The Project BREED Directory: access to a lifesaving network

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1993:

GERMANTOWN, Maryland––
Shirley Weber, by her own admission, is in
over her head. Her savings are gone, her
telephone bills sky-high. Her assets include
four dogs and four cats, a condominium in
a rough part of town, and two volumes of
something called The Project BREED
Directory. (BREED is short for Breed
Rescue Efforts and Education.)
Weber also has the belief that what
she has done in creating The Project
BREED Directory is important, that it will
make a difference for thousands of animals
from coast to coast. The paperback direct-
ory includes contact information for every
group Weber could find that rescues pure-
bred dogs, some groups who rescue other
specific kinds of animal, and a considerable
amount of useful advice.

The growth of the directory from
the first edition to the second indicates she’s
right. The 1990 first printing listed more
than 1,500 contacts, some in every state,
for 72 breeds of dog. The current edition,
published in February, includes nearly
2,900 contacts for dog rescue, plus contacts
for ferret and bat rescuers. It’s a phenome-
nal resource that belongs on every breeder’s
bookshelf, and at the front counter of every
animal shelter and veterinary hospital.
Breed rescue is an idea that has
recently gained support in purebred dog cir-
cles, as recognition spreads that pounds and
shelters are taking in huge numbers of
unwanted purebreds. One dog in four
received by major west coast shelters is a
purebred. In the northeast, it’s as high as
two dogs in five. The statistics belie the tra-
ditional belief that only mixed-breed dogs
get dumped.
The best breeders have always
taken their own dogs back, but today they
realize that’s not enough: they have to help
other dogs of their breed, no matter where
they came from, no matter where they are.
They know if they’re going to allow more
dogs to be born, they’d better be more
responsible for the overflow.
Breed rescue proponents pull some
dogs out of shelters, and take others home
before they get that far. They evaluate the
dogs, looking for good health and tempera-
ment, and make sure they’re neutered before
placement into carefully screened new
homes. For people looking for purebred
dogs, a rescue group is an outstanding
source for healthy, well-mannered dogs.
Such groups, however, are often
hard to find. While a few cities, such as
Seattle, have well-organized multibreed
rescue and referral services, most places
have only a word-of-mouth network, hard
to tap into if you’re not into dogs.
Shirley Weber knew that if she
could pull all the information together,
thousands of dogs, purebred and mixed,
would have a chance at a new life.
“I don’t want it to come across that
I care more about purebreds, because I
don’t,” she explains. “I see it as a way of
increasing the volunteer effort.” Every
purebred dog who moves into the rescue
network opens up space at a shelter for
another, Weber believes. With luck, two
dogs are saved from euthanasia.
Weber’s plan was grand and ambi-
tious, especially for someone who barely
over a dozen years ago wasn’t at all person-
ally involved in helping animals. She was
so unaware, she recalls, that her first dog
was a product of a puppy mill, bought on
impulse from a notorious chain pet store. “I
paid $500 for him, and then it took three
weeks, three vets, and another $500 to
make him well,” she says.
For her second dog, she put in a
request for a purebred Yorkie at her local
shelter, and waited for a call. Soon she was
a volunteer at the shelter, serving as a “fos-
ter parent” and working to place animals in
good homes.
“I came to the understanding that
there was not a magic shelter in the sky that
you can send $25 to and everything will be
all right,” she said. “After five years of see-
ing how disjointed things were, and how
many calls it took to get what was needed, I
started putting together rescue directories. I
did one for Virginia and Maryland, and
soon started hearing from other states.”
Two years, $50,000, and hun-
dreds of long-distance calls later, Weber
had published the first and only nationwide
resource for placing homeless purebreds.
“This is a tool to help rescuers do
what they’re doing faster, better, more
effectively,” she emphasizes. “If you have
people participating in the placement who
are familiar with the breed, they’ll be more
realistic and they’ll discourage people who
won’t be a good match. They haven’t got
more animals coming in constantly, so
they’re not under pressure like shelters.”
Weber’s problem now is making
people aware of the directory, getting it out
to where it can do the most good. Her
longterm goal is to ensure the continuation
of the directory, perhaps through the spon-
sorship of an animal welfare group or a pet
food company. One tentative deal with a
sympathetic group fell through because
Weber refused to delete a passage recom-
mending that people shouldn’t eat meat.
Determined, she keeps knocking on doors.
“People haven’t even known that
this information is out there, because it
never was put together before,” she states.
“It’s available now, and it’s useful to every-
one. The hardest thing to do is to sell it to
the animal people, to convince them they
need it. If they save even one dog, it’s
worth it, and there’s no way they’re going to
save just one dog.” Most customers, Weber
says, credit The Project BREED Directory
with helping them to save many more dogs
than they were saving before they got it.
Letters and calls of praise from
rescuers keep Weber going. “I never knew
there was a way to help, as just one per-
son,” she explains. “The directory has
taken every dime and every hour. I don’t
have a VCR, I don’t go out, I don’t take
vacations. I don’t think I made a decision to
do this, but I feel driven. I can’t imagine
how you can make this sound intelligent,
because it’s not, but I see this as a way to
give a little bit of help to every shelter. One
person can make a difference.”
The Project BREED Directory is
$28.05, including postage, from Project
Breed Inc., 18707 Curry Powder Lane,
Germantown, MD 20874-2014. Discounts
are available for multi-copy orders.
––Gina Spadafori
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