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Rescue group gives dogs a 'Home Sweet Home' at last

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | May 02, 2013

LANCASTER- It makes it all worthwhile for Vicki Zoeller when she finds a forever home for a rescue dog.

It’s a lot of hard work and devotion, but Zoeller started Home Sweet Home Animal Rescue, Inc. to give unwanted dogs a second lease on life.

With the help of a core group of volunteers, Home Sweet Home Animal Rescue, Inc ., is able to give that chance to dogs whose owners can no longer care for them or most importantly dogs who simply aren't wanted.

As a small non-profit, no kill rescue in Cheektowaga, the rescue’s mission is to “rescue animals in need of love and help them in their journey to find their forever homes.” Last year alone, Home Sweet Home Rescue saved the lives of 200 dogs.

Zoeller said the rescue has been incorporated for two years, independent for a year before that, but in total she has been rescuing animals for about six years.

“I wanted a bulldog, and we were researching breeders for bulldogs, and in my research I saw all of the rescues and I never knew this world existed,” remarked Zoeller.”So, we started off fostering for other groups and then I realized I wanted to start my own rescue.”

Zoeller said first and foremost they rescue dogs locally and they do work with some local shelters. Also, from time to time, they rescue dogs from down South.

“They have horrible situations down there,” said Zoeller. “So, we pull from down South if we have the room. A lot of the shelters are trying to go no kill so we’re more than happy to help those shelters out.”

The rescue is not breed specific, but in Zoeller’s experience black labs, adult pit bulls, or black labs mixed with pit bull are common breeds that are often unwanted and even by those who are interested in adopting a rescue dog.

“For some reason statistically they’re the last to be adopted. Maybe the color is intimating, I don’t know and you will see it if you visit our Web site. The black labs or the adult pit bull mixes are always the last to go.”

All the dogs are placed in foster homes until they find their new homes and while in their care, basic manners, crate/house training, and socialization are worked on. The dogs are also fully vetted.

“Per dog it’s approximately $200 by the time you get the pull fees and all the vetting and that’s just if they are healthy,” remarked Zoeller. “For example, Pinkie came to us with heartworm, mange, she was sexual assaulted by a human, and she was pregnant. Her babies needed to be born C-section so she was in the thousands so we had to raise money for her. She is actually still recovering from her last heartworm treatment.”

Thanks to City Creatures Animal Hospital and Nickel City Animal Hospital the rescue is able to take care of the dogs, who may need to be updated on shots, spayed or neutered, or who may need a little extra help, because they’re sick.

“They do amazing work,” said Zoeller. “They help us out the most they can.”

Zoeller added an adoption fee for a dog covers the cost of vetting, but it is concerning when some people think rescue’s are scamming them or getting rich off the adoption fee.

“They think if we’re charging $200 to $250 for an adoption fee we must be making a ton of money,” said Zoeller. “What they don’t realize is we’re paying for all the vetting. They don’t realize just how expensive it is and how much work we put into it. We don’t get free vetting. Yes, we might get a discount but it is not free. We’re paying $200 to $250 per dog and that’s not including dog food, leashes, and collars, flea meds.”

Currently, the rescue has about 20 to 25 dogs up for adoption and a lot of those are puppies. Those who visit the rescue’s Facebook page or Web site can see pictures and find out a little more about the dogs.

Because the rescue can only take in what they have space for, foster homes are always needed. Right now, there are about 20 fosters, which can vary from time to time. Or if you would like to rescue a dog, online applications are available through the rescue’s Web site at http://www.homesweethomerescue.org

Potential dog parents are screened, references will need to be provided and are checked, and lastly for every dog a home visit is required to see if it is the best fit.

“That’s the hard part, because if we have a puppy for adoption and we get a dozen applications you’re obviously going to break a lot of hearts,” said Zoeller. “We have to do what’s best for the dog and find the right fit for the dog. The dog may need a fence in yard or a dog may need a first floor apartment. We have to make sure those needs are met.”

For those who would like to make a donation to Home Sweet Home Animal Rescue they can donate directly to the City Creatures by calling 873-7000 or Nickel City Animal Hospital at 847-1000 or they can use the rescue’s PayPal address, which is hshrescue@ymail.com. Also, dog food is always needed.

The rescue is also at Pet Supplies Plus, located at 2155 Delaware Ave., in Buffalo, every third Sunday of the month and will be attending and holding events throughout the summer. Information can be found on their Facebook page.

“I love animals,” remarked Zoeller. “When a shelter dog comes to your house and they’re really shy, reserved, and skittish, just watching their personality blossom is just awesome. And then when you bring them to a home visit and you just see that perfect fit it makes it all worthwhile.”

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