By Patti Shaffer
At Little Rhody Rescue & Quarantine, owner Kate Healey Dubuque rescues dogs in dire need of “forever homes”— dogs from shelters that are slated for euthanasia. Dubuque runs the day-to-day business single-handedly out of her home in Harmony.
Working alone, she feeds, washes, launders, cleans up after, medicates, and exercises the dogs. She cares for and attends to the needs of every dog, every day, seven days a week. (Three veterinarians Dr. Lauren Keene; Dr. Alfred Parrillo, Dr. Mary Ann Allen, all from North Smithfield Animal Hospital generously assist her whenever she needs them).
Fortunately, at adoption events and fundraisers, she has many dedicated volunteers including children of all ages. In fact, this year, Girl Scouts from North Smithfield Troop 241 and their Troop Leader have volunteered to help.
“They are wonderful assistants,” says Dubuque. “The girls benefit by learning to work with the animals in a safe, compassionate way, as well as help to answer questions.”
She adds, “It takes an enormous amount of help and coordination. But it’s worth it, because the dogs always get adopted. We have never sent one back to the shelter.”
Her motto: ‘Give a first rate dog a second chance—ADOPT!’
Dubuque also works as a veterinary technician at North Smithfield Animal Hospital part time; she has two German Shepherds and a mix mutt—all rescues.
“I have a very understanding husband,” says Dubuque smiling.
In the beginning
In 2002, Dubuque was an animal control officer in Glocester who was forced to retire after major back surgery. She always loved working with animals, so she began working at a local animal hospital— answering phones and learning skills as a veterinary technician.
She wanted a dog—her husband wanted a puppy. So they adopted a 13-month-old puppy from a small rescue group in Tennessee. He was delivered a week later, neutered, vaccinated, clean and healthy, although a bit skinny and shy. They named him Guinness.
“Guinness died at the age of 13 in September of 2014,” says Dubuque sadly. “But his paw prints left an indelible mark to where hundreds…now thousands more would follow.”
Guinness became one of the very first dogs to travel from Tennessee to Rhode Island. Pooches on the Move (then Miss Linda’s Dogs for Adoption) was a tiny entity—a grass roots group of ladies desperate to save the lives of hundreds of homeless dogs doomed for euthanasia in Tennessee shelters. Cindy Rhoda, who was originally from Westerly, led it.
And Dubuque and Rhoda kept in touch.
“Cindy and I became more reliant on one another and more engrossed in the need for the rescue,” says Dubuque. “Cindy in Tennessee; me in Rhode Island. With rescue, things grew steadily and expanded and soon we were adopting three to four dogs a week, and then increasing to 20 to 30 every two to three weeks. However, as the enterprise became busier and I wanted to make more decisions, we slightly parted—That is when Little Rhody Rescue became it’s own entity although we still work intermeshed.”
In fact, so intermeshed that Cindy Rhoda and Kate Dubuque and four other rescues invested in a brand new kennel facility in Athens, Tennessee.
“The animals are quarantined at this facility before they are allowed to travel,” says Dubuque. “This also allows them to have a safe, warm, clean environment to recover from spay or neuter surgery and be attended to properly. The kennel facility takes the place of up to 10 foster homes and is run by a team of four women who are very knowledgeable in kennel care and animal care.”
“We have become a tribe of tribes, a co-op of several rescues rolled and huddled under one umbrella,” she emphasizes. “Importantly, we all utilize the same rules, regulations and veterinary requirements.”
Surprisingly, Tennessee, among other southern states, has an inordinate number of animals in their shelters and pounds. Most are strays, or abandoned, some are from owners turning them in and some from puppy mill raids. All are in jeopardy of euthanasia. Generally, 90 percent of Little Rhody’s Rescue dogs are from Tennessee.
“In Tennessee, generally, people do not spay or neuter their pets as much as New Englanders do,” says Dubuque. “On average, 10 percent spay and neuter their pets, compared to 90 percent in New England. Consequently, there are many more dogs available for adoption from that area.”
Dubuque mentions, “Often their pets are not doted on like their northern counterparts. We, as Northerners, consider our pets to be a huge part of the family—Sometimes, as if they are our children.”
“Just recently, I took in four puppies that were intentionally thrown from a moving car,” says Dubuque. “Two landed on their faces. They had severe lacerations to their eyes and one almost lost her eye. The vet needed to suture it closed in hopes of saving it. Her eye was saved thankfully. One also suffered corneal abrasions that will take time (and money) to heal. She will be given both. And will be spayed, micro- chipped, vaccinated, de-wormed, washed up, pampered, loved, and well fed—then transported here to Little Rhody Rescue to be adopted.”
Why its better to adopt a dog than purchase one from a puppy mill?
A dog from a pet store (a puppy mill) can cost upwards of $500 and beyond $2,000. They are usually ‘mill bred’ simply for profit. Their parents reportedly suffer the plight of living in cramped, dirty environments. Living conditions may be devoid of veterinary care, human contact and decent living quarters—like fresh air. The puppies are sometimes under vaccinated. They are seldom spayed or neutered and are likely in poor general health.
“Rescues on the other hand, are held to higher standards and are monitored much more than the pet store industry,” explains Dubuque.
“And let’s not forget the big picture. Thousands of eligible, healthy, beautiful, loving, well-behaved puppies and dogs are dying each day in high-kill shelters all across this country— and people are breeding more dogs? Why? There are several great rescues that will assist you in getting these pups out and into your homes, safely, legally and in great health.”
She adds, “Little Rhody Rescue gives first rate dogs a second chance at life.”
Last year alone, Little Rhody Rescue arranged adoption of 429 dogs to wanting, loving homes; many were adopted by families or couples in Rhode Island. However, they are available to anyone in greater New England.
To date, the co-op has arranged adoption for over 10,000 dogs by New England families.
Dubuque’s hopes and dreams
“I would like Rhode Island to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits at pet stores. The city of Boston enacted it this past March—why not our wonderful state? Our little state started the Revolutionary War; burning of the Gaspee right? If they can do it, we can, too.” (Some contend that The Revolution began with the burning of the British revenue cutter Gaspee in Narragansett Bay on June 10, 1772. It was an act of open defiance of British authority when Rhode Islanders boarded and sank the vessel.)
Many cities and towns in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Utah, and New Mexico have also banned the sale of puppies and kittens at retail pet stores, unless those pets come from animal shelters.
To sign Kate Healey Dubuque’s petition, go to: change.org/p/rhode-island-governor-ban-the-retail-sale-of-puppies-kittens-and-rabbits-across-the-state-of-ri-pet-trade.
To view Little Rhody Rescue’s website, go to: LittleRhodyRescue.com or for more information call 401.692.1117.
Upcoming adoption event:
Sunday, June 5, Always Adopt at Belise Toyota on Warwick Avenue, Warwick.
Little Rhody Rescue will have about 70 dogs available and some six to 10 other rescues will participate providing as many as 400 adoptable dogs and puppies.
Little Rhody Rescue, Quarantine & Pooches Cooperative is a 501(c)3 charity located in Harmony, that strives to find safe homes for underprivileged and neglected dogs.
In general 25 to 30 percent of the animals are purebred dogs and hundreds of puppies are available.
The cooperative has a network of foster homes, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, photographers, and groomers.
Little Rhody Rescue is licensed in the State of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.