GW: How did you start rescuing animals?
AG:Even as a child girl I would “rescue” dogs that I would find roaming the neighbourhoods and take them home. My mother would immediately make me take them back to where I had found them as most, if not all, had homes.
GW: What is Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter?
AG: Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter (“FAAS”) is a non-profit based in Aspen, Colorado. Once the new shelter opened we changed our name and mission and began to tackle pet overpopulation in Colorado and beyond. Since 2007 we have provided almost 10,000 free spay/neuters and, in partnership with Aspen Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter, have rescued around 1,000 dogs and cats from shelters that have no alternative but to kill due to overcrowding.
AG: I’ve served on the board of FAAS since 2004. We were originally an all-volunteer board but the organization grew as did the workload and we eventually needed a director. I was appointed to that position in 2008.
GW:Why did you decide to go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help out?
AG: I couldn’t bear seeing all the abandoned animals in the wake of the hurricane. The more I watched, the more I realized I they obviously needed help and I wanted to be there, to help care for, comfort and/or rescue these dogs.
GW: What do you think could be done differently in the future to help pets through a disaster?
AG: Well, one change that was desperately needed and has been implemented in a lot of areas is to provide a place of refuge for pets when disaster strikes. Most of the people who were evacuating to shelters along the Gulf Coast weren’t allowed to take their pets with them and had few or no alternatives. That’s changed. Also, pet owners have to understand the importance of micro-chipping or, at the very least, keeping a well-secured collar and tag on their pet at all times so ownership can be traced back to them whenever they become lost and in the event of another disaster the magnitude of Katrina.
AG: We brought back eighteen dogs.And as I describe in my book, Saved, some were flown back and I drove some back with a friend on what turned out to be quite adventure for us and the dogs.
GW: Did all the dogs get adopted or find their owners? Did you adopt one of the dogs?
AG: We found the owners of seven of the dogs. Four or five were returned and the other owners were displaced and didn’t have the resources to care for the dogs and asked that we find loving homes for them. There was a line of people waiting at the Aspen Animal Shelter to foster the dogs when we first returned from Louisiana so most of them went into foster homes immediately. However, we would not allow official adoptions until January, 2006 after we had exhausted all efforts in trying to find the dogs’ owners. Yes, I adopted one of the dogs, Stryder, a very affectionate Rottie/Shiba Inu mix. Actually, he adopted me! That is Styder with me on the cover of my book.
GW: Why did you write your book, Saved?
AG: After we returned from Louisiana, whenever we told stories of our adventure, people would say “what a story – you should to write a book.” I was just recovering from my battle with breast cancer when we went to Louisiana and the trip took me out of the “cancer life” as I called it. What we went through during this trip was heartbreaking, heartwarming and hilarious. My friend Melinda and I ended up having to drive nine of the dogs from Louisiana to Aspen and it was quite a madcap road trip – full of challenges which started when the “cargo van” we picked up ended up being a minivan so we had to take all 9 dogs out of their crates and ride with them loose in the minivan.
GW: What do you think can be done to end pet overpopulation?
AG: I think hands-on solutions are foster homes and spay/neuter programs. Spay/neuter isn’t an immediate solution but it is the most important. It works. It takes a cycle of years for the results to be seen but it works. That is why our non-profit spends the majority of funds raised on our free spay/neuter and rescue campaigns. I’m paraphrasing but someone said it best – anyone who volunteers to foster a pet is immediately saving the life of not only the pet they are fostering but the many more that get to take the kennel space that will become available..
Philosophically, I agree with what two prominent animal activists have shared. In a conversation with Richard Avanzino of Maddie’s Fund, he said “our nation needs to look at pet overpopulation as a crisis. People need to step-up like they step-up when there is a disaster in our country.”
Nathan Winograd advocates animal shelters taking a pledge that they will no longer kill the animals but doing whatever they have to do to find foster or permanent homes.
Wonderful, loving, adoptable dogs and cats – a lot of them pure breeds – are being killed every day in our country. Approximately three million a year – it shouldn’t be happening !
GW: Why should people adopt a shelter pet?
AG: The easy, immediate answer is that they save at least one life by doing so. However, I believe there is something truly unique about shelter pets. Most have faced hardships and when they finally find a loving home I think there is something inside them that gets it and most are so appreciative and affectionate. And, again, by adopting shelter pets, you save their life and the life of pets that can take their space at the shelter
In 2004, after selling her business, she decided to follow her dream and move to the mountains and relocated to Aspen, Colorado in hopes of working with animals. She became involved with the Aspen Animal Shelter.
Less than six months after arriving in Aspen, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She successfully battled the disease.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Anne knew she had to be a part of the animal rescue mission despite the advice from her doctors that it was too soon after her cancer treatments. Her heartwarming and heartbreaking adventure is the subject of her book, Saved: Cancer, Katrina Dogs and Me by Transformation Media Books. Anne currently lives in Aspen, Colorado, with her four rescued dogs, Bella, Stryder (a Katrina rescue dog), Max and Haddie.
A portion of the profits from the book will be donated to Dogs of Aspen. ( a rescue center in Aspen Colorado)