Meet the mighty mutts of New York
How NYU students can get involved in animal rescue
If you live in New York (and are not allergic to animals), chances are you'll be guilty of stooping to coo over the adorable puppies gambling around in pet shop windows. Drooling over these dogs became somewhat of a regular indulgence, and one that I found largely mitigated midterm and finals stress.
Over time, however, I gradually learned that many of these pet shops were sourced by breeders with less than ethical principles. In most cases, this means puppy mills: cruel organisations intent on churning out as many puppies for as much profit as possible.
It was something I had snatches of information on, especially as I saw the term #AdoptDontShop on an almost daily basis on social media. A little while ago, I encountered Mighty Mutts, an animal rescue organization based here in Manhattan, holding an adoption drive in Union Square. After reading about the great work they do, I contacted Anna Ostroff, their community outreach coordinator, who laid out the background and ambitions of Mighty Mutts (as well as those for cats in need of a home, through their sister organization, Ollie's Place). Ostroff, along with some of her other colleagues at Mighty Mutts, fosters some of their dogs herself.
“We don’t consider ourselves a shelter,” Ostroff corrected me. “All of our dogs are in the foster network."
Ostroff also emphasised that the parents of the puppies born into puppy mills are the ones that suffer most, as they are a means to an end for owners of the mills, forced to live in cages that go uncleaned for weeks, and essentially staved when they are not being used for mating purposes.
"No one thinks about the parents," said Ostroff. "They don't care about their lives, and most of them have never spent a day outside their crate. It's really sad. If people understood the torture and abuse, we could shut these places down."
"We're always taking dogs in, from many different places, including shelters in the South which are notorious kill shelters, and even abandoned dogs in New York City. We've had junkyard dogs, dogs dropped off to us, and we also do some puppy mill rescues, where we take the moms and dads left there" said Jackie Benowitz, the Mighty Mutts' volunteer coordinator.
Their adoption drive, held every Saturday on the south-west corner of Union Square, affords potential adopters the opportunity to meet the dogs beforehand to establish a connection. Benowitz detailed a fairly rigorous adoption process to ensure that the dogs go to a proper home, including a phone call and a home visit to verify that the applicant's lifestyle is actually conducive to being a good pet owner.
"It is a lot of work," said Amanda Regalado, a senior at NYU who lives in Stuy Town and is the proud owner of Essie, a miniature Australian Shepherd puppy. "It requires you to essentially change the way that you live your life. You have to think about which places are dog-friendly, you have to wake up earlier and go to bed later to walk them. If someone has the means and time to care for such a precious life, I'd recommend it, but people need to remember that dogs aren't toys. You have to nurture and stimulate them."
Although NYU dorms are yet to allow dogs, volunteering is the next best way for students to get involved in a cause that many are already behind. Ostroff said that some of their best volunteers in the past have been NYU students.
The minimum age for volunteers is 18, and you can find out more at mightymutts.org.