Sanctuary Watch, Watching Dog Sanctuaries

Something good came out of the Washington state Olympic Animal Sanctuary debacle a year ago…besides the eventual release of most of the doggie hostages and their freedom and placement with other rescue groups. (which of course, was HUGE!)

To read all the good news for these dogs and see where they are today, visit the facebook page that started it all:

To see the history of this case and read more about DDB’s involvement, visit this link:

Handcuffed for standing up for dogs
Handcuffed for standing up for dogs. My hair looks good (Hey, I’m a woman! These things matter.)

It was one year ago this week that I was arrested in the line of duty (ha!) while protesting in front of the ugly pink warehouse in Forks, Washington. The subsequent video of my arrest has been viewed almost 40,000 times here:

If you think I actually enjoy getting arrested by how often it seems to happen, you’d want to think again—it’s a miserable business. But the reality of the situation for animals in this country is that those with a moral code that screams STOP the ABUSE are often pummeled by misuse of the law and failure to enforce cruelty laws.

It seems the old adage is true—if you raise your head above the sand long enough, someone will be more than willing and waiting to chop it off.

Sheby-Sheebs (aka Sheba), an OAS feral dog still living with us at Dogs Deserve Better.
Sheby-Sheebs (aka Sheba), an OAS feral dog still living with us at Dogs Deserve Better.

What we learned as an animal rescue community from the OAS war and debacle is that dog sanctuaries are in heavy need of some watching.

Here’s the truth. I believe that MOST Sanctuaries start out with the best of intentions: to help the animals. However, many quickly get in over their heads, as they find that people are all too willing to send them dogs…and more dogs…and more dogs.

And they don’t know how to say NO.

And they think if they say NO then they will never get another donation. They get donations by saying YES. So they say YES.


And then you’re just a hoarder.

As the founder of Dogs Deserve Better, I learned this firsthand when we bought Michael Vick’s former dogfighting compound and moved there in 2011 with the intention to transform it to the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.

From 2002-2011, I rescued out of my home, and the most dogs I EVER had in my home at any one time was 8-9 (and that was if there were rescue puppies ONLY; short term).

Usually I fostered between 4-5, because that was something I could manage without jumping off the nearest bridge.

But when we moved to Virginia—with two women and 8 dogs in tow—we were immediately accosted with requests to take dogs. We had no fencing, no money to build, and a 4600 sq. ft. home to work with.

Volunteers helping us fence our field in November 2011
Volunteers help us fence our field in November 2011

People didn’t care that we were not yet ready to take in more than 1-2 dogs on top of what we brought with us.

They were angry that we weren’t immediately the end product we envisioned: a state-of-the-art facility with the ability to rehabilitate 50 dogs at a time.

It really wore on my self-esteem, to find myself in the beginning of the dream for Dogs Deserve Better, but to be expected to be years down the road in terms of progress by the general public. I couldn’t meet the expectations.

This was the first fence we had in 2011
This was the first fence we built in 2011
This is our fence today...see, progress, not perfection!
This is our fence today…progress takes time, and we have to support and understand that

We could have overwhelmed ourselves saying YES when we had no room. We could have used Vick’s kennels that came with the property, even though this is exactly what we work against.

These are kennels used by Vick in his dogfighting operation. None of our dogs have ever spent a moment in these kennels. They live INSIDE the house.
These are kennels used by Vick in his dogfighting operation. None of our dogs have EVER spent a moment in these kennels, and they never will as long as I’m in charge. They live INSIDE the home with the humans, where they belong.

We said NO, and endured a lot of anger and hatred and badmouthing as a result. It was hard.

But it was the right thing to do.

Today, until we can build (we are fundraising for our wing here), we are still limited by the state of Virginia to housing 13 dogs inside our building. We still take heat for that, but I will not jeopardize our organization to please a few people that end up not pleased again next month anyway.

Through our path from 2011 until today, we’ve rescued and rehabilitated over 160 dogs from this small space and done it the right way.

We want to double the number of dogs by adding an addition with doggie bedrooms, but we can’t do that unless we have the funding to build. Until that happens, we will stick to 13 dogs, and we will do our very best with these dogs to get them healthy, housetrained, vetted, socialized, and moved into new homes and families so we can rescue the next dog and the next dog off a chain and give them the same level of care.

That’s what they deserve, and we know that. We hope you do too.

From the Washington debacle a fledging group has formed, and is visiting nonprofit sanctuaries to ensure they are who they say they are. I say it’s about time.

Dogs Deserve Better’s doors are always open to you. [And by always, I mean from 10-2 p.m., or by appointment.] If you are a nonprofit rescuing animals, then you must have an open door policy and allow others IN.

Sanctuaries that won’t allow the public in are doing something to be ashamed of. There’s just no other way to see it.

I am proud of our Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained Dogs. Is it perfect? Hell, no. But we rarely have a visitor that doesn’t go away impressed with what we are doing and happy for the change we brought to a property that used to house nothing but cruelty.

If a sanctuary has more dogs that staff or volunteers can handle, they have too many dogs. If one person is running a sanctuary of 100-300 dogs? Forget about it! There is NO WAY it’s being run appropriately and the dogs are being cared for.


Sanctuary Watch has just took on their first case, and you can read all about it here:

I’m impressed with the way the case is being handled, and that they are showing compassion for the management of the nonprofit. However, the bottom line is things need to change for these dogs, and they need to change fast.

Bread for food? Unacceptable!

Dogs living outside in worse conditions than they were rescued from? Inexcusable.

We all have to do our best for rescue dogs. Often our best includes saying the word NO and meaning it. If you can’t take in more dogs and give them the quality of life they deserve while in foster or shelter care, then you need to say NO until you can.

Giving dogs the care they need is costly. It currently costs DDB almost $150,000 a year in staffing to ensure that our dogs get two daily walks in the fields, fed twice a day, clean water, socialization, obedience training, clean bedding and living areas, and house training. A behavioral therapist comes twice a week to work with both dogs and staff to ensure we are meeting the needs of the dogs. They get love, games, treats, toys.

This beginning case with Sanctuary Watch proves that if you want to take care of dogs, you have to spend the money to do it right.

That brings me to my special request, and is a critical need within Dogs Deserve Better right now. Would you be willing to sponsor an hour of care for our dogs each month? Even one hour of care per month ensures we can keep staff paid and give our dogs the care that is needed and deserved. Read more and set up your sponsorship here:

Our dogs and staff thank you!

P.S. We’ve raised $5000 toward our addition since we started fundraising earlier this month, and we need at least $300,000 to get serious and break ground. This month, Paypal is matching 1% of all donations through Razoo, so if you can give even a little toward our addition, donate here:

Tim runs through the field with our dogs
Tim runs through the field with our dogs
Heather cuddles Dexter on the desk
Heather cuddles Dexter on the desk
Sherri soothes Glory just after her rescue from a dogfighting operation
Sherri soothes Glory just after her rescue from a dogfighting operation
Heather loves on the dogs while others play
Heather loves on the dogs while others play
Sampson before and after rescue from his West Virginia chain
Sampson before and after rescue from his West Virginia chain
Sampson is our boy!
Sampson is quite the handsome fella, and he’s still looking for a loving home.

Raising the Roof for Rescue Dogs on #GivingTuesday at Dogs Deserve Better

Well, I did it.


I went for the fundraiser for #GivingTuesday that I really wanted to make happen; but I was terrified to push that button, to hit send on the e-mail. Why?

Because my idea is pretty much guaranteed to fail.

I mean, how can I think 687,000 people will give DDB just $1.00 each, when I’m lucky if I can get my kids to text me back, or my dog to come when I call him?

Yeah it’s a pretty ludicrous notion.

But wouldn’t it be so simple, and so lovely, if we could all just give $1 to every cause that mattered to us? I think we’d change the world! I see the vision of what COULD be possible for our animal friends, and it brings a big smile to my face.

So I pushed the button, and I hit send. To report: halfway through #GivingTuesday we have raised $1790 from 69 donors. Yes, we’re hella shy of 687,000 donors and $687,000 dollars, but guess what?

I’m proud of those who have already donated, and so thankful for you all. I’m hopeful we will continue to see #GivingTuesday donations for our wing addition throughout the night. Here are the links if you can donate even $1.

(This one requires a $10 or more donation, but we are eligible for matching prizes throughout the day, so if you can afford $10, this one is best.

This one will take $1 donations, so give here if you want to give from $1-$9.

Truth is, I don’t know how to raise the money we need to move ahead as an organization. I hoped if we all did some small part then it would be a hardship for none.

I need a bigger space for our dogs, so we can rescue double the dogs, and I can’t do that without money. To the tune of $300,000 to build anything of acceptable quality and space. Our dogs deserve a home environment; if we expect people to see the value in dogs, we have to put them in a place that showcases their value, that believes in them the way Dogs Deserve Better (and you) believe in them.

In terms of annual budget, when we are able to build, we’ve only fought half the battle. Because if we double the dogs we have to double the staff and a trainer, measuring up to a whopping $225,000 once you include all the taxes and such. And did we even mention vet care yet? Gulp.

So pardon me, if for today I’m going to go back to my Pie in the Sky Vision of What Could Be. I need to believe that we can somehow make this happen, and for today I will believe in the possibilities. Because I believe that our dogs deserve a facility where they can go and learn how to be REAL dogs. And somehow we need to make that happen for them.

Watch this video that was created for us by The Orpheus Connection. I love it, and it shows so well what we do at our center and we hope you’ll see too that expanding would help us rescue so many more dogs.


If all 687,000 of our Facebook fans donated JUST ONE DOLLAR on #GivingTuesday, DDB could build our rescue dog wing AND staff it for a year!

Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit freeing dogs from chains and bringing them into homes and families, has exciting plans drawn up for a rescue ‘bedroom wing’ to add to our existing 4600 sq. ft. building so we can double the number of chained dogs we can free, train, socialize, and put into wonderful lives with wonderful families.

Yes, we have plans, but what we don’t have? The funding to get us there.

Our Facebook and social media family has been amazingly supportive of our rescued dogs, and we’re wondering if all 687,000 of our fans chipped in just $1.00 on #GivingTuesday how far that could take us?

All the way for this dream, actually!

Plans and current cost estimates to build 12-14 ‘bedrooms’ for the dogs is about $300,000. Cost to employ four full time staff members to care for, train, and socialize the dogs for 13.5 hours a day for a year is approximately $225,000.

As it turns out, creating a dream rescue for dogs who come from nothing isn’t cheap. Or easy.

But don’t they Deserve Better than Life at the End of a Chain? It is the goal of Dogs Deserve Better to give our rescued chainef dogs a facility that is much better than a traditional shelter. A place where they can learn what it is to be a real dog—where they get the vet care and training they need to move on to loving, inside homes and families.

Dogs Deserve Better owns and operates the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs in Smithfield, Va. We transport dogs to the Good Newz Center from all across the nation—even from as far away as Houston, Texas, and Forks, Washington.

In 2011 we took over the property where football player Michael Vick housed his dogfighting compound; there dogs were chained, penned, forced to fight, and brutally killed if they didn’t perform well.

Today, our dogs romp through the same field where dogs used to live chained. Every dog runs twice a day in our seven-acre fenced field and then comes back inside the home where formerly dogs were not allowed. They enjoy the fireplace in what was once a living room, and take baths in the jacuzzi tubs and shower of what was once the master bedroom.

Dogs are socialized and trained in groups for 13.5 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., both by staff and our behavioral therapist who visits twice a week to work with both staff and dogs.

These dogs come from nothing, and don’t know how to live with people or other dogs. They have never been to the vet, never ridden in a car, never been inside a home.

All this is taught to them by staff and volunteers They are loved, provided with vet care, trained, adopted into loving homes with loving families.

Unfortunately, because we are currently working from what was previously a house, the state of Virginia has limited the number of dogs we can rescue at any given time to 13 until we build a wing with quarters they will approve.

Our dogs currently stay in group socialization rooms, and can be inside or out through doggie doors all day long. They sleep, eat, and nap in crates for their safety.

With our wing, will be able to immediately DOUBLE THE NUMBER OF DOGS we can work with at any given time, upping our number to 26-28 doggie residents. Each room will have two dog beds, indoor/outdoor access, and homelike features to get dogs used to living inside the home and going outside to do their business.

Dogs will still be trained and socialized in group settings, but when they are not in group they will have safe yet spacious areas in which to sleep and play.

This expansion will prove of benefit to at least 120 dogs per year, plus ease the minds of caring citizens and neighbors of chained dogs who have to watch these dogs suffer. With more room, we can free more dogs, and that in turn frees more people from the pain of witnessing what is in most cases legal cruelty.

So what do you say? Let’s RAISE THE ROOF FOR RESCUE DOGS on #GivingTuesday. We chose Razoo because we have many opportunities with them to RAISE EVEN MORE MONEY. They are giving out prizes all day long, so please donate and ask your friends to give even $1.00 each.

Let’s free MORE CHAINED DOGS. Thank you!

P.S. We discovered after creating this fundraising page that it only accepts $10 or more donations. So we created another where you can donate $1 or more too. Then we will combine the two totals. If you want to donate less than $10, please visit this link instead. Our apologies!