Heartworms…. the number one killer of dogs in Louisiana. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos, hence the pervasive spread of this fatal disease in the South. Is heartworm disease treatable? Yes, but treatment is expensive and takes a heavy toll on the dogs being treated. Treatment must be followed by a lengthy period of rest and restriction of activity, adding another difficult dimension to the process of rehabilitating dogs with this dreaded disease.
Because of the cost of treatment and the lack of space at the shelter following treatment, the St. Tammany Humane Society is very limited in our capacity to treat the many heartworm positive dogs that come to us as potential candidates for our adoption program. We are forced to turn them away. Many of the dogs in our transport program, Waggin’ Wheels, also suffer as a consequence of lack of funding to treat their condition.
As Chris McLaughlin, with ARF (Animal Rescue Front) puts it, “These dogs are abandoned twice. First, they are abandoned by their owners, and secondly turned away because of a disease they have no control over.”
Chris became aware of the widespread heartworm problem in the South seven years ago when she came face to face with the victims of the insidious disease in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She went back to Groton, Massachusetts with a sense of obligation to help these Southern outcasts if and when it was possible in the future. And the future is now today.
ARF received a grant entitled the “Heal a Heart Program” through Best Friends Animal Society which was designed to treat heartworm positive dogs in need. ARF regularly rescues dogs from the South via transports on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, so their tie to the South and their efforts to help the homeless dogs here were already strongly in place. But what Chris and ARF offered the dogs of the St. Tammany Humane Society and those of our transport program, Waggin’ Wheels, was more than we could have hoped for.
ARF became aware through a local Hammond rescuer and transport coordinator Terrie Varnado (who works closely with STHS in rescuing and transport coordinating for Waggin’ Wheels) of the Southern rescues’ and the St. Tammany Humane Society’s lack of funding required to treat heartworm positive rescue dogs, resulting in the dogs either being turned away because of heartworm status, or going to rescues without being treated. This domino effect ends in rescues having to raise the money for expensive treatment; money which could easily be used to rescue a dozen more dogs if heartworm treatment were not an issue.
So Chris asks, “How many transport dogs do you have at the Humane Society that need to be treated for heartworms?”
“They’re paid for now. Treat them.”
And so we were elated, grateful, laughing through tears. What a blessing! But this little happy tail wags even harder.
Chris then inquires, “How many dogs do you have in STHS’s adoption program that need to be treated?”
“Three. That is all we can afford.”
“They’re paid for. And ARF will pledge to treat 20 heartworm positive dogs in the first QUARTER of 2013 through the Heal a Heart Program.”
****** Take a moment******
To put things in proper perspective and to recognize the significance of this gift, this number is 7 TIMES the number of dogs that we can normally afford to treat for heartworms in this time span.
ARF will also be working toward helping our Southern dogs in many more ways in the upcoming year. They express the desire to see the day when no dog is turned away because of heartworm status……to end the days when these dogs are abandoned twice. Stay tuned in to your local no-kill shelter, the St. Tammany Humane Society, for the exciting ways that you can help us and ARF achieve our goal of treating all heartworm positive dogs that otherwise would have the chance of finding their forever home.
If you need a reminder of why this is such an important cause in the world of animal welfare, especially in our home state of Louisiana, then take a moment to meet Rebel. Rebel spent three years tied to a tree by a heavy chain. He was exposed to the elements of heat, cold, rain, fleas, ticks, and obviously….mosquitos. Rebel was rescued by Terrie Varnado and brought to the St. Tammany Humane Society for care. Labs4Rescue agreed to take him in and find an adopter. The problem? Rebel was heartworm positive and neither STHS nor Labs4Rescue had the funds to treat him. Thanks to Chris McLaughlin (ARF) and the Heal a Heart Program through the Best Friends Animal Society, Rebel has been treated and is up for adoption.
From Rebel and all of the staff at STHS: “THANK YOU ARF AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”