Pets 101

Local Hero – A Second Chance At Life

The Bill Foundation - A Second Chance at LifeRescue efforts give dogs a second chance, and for some the first with a family

Pet overpopulation is a problem in this country. Each day 10,000 humans are born in the United States, while 70,000 puppies and kittens are born at that same rate, according to Spay USA.

As long as those birth rates continue, there will never be enough homes for these animals. That’s where Jo and Peter Forman, founders of The Bill Foundation in Los Angeles, come in. In 1988, Jo Forman was on a hike when she came across Bill, a ten-month-old Golden Retriever/Labrador mix — filthy and starving — foraging in a trashcan.

No one came forward to claim the dog after weeks of posting ads in the local paper, and hanging signs throughout the neighborhood. So, Bill became not only part of the family, but one of the best parts of the family.

“He brought us laughter, joy, and the kind of wonderful companionship that only a dog can provide,” she said.

The Forman’s lost Bill to cancer in 1998, and resolved to honor his memory by working to save other dogs like Bill who deserve a second chance at life. The Bill Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, has a mission to rescue as many adoptable dogs as possible and place them in loving, permanent homes.

Forman, who was the costume supervisor for the hit television series Frasier, spent her summer break in 2000 volunteering at a shelter — Forman was only there for three months before deciding to give up her Hollywood career to save the lives of dogs.

“It was my first time at a shelter. I had worked adoption events, but had never been in the shelter and it was a shock,” she said. “The shelter was full of the most adorable, adoptable, sensitive, friendly dogs you have ever seen in your life.”

Since January 1, 2009, more than 1.1 million pets have been euthanized in California shelters. Forman believes, “Once you know what is going on at the shelter, you just can’t walk away from it. I couldn’t walk away.”

According to the California Department of Health, the annual number of cats and dogs entering state municipal shelters rose from 720,238 to 835,642, or 14.6 percent over the past five years. In that same time period, the number of pets euthanized also climbed 14.6 percent, from 378,445 to 432,512.

Forman said the overpopulation of dogs in California is “a huge crisis.” Without programs like The Bill Foundation there would be more dogs on the streets, and more dogs being euthanized in shelters.

The Bill Foundation, though only a few years old, continues to grow. The organization has saved the lives of more than 1,000 dogs in Los Angeles County, and in its first year rescued more than 250 dogs that are now in loving homes. In addition The Bill Foundation rescued more than 200 dogs on behalf of other rescue organizations.

At any given time Jo Forman takes care of thirty to forty-five dogs. Though she can’t save them all, it isn’t rare for her to come home from the shelter with multiple dogs at a time.

“I wish I could take every single dog,” she said. “There is nothing better than looking at a dog that is loved, adored and has an incredible home, especially knowing that she previously lived under a car, scavenging food from dumpsters.”

The Bill Foundation relies on donations, but Forman said everyday is sort of a leap of faith, hoping they can continue on saving dogs.

To get involved or donate go to BillFoundation.org.

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