By Rosalie Capri
When animal-lover Robin Jampol moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago, she was pained by the heartbreaking conditions abandoned animals were facing. Not willing to accept the status quo, she knew she had to get involved. After volunteering at a local German Shepherd rescue group she was inspired to start her own organization, and in 2002 the Westside German Shepherd Rescue (WGSR) was born. Since then, the organization has placed more than 4,000 dogs in loving homes. And while that is certainly something to be celebrated, Jampol knew there was more to be done.
In early October, WGSR unveiled the new 11,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility at its grand opening event. The shelter is designed to resemble a Cape Cod house, so both animals and humans alike would instantly feel at home. The new building caters to the animals in many ways, including a full-service veterinary clinic; a “Doggie Day Spa” for canine grooming and pampering; a professional kitchen where special diets and meals are prepared; and over 2,000 square feet of dedicated space for play, socialization, and training. They have even added a glass-enclosed cattery, welcoming feline friends for the first time.
Dr. Ron Gershman, psychiatrist and executive director at WGSR, says their innovative thinking aims to “rebrand” shelter animals and the adoption process, offering hope to the homeless animals who rightfully deserve a second chance. While working on the facility’s re-design, Gershman began researching why so many shelter dogs are killed each year. He discovered that many people are hesitant to adopt because they view shelter animals as high-risk, or damaged in some way. He believes there is a “brand identification problem“ with these particular animals.
“The reality is that the dogs in shelters are the exact same animals that people have in their homes,” Gershman asserts. “There is absolutely no difference between the two, yet somehow they are perceived as being inferior.” By removing this stigma, WGSR wants to eliminate the inaccurate view that potential adopters have about rescue dogs.
According to statistics, a small percentage of animals who end up in the shelter system are there due to behavioral problems. The truth is that the majority of them have been abandoned as a result of human circumstances. People claim financial hardship, moving, a new baby, allergies, and other “good reasons” why they are no longer able to continue caring for their four-legged family members.
With that in mind, Jampol and her team are focused on properly matching dogs and people, using a new profile-based match making system to ensure these loving animals end up in the “forever homes” they deserve. The process begins with a private consultation with an adoption counselor to determine the needs and lifestyle of prospective adopters. Each dog also has an in-depth written and videotaped behavioral analysis to reveal as much about the dog as possible. Humans and dogs are then matched up based on personalities and other key factors.
All of these special features have been put in place to accomplish the organization’s mission of educating the public about all the wonderful things rescued animals have to offer. “Dogs play a very important role in our emotional well-being,” says Gershman. “When we rescue, we aren’t just saving the dog, we also are saving ourselves.”
To learn more about WGSR, please visit: WGSR.org.