Local Hero – Putting Shelter Pets on the RADAR

March 23, 2012 by Tails Magazine in April 2012 with 8 Comments
Heroes - Raising Aid for Dogs At Risk RADAR

Rick Thompson, Ken Siegert, and their inspiration Chloe. PHOTOS: Rick Thompson/Ken Siegert

New organization helps underfunded shelters

By Brendan Quealy

The idea of selfless generosity may seem foreign to some people, but not to Rick Thompson and Ken Siegert. While they have been in the animal welfare community for years, there was one incident that really hit home.“It started with a shelter in Tucker County, West Virginia that was run by Cathy Parsons,” says Thompson. “She was really dedicated to running a no-kill shelter, but she had a very limited budget.”

Parsons ran into an extremely difficult case and needed to reach out for help. An adorable dog named Ray came to the Tucker County Animal Shelter after both of his human companions died a few months apart. Ray was lucky to land at this particular shelter, but he had two major factors working against his possible adoption—he was black and he was old.  “One of the things you read about is that when a black dog is in a shelter, they don’t show up in photos, and when people walk down the aisles of cages the dogs are not right up in front but are in the back in the shadows—so they don’t get seen,” explains Thompson. “We are trying to help the black dogs, the senior dogs and the medical needs dogs by putting them on the radar.”

Ray was also having trouble with his teeth, which had become infected and were causing tremendous pain. “[He] was otherwise adoptable, but he needed the dental work done, and that cost about $300,” says Thompson. “We simply paid the money to get that done.” From that simple donation came Raising Aid for Dogs At Risk (RADAR). “We are aiming to provide for the more immediate needs of dogs at shelters that are underfunded,” explains Thompson, whose organization helps dogs in most of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region. “We want to provide funding to enablers and facilitators that are focused on the dog and handling the different aspects of moving a dog from a shelter to a home.”

Both Thompson and Siegert see RADAR as a natural extension to help more shelters and help more animals. The pair already have rescued three dogs of their own: Toby and Winnie along with the newest addition Chloe—who Thompson and Siegert adopted in December 2010. “I found [Chloe] by way of ‘Save-A-Dog’ on Facebook,” says Siegert. “As it turns out, she was 10 years old, dumped at a shelter in Ohio, and we were the first people to ask about her. This was a kill shelter, but luckily the woman that ran the shelter had developed a relationship with Chloe and didn’t put her down.”

Thompson notes that one of the most crucial things they do is to give dogs the gift of time by paying the smaller expenses that will allow more dogs to be saved on a more immediate basis. He notes that waiting for grant money or fundraising may take too long to save the animal. “We focus on rural, underfunded, well-run shelters and try to give them the help we can,” says Siegert. “In a matter of days or even just hours, we want to be able to turn around and handle the specific needs of specific dogs.”

This is done by creating a “virtual circle” where volunteers contact a shelter, someone at RADAR posts a dog in need on the website, people are asked to donate to help—and through that, connections are made with other organizations and dogs that need help. Siegert hopes this is the kind of self-perpetuating flow that appeals to a broader spectrum of people. “I think it is just our love of the animals that keeps us going,” says Seigert. “I think our Chloe being in that shelter—ignored for six weeks—just broke our hearts to see that face. That is a driving force for both of us.”

To help RADAR continue their great work, please visit RaisingAidForDogsAtRisk.org.

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