Olivia is a volunteer at UF Health Shands Hospital.
She is quite familiar with the protocol; she checks in at the front desk at the beginning of her 2-hour shift, dons her volunteer nametag, listens closely to instructions and is always maintained on a leash.
Olivia, a 4-year-old pit bull, is a proud therapy dog. In addition, she was one of the 28 dogs who were rescued on May 27, 2014 during a police raid on a dog-fighting ring in Orange County.
Olivia is also a “foster fail.” Despite the negative connotation, it is a term used when families fall in love with their fosters and end up adopting them.
Today, she alternates her time between brightening the days of patients at the hospital and relaxing at home with her family.
Not all sheltered animals have the same happy ending as Olivia.
Around 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Alachua County Humane Society aims to reduce the local rate of euthanized animals from over 7,000 per year to fewer than 1,000.
“Luckily, Alachua County has come such a long way,” said Barbara Truett, a volunteer at Plenty of Pit Bulls and the owner of two dogs that were set to be euthanized. “[The humane society] will tell us when they’ve got a dog that’s running out of time to see if we have somebody [to foster the dog]. In Alachua County, we’re not no-kill yet, but it’s come such a long way since 2000.”
The Alachua County Humane Society communicates with other non-profit organizations, such as Plenty of Pit Bulls, to dedicate time and money to achieve a sustainable no-kill community, according to The Alachua County Humane Society.
Other success stories of rescue dogs speak highly of dog adoption. Finn, a rescue pit bull from the multi-state dog-fighting bust of 2013, has his online profile to thank for securing him a home with his current family.
“When he was legally released and put up for adoption, I saw his picture on Facebook,” said Andrea Kilkenny, owner of the dog training business Our Gang Pet Services, and Finn’s new owner. “I’ve had dogs for a long time but never before had I fallen in love with a photo. I was like, ‘I’ve got to go meet this dog.’”
Kilkenny, her family and their three other dogs drove to Gainesville from New Jersey to meet Finn and his foster family. After finally meeting Finn in person, the Kilkennys knew it was meant to be, and welcomed Finn as the newest addition to their family.
In the past year, the Alachua County Humane Society passed their ending goal by one dog adoption, according to a 2014 Alachua County Annual Report from Maddie’s Fund, an organization that provides research, community involvement, and education on animal welfare.
Currently, 1.4 million dogs are adopted each year, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Dorothy Hague, Alachua County resident, has two rescue dogs that required extra care while they were transitioned into their new lifestyle. After the dog fighting bust, Athena, Hague’s first rescue pit bull, was terrified of car rides and was hesitant with human interaction.
“It’s okay, she went through hell in a basket,” Hague said. “When she was 8 weeks old she was chucked out and put on a chain.”
A few months later, when Hague opened her car door and went to grab her dog, Athena jumped in the car on her own for the first time.
“When she jumped in the car, I knew she was a foster fail,” Hague said. “Rescue isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.”