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MN dog rescuers look beyond border for homeless dogs

Kate Skillrud, left, a Minnesota PAWS volunteer watches Zhuri the puppy as Keanna Barratt and Alexis Safe of Stillwater play with him on Saturday at Valley Creek Mall. Like many of the dogs, Zhuri came from Tennessee where resources are lacking for homeless dog adoption. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad).1 / 4
Maplewood-based non-profit, MN PAWS, held a pet adoption event Saturday at Valley Creek Mall in Woodbury. The group tired to find homes for about 10 dogs and a few kittens. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)2 / 4
Minnesota PAWS also brought kittens in need of a home. The organization's Vice-president Emily Vega said the kittens were abandoned at the Maplewood mall, so the group took them in and hopes to find them a home. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad).3 / 4
Sarah Sicheneder gives her foster dog Brenna a treat during a pet adoption event at Valley Creek Mall on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)4 / 4

As dog-friendly Minnesota finds it has plenty of support for placing rescued dogs into homes, some animal rescuers are now turning to other states to ensure those homeless animals share a similar fate.

On Saturday, Woodbury's Valley Creek Mall hosted a pet adoption event by Maplewood-based dog rescue group MN PAWS in partnership with Sidewalk Dog Media. Many of the dogs came from southern states because organizers said finding homes for dogs in those states is often difficult and placement rates and conditions lag behind Minnesota.

Nationally, pet adoption rates have increased significantly in the past decade with 91 percent of homeless animals finding a home last year, up from a 61 percent placement rate, or a 39 percent euthanasia rate, in 2006, according to the Humane Society.

MN PAWS, which stands for Minnesota Progressive Animal Welfare Society, found homes for 75 dogs last year and is expected to place even more animals into homes this year, according to Emily Vega, the group’s vice-president.

When MN PAWS started, many of the local Minnesotan shelters turned away the group because they had enough adoption sponsors for local dogs.

The group then decided to expanded its radius and eventually began partnering with a group from Tennessee, which recently built a new shelter for homeless animals.

Vega said the previous site was a landfill and those working the site euthanized animals every week. Vega added that programs to help spay and neuter animals is also lacking in the area.

“It’s a different world down there," she said. "It’s like going back in time 20 or 30 years.”   

As a small organization, Vega said MN PAWS focuses more on finding the right homes for dog than the amount number of dogs it places into homes. 

“We take careful care of where the dogs end up,” Vega said. “We don't want them to be returned to us, and we don't want them to be unwanted again."

Sarah Sicheneder of Minneapolis also attended Saturday’s event with her foster dog Brenna, an energetic one-year-old black lab.

She’s fostered several dogs in the past, and said groups like MN PAWS offer some relief for foster parents because of the strong vetting process and detailed application they require for prospective owners.

MN PAWS is also owned by a local veterinarian, so they are able to take in puppies like Zhuri, who will need surgery because of a heart murmur in the coming weeks.

Zhuri was the only survivor in her litter after authorities found her tied to a lawnmower without food or water in Tennessee. “We wanted to give her a chance," Vega said.

Though larger shelters like the Humane Society have reduced the need to euthanize as many animals than in the past, some say homeless animals in rural areas are still have trouble finding homes compared to urban areas.

“The Twin Cities has a passionate and well-developed rescue community, which allows our many local rescues to take in homeless dogs that are at risk of euthanasia in other areas, such as northern Minnesota and southern states,” said Ali Jarvis, the founder and CEO of Sidewalk Dog media, which offers resources for Minnesota dog-lovers and advocates for state rescues and shelters.

Jarvis said that there many healthy dogs, including purebread and puppies, in rescues,  adding that misconceptions about  rescue dogs’ health or behavior tend to be misplaced.  

Vega expressed a similar point, and said Minnesota has a culture for rescuing animals that exists less in rural areas in the South where dogs are valued more for breeding and hunting over companionship.

“I think in Minnesota, you’re more likely to ask where did you rescue your dog versus where did you buy your dog,” Vega said.

After Saturday’s event, one kitten found a home and three other dogs have meetings this week with owners who already own dogs.

If the dogs get along, Vega said, they will likely be placed in those homes.

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