A chorus of chihuahuas yap in unison. An uninterrupted flow of volunteer walkers, pet owners, and board members pass in and out. Jello, a terrier-pitbull mix, is performing parkour in his kennel. The headquarters of Street Tails Animal Rescue (or STAR), tucked within the foot traffic-intensive Liberties Walk, exude a certain freneticism, and it is Devon Keleman’s job to give order to the chaos.
Devon has been the manager at STAR for about a year now, and she has seen a lot of damaged animals find happy homes. She still regrets that some potential pet owners fail to see all the benefits of pet adoption. “A lot of people don’t realize that you’re opening up your social world when you adopt a dog,” Devon said. “You won’t believe the huge network of dog walkers out there. It can really make you feel like part of the community.”
As we talked, she swiveled a chair from beneath her desk, uncovering Abigail, the sole cat in the crew, wide-eyed and mewing. Like many of these animals, Abigail’s life is not without tragedy. When she was first picked up by Animal Control, she was pregnant. Despite Street Tails’ interest in rescuing her along with her kittens, within twenty minutes Animal Control had terminated the pregnancy.
This story illustrates a crucial difference between shelters and rescues. There’s a ruthless efficiency at the heart of the shelter model. At the end of the day, the adoption likelihood of disabled, pregnant, or aggressive animals is low, and shelters don’t have the resources to foster these disadvantaged critters until they find a home. Dogs, after all, can be kind of expensive.
Some prospective pet owners balk at the adoption fee, but there can be no mistaking STAR for a for-profit organization. “With each animal, we operate at a loss, whether that’s a small loss or a huge loss,” Devon said, noting that the spaying cost alone often surpasses the adoption fee. If the dog ruptures her ACLs or gets bladder stones, the surgery expenses escalate rapidly.
Last year, STAR participated in Art for the Cash Poor, our yearly arts fair-beer garden-food truck extravaganza. They had a few of their little dogs on display, and Devon said the exposure was much appreciated. “Most of our clients are from around here, so it was great to expand our circle into the arts community.” She appreciated ACTCP as much as a visitor as a vendor, admiring the eclectic array of artwork for sale.
Within a few minutes of lingering at their base of operations, it was clear to me that STAR is motivated more by love than anything else. They’re coming back to AFTCP this year, so don’t be surprised if you leave with a painting under one arm and a puppy under the other.
Art for the Cash Poor 2016 is June 3 – 5 at Crane Arts, with a Kickoff Party Friday, June 3, 5:30 – 9 pm that doubles as a fundraiser for the AIDS Fund. Tickets for the Kickoff can be purchased here. The weekend event is free and open to the public and runs Saturday and Sunday, June 4 – 5, noon – 6 pm.