The Dog Rescuer: A Journey With Allie Rizzo
By Allie Rizzo (USA), Interviewed by Shazeen (UK)
“Our pets enjoy life. They give us endless love. We could learn so much by the simplicity of their happiness. Be kind to them and they are kind to you.”
It doesn’t fail to amaze me when I stumble across beautiful and compassionate quests for a greater world pursued by people like Allie. She is a model, an animal rights activist, and the creator of Mother of Dogs, which is an organization that brings attention to shelter animals in the United States.
In 2013 Allie adopted a dog who at just 10 weeks old was scheduled to euthanasia because he was found in an area plagued by dog fighting. Her rescue of this dog resulted in her campaign to raise dog fighting awareness and encourage action against one of the most brutal forms of animal cruelty. Again we believe spreading the word and shining light on these dark practices will encourage people to report these offenses and demand harsher punishments for those who are involved. Through the power of education we will provide the information so people can make the right choice.
What are your thoughts on the importance of treating animals like we would a fellow human?
I think it’s our responsibility to care for things that can’t care for themselves. I always reference the Gandhi quote “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” To me it is simple, dogs represent the weakest among us. They are totally and completely at our mercy. Our treatment of them is very telling and says a great deal about how much apathy and respect for life we have.
How did you develop or discover your connection with dogs?
I come from a long line of animal lovers. My Grandma was famous in her neighborhood as the woman who would take in all the unwanted pets. She has endless stories to tell about how each of her strays came to her household. This caring was transferred to my mom who had the same sympathies and love for animals. My entire childhood I was raised with pets and we treat them as family members, not possessions. When you teach your kids to respect all life – it makes them grow up into more compassionate people.
What’s the inspiration behind Mother of Dogs?
Like so many other people I had no idea how horrific the shelter system in this country is. There’s a dangerous misconception that shelter dogs are bad when in reality most are in them because their owners got bored with them or thought a puppy was cute but didn’t like it when it grew up. MANY of the dogs undergoing euthanasia are just 12 months old. They are condemned because they have just aged out of that puppy cuteness. Only when a friend started explaining the horrors of large scale breeders ( puppy mills ) and really laying out the amount of animals who enter the shelter system and never come out did I really start to open my eyes. When I rescued Sam, my first shelter dog, my concern turned into anger. He became a beloved member of my family and constantly reminded me that so many more didn’t get to come home with me. They entered a shelter and never came out.
What is the mission of Mother of Dogs, and what can our readers take from this cause?
The mission is very simple. Spread the word! Educate people on how cruel the breeding industry is. How most dogs in petshops come from horrific backwoods breeding operations that result in tremendous suffering. It’s estimated there are 10 thousand puppy mills in the United States. There is a lot of money being made and a lot of suffering is inflicted to make it. There are no USDA “approved” breeders. There are USDA licensed breeders. A breeder that is USDA licensed means they sell their puppies to brokers or pet stores and you must only give minimum standards of care to achieve this status ( basically just keep the dogs you breed alive- nothing more)
No breeder with a love of dogs would ship off puppies to be sold to the first person with cash and not meet the owners in person. Even shelters have more of a screening process for adoption.
Simple fact is million of dogs end up in shelters by no fault of their own and while breeding dogs is such a booming and unregulated business the dogs who end up unwanted as soon as they become full grown will continue to be euthanized by the thousands. People need to understand the sickness that is breeding when we are facing a massive overpopulation problem. Every time you breed or buy a shelter dog will die.
How do you feel about including this cause in your life where you are also doing other things?
I’m very passionate about this cause because it has a simple solution! Don’t Shop, Adopt. If people are better informed the hope is that they chose to rescue a pet. If people get collectively upset at the breeding industry and say enough is enough, we could empty the shelters completely.
Which other ambitions are you pursuing?
My love of animals is not exclusive to dogs. I’m very passionate about the welfare of all animals and feel that their exploitation has gone on silently for far too long.
I happened to be in Africa on a safari the week after Cecil the Lion was killed. It was so interesting to speak to the guides while we tracked these amazing animals. They explained the poaching problem and how rampant it is. Two lions are killed a day by trophy hunters. The cruel and cowardly way in which Cecil was killed really just shined a light on a very common and disturbing practice. On a reserve we visited in Zambia they had just found a record breaking eleven elephants slaughtered for Ivory the month before. We have only 10 years or less with African elephants before they become extinct.
It’s the last decade of this fight and a complex issue to solve when the United States remains the second biggest importer of Ivory after China. Many organizations have different approaches to solving this problem but similar to plight of shelter dogs it’s all about educating people and shaming the practices that lead us to these points.
How do you make time for engaging in your passions and activism, and what advice would you give others about maintaining a balance?
For me when I see things or get a call about an abused dog with nowhere to go and no prospects for a home it sparks me to be very vocal and speak up. I just make the time because I’m so upset with the scenarios. It angers me how much suffering happens and so few people seem aware. It should be in everyone’s face. If i become too immersed in sad stories and have a rough week trying to get dogs off death row and failing I will pull back. If it takes me to a very dark place personally I know I need to step away for bit. My activism is often spurred by my anger but you can’t lose your positivity while taking on a fight like this. It’s so important to do things with a hopeful intention and not become too dark and negative during the process.
Could you describe a rescue story?
Every single day I am asked to help with a dog and every single time you feel connected. Personally my rescue of – Sam had a huge impact on me. He was just under one pound and had been very cruelly placed on the side of a rural highway in Georgia in the middle of winter. He had a belly full of worms and was barely able to walk yet. An animal control truck happened to drive up that road looking for some lost hunting dogs and spotted him. He was taken to the shelter which was I’m told is one of the worst imaginable with no staff or funding..just dark cages. A local couple that spent weekends visiting this shelter to take pictures of the dogs and post them on petfinder hoping to give them some chance of adoption had spotted little Sam. They had decided to take him home. The de-worming had to be done multiple times and he was bottle fed until he gained some strength. He would never have been put up for adoption in town because it was plagued with backwoods dog fighting and they feared he would be taken a bait dog. Bait dogs are put in front of beaten pit bulls who are encouraged and rewarded for mauling them to death in order to train them to be fighting dogs. An activity that goes on far too often.
When I heard Sams story posted through a small rescue site i wasted no time in adopting him.
He became my mascot for this cause and a constant reminder of why it’s important to fight for this. There are four million other “Sam’s” waiting to be saved.
To find out more about Mother of Dogs and to give your support in raising awareness and making this cause possible, visit: Mother of Dogs today!