With millions of dogs being euthanized in shelters each year, and the epidemic of homeless pets growing by the minute, there are thousands of dedicated individuals working to make a difference. Recently, we featured some incredible organizations like Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue, and Foster Dogs NYC, but today we wanted to focus on one of the most unique rescues in America.
This is Ghetto Rescue FFoundation (GRFF). Not only is their name a testament to some of the situations they find animals in, but they are made up of a very special team of volunteers. The majority of volunteers and first responders for GRFF are actually Los Angeles Police Department officers, and they are working around the clock to ensure LA’s dogs are being cared for.
We were so fortunate to be able to speak with some of the wonderful volunteers from Ghetto Rescue FFoundation, and to learn more about the unbelievable work they do with Los Angeles’s most desperate dogs.
Who Are First Responders And What Do They Do?
First responders are generally the first ones on the scene, and are responsible for responding to emergency situations. In the case of Ghetto Rescue FFoundation, these individuals are officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
When the LAPD or GRFF receive a tip that there is a dog in need, they send officers to the location as soon as possible. Often times, LAPD and GRFF volunteers will come across dogs in need while in the line of duty as well. Once they arrive, responders assess the situation, and act accordingly. Sometimes, this means rushing dogs to the veterinarian for life saving medical treatment, and other times it involves working with the owners to find a better solution for dog care.
Though the first responders are mostly LAPD officers, there are also Fire, EMT, and volunteer crews that respond to dogs in need.
We spoke with Debi Struthers of Ghetto Rescue FFoundation about the first responders, who often work around the clock to keep people and animals safe. We learned that many officers will work an entire day in the field, and then volunteer their time to help with rescue efforts.
“The tenacity, drive, work ethic. It’s incredible,” Debi said. “Every day, we receive up to 50 emails, texts, spay requests. It keeps adding up… I don’t know how they do it.”
The officers and volunteers not only work tirelessly, but they witness absolute horrors. Unfortunately, more often than not, the first responders of GRFF discover dogs in deplorable conditions, clinging onto life. Many of which do not survive.
Recently, we published a piece about a dog named Spirit, and her incredible recovery journey. When Spirit was discovered by the Ghetto Rescue FFoundation, she was covered in fleas and ticks, and her fur was soaked with dirt, grease, and oil. She was surrounded by bits of food that passer-by’s had tossed beside her, and she was too weak to even stand. At first, she appeared dead, her lifeless body curled on the sidewalk.
While speaking with Debi Struthers, I asked if there were other dogs like Spirit living on the streets of LA.
“Too many…” she said.
The long pause after she spoke expressed more than any amount of words. My heart sank.
What Kinds Of Dogs Are Found On The Streets?
We often ask what breeds or types of dogs are commonly found on the streets when we interview rescues, and whether or not that information relates to dog fighting, puppy mills, or backyard breeding. However, the homeless animal population of Los Angeles is so vast, that it can not be narrowed down to one demographic.
“[We rescue dogs of] all breeds in all conditions,” said Tami, front woman of GRFF.
She continued to explain that the main contributions to the homeless animal population are “not spaying and neutering and lack of education.” As well as the fact that “people breed and sell dogs to buy household items and sell dogs to supplement government assisted income.”
Because of this, the Ghetto Rescue FFoundation is not breed specific, and they aim to help as many dogs as possible. They do not discriminate, or see any dog as less or more important than another. They simply do what they can with the resources they have.
Another sad reality for Los Angeles’s homeless pet population is that many people are completely unaware of the severity. – Before talking with Debi Struthers, even I didn’t understand.
“You can’t go a block without seeing five or six dogs,” said Debi, “but most people in nice neighborhoods have no idea.”
In 2012, Ghetto Rescue FFoundation rescued 40 dogs from the streets of LA. Each year since then, the number has increased drastically. Last year, they rescued roughly 250 dogs, a shocking amount that they are already trending to surpass this year.
Working With The Homeless Community
Officers working with the Ghetto Rescue FFoundation don’t just rescue and re-home animals, they provide aid for homeless pet owners as well.
The economic situation and unemployment rate in Los Angeles is difficult for many people, causing the homeless population to rise. More people are resorting to living in vehicles or on the streets. And many of them have pets.
“[They] love their animals just as much as someone who lives in a mansion,” Debi Struthers said.
The Ghetto Rescue FFoundation aims to aid homeless pet owners in caring for their animals, without judgement or threat of seizure. They do whatever possible to help the owner keep the dog, rather than seizing them or turning them in to the shelter system. The LAPD have developed relationships with the homeless community, and work side by side with them for the better interests of the dogs.
Volunteers from GRFF spend much of their time assisting the homeless community in providing proper veterinary care, grooming, food, and shelter for their dogs. They often arrange to take dogs to be groomed, vetted, and spayed/neutered before returning the dogs to the owners.
“If the dog is in poor condition, we will take it to the groomer, or arrange to go to groomer together.”
The Ghetto Rescue FFoundation also helps low income families provide better care for their dogs. If they receive calls about dogs escaping from their yard, volunteers will mend fences, and provide a secure area for the dogs.
Mammas And Her Car Puppies
Recently, GRFF and LAPD were notified of a homeless couple living in their car. They had an unaltered female dog named Mammas, who had just given birth to seven puppies in the alley. The puppies were only five days old when the LAPD found them, but they would eventually grow into street dogs, adding to the homeless population, and living at constant risk of being hit by cars.
It was a tough decision for everyone involved, but Mammas’ owners surrendered the puppies to GRFF, and agreed to let their dog stay with the puppies until they could be weened. With the help of many generous donors, Ghetto Rescue FFoundation was able to find a boarding kennel for Mammas and her puppies to stay until they are ready to separate. Once the puppies are an appropriate age, they will be vetted, fixed, and adopted out to forever homes, while Mammas will return to her loving parents.
Mammas will receive all necessary vet care, as well as be spayed, before returning to her family.
The Car Puppies will be available for adoption through Ghetto Rescue FFoundation.org.
Incredible Recovery Stories
Ghetto Rescue FFoundation has rescued hundreds of dogs from life threatening situations. Each dog has his or her own unique story, but some are truly unforgettable.
Spirit Golden Heart
Spirit Golden Heart, named after her heart shaped patch of fur, was found near death on the streets on LA. She weighed 41lbs, her frail body covered in fleas, ticks, grease, and oil. She was immediately rushed to the nearest veterinarian, where they were told she would not have lived another night on the street.
Spirit struggled through recovery, but slowly regained her strength while in intensive care at the veterinary hospital. Within 10 days, she was able to stand on her own, and started gaining weight. Spirit quickly became a volunteer and fan favorite, as no one could resist her sweet face.
Spirit is now in the care of her loving foster family, and is improving daily. Once she has recovered fully, she will be available for adoption.
Skye’s is probably one of the most outstanding rescue stories we’ve ever heard!
When Ghetto Rescue FFoundation found Skye, she was living between an alley and a junk yard. Her previous owners had abandoned her when they moved, and a man living nearby would occasionally toss her scraps of bread or pretzels. Her white fur was so saturated with grease, oil, and dirt, that she was described as a “grey hippopotamus.”
Skye’s ears had been cut off with scissors or a blade at some point in her life, which was obvious to see from the build-up of scar tissue. They had become badly infected, resembling cauliflower, dripping puss, and maggots had infested her ear canals.
The man living near the lot informed GRFF that Skye, then named Gueda, had given birth to four puppies. Two were born dead, and two were taken by another man, who reported that the puppies did not survive the day. Once GRFF was able to transport Skye to the veterinarian, they were told that she was septic, and had two dead puppies still inside of her. Emergency surgery was performed to remove the puppies, and the veterinarians worked on her ears, which later required multiple surgeries.
Skye endured the most horrific start to life, but somehow, she remained kind. Due to her troubled past, Skye did not understand what it was like to be a dog, and required rehabilitation. She was sent to work with Cesar Milan at the Dog Psychology Center, where she learned to trust humans and other dogs. She even met her new Italian boyfriend!
Once she has completed rehabilitation, Skye will be ready to find her forever home!
You can read more about Skye’s journey here.
Martha Potamus is another amazing rescue story with a very happy ending!
Martha was discovered on the streets in Fall of 2015. She suffered from mange, cherry eye, and a prolapsed rectum. Ghetto Rescue FFoundation volunteers couldn’t begin to imagine the incredible pain she was in, let alone how long she had been in this terrible condition.
Martha required multiple surgeries to fix her rectum, as well as correct her cherry eye, and monitor the rest of her organs. It was determined that her mange was noncontagious, and she was able to slowly regrow her fur.
Martha healed spectacularly while in the care of loving foster parents, and was eventually adopted by an amazing family! Look at how happy she looks in that after picture!
You can read about Martha’s recovery journey on GRFF Facebook’s page.
How You Can Help Ghetto Rescue FFoundation
All of these unbelievable rescue stories were made possible by the hard work and dedication of GRFF’s volunteers, the LAPD, as well as generous donations. Before GRFF was donation funded, the officers would pay for everything out of their own pockets!
If you would like to help the Ghetto Rescue FFoundation and their effort to aid dogs in need, please visit their website. You can read more about their current efforts in keeping dogs out of shelters, or even volunteer to work with the rescue, whether you want to be on the front lines, or foster! All dogs are placed in foster care, and there is a desperate need for foster parents in the Los Angeles area.
The Ghetto Rescue FFoundation relies on donations to provide care for these dogs. If you are able to help, please donate! Every donor will receive a hand written thank you card from GRFF volunteers.
We ask you to please share this article to spread awareness of dogs in need, and help find a solution to the epidemic of homeless animals in America.
Thank you, Ghetto Rescue FFoundation and the LAPD for making a difference!