While often seen as the first call, local animal control might be better as a last resort.
When St. Joseph resident Brandon Brownfield reported a malnourished dog to St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue, he didn’t receive the help he was looking for — to have the dog taken away.
Best Life Animal Rescue, a private service, then stepped in. While Brownfield said he still hears a dog on the property, an assistant for the private rescue said they are often a better first call than city officials.
“People often get puppies and don’t know the responsibility that comes with it,” Leslie Wheeler, an assistant for the rescue, said. “Then they get dumped in local shelters where they’re already overcrowded.”
“It’s nice for us to be able to take them because we can do more than the shelters can,” she said. “We can put our focus on that particular animal instead of a whole shelter full of animals.”
Private rescues do have their drawbacks. They don’t have law enforcement powers, meaning they generally can’t force someone to give up an animal.
“Sometimes people will accept that help or it has become too overwhelming for them,” Wheeler said. “Sometimes people refuse even when there’s a dire situation, and all he (the organization’s owner) can do is say, ‘Hey we’re watching you and if you need assistance, let us know.’”
Best Life Animal Rescue is technically based out of Oklahoma, where the group’s founder, Anthony Vance, lives. Vance is a St. Joseph native and sometimes shelters dogs temporarily at his car shop, Ace Automotive Empire.
“She (the allegedly malnourished dog’s owner) was completely unwilling to surrender the dog, but she has no choice but to improve the dog’s situation. She knows we are watching,” Vance said.
Wheeler said another drawback to animal control can be the fee to surrender an animal. According to the city’s website, the fee ranges from $10 to $40 to give up an animal. With Best Life Animal Rescue, Wheeler said there is no fee.