pet him and the dog snapped at him. They tried to put their hand near/in his food bowl the first day and he wasn’t too friendly about it. They wanted to try to bring him back, and I explained that I could not adopt him again since he had “bitten someone,” when they were the ones who had made the poor decision. And they still have him. I check in once in a while and he’s doing great, after they adjusted and realized that they needed to let him settle and get used to everyone and everything first. I always tell people to contact me if they have any issues, I’m a resource. I’m here for you.
AS: Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about adoption or have recently adopted a new pet?
HE: I would say about 98% of our adoptions are foster to adopt. I always push for that, I want to make sure this dog is a good fit for you. It’s like a lease to buy. So many rescues shove their dogs out, and I don’t want to do that. Before you are going to sign an adoption agreement and pay to take a dog for the rest of its life, I want you to make sure that it’s a good fit, before you commit and realize it’s not what you want it to be. I want to make sure the dog is a perfect fit for your home, and if it’s not a perfect dog, that you’re willing to work with it. Just like I said above, make sure it’s a good fit and you are willing to put in the time and effort. And again, I always tell people to contact me if they have any issues, I’m a resource. I’m here for you.
*Foster to adopt is EXACTLY how we ended up with Mikey!!!*
AS: What is the adoption process and about how long does it take?
HE: Super quick because I have somebody else processing applications! We process applications same day. We had one come in today, they’ve already been processed. The first thing we do is call your vet. If your vet gives you an excellent review it’s like you’re already pre-approved. Then we have a meeting, we interview you, you meet the dog. Generally it goes very quickly and it gets done in a couple of days. There is a $250 adoption fee that covers the cost of transport, any vet treatments they need while they are with us, and any general costs for things like food. Some times people are a little farther away so it takes longer. Sometimes they’ll come and meet a dog earlier in the week and then pick them up on Friday so that they are home for the weekend with them. As soon as a dog is adopted and taken home, I am looking to fill that spot already. If I have an inkling, I’ll wait a bit. Even when a dog goes to foster, I wait a bit to make sure that it works out before I fill that spot.
Here are some quick links for the adoption/foster application, RT Swag, and a place to give monetary/supply donations! Be sure to like Recycled Tails on Facebook to learn about upcoming events and keep up with new critters coming in and to celebrate those that find their furever homes! For any questions, you can contact RT at email@example.com
Thank you so much to Heidi for taking the time to sit down to chat with me and share her heart for rescue! Another HUGE thank you to all of her volunteers and those that make time to participate in RT events, foster, or just give their time to help give the animals that come through a second chance for a fulfilling and happy furever home!