By Lisa Milavic
"Take opportunities that speak to you. Use the pain you see in something as a driving force to change it."
Laura Bye was 26 when she started her non-profit, Save Our Scruff (SOS). The organization rescues homeless and mistreated dogs from many countries, which are then fostered and found a new home in and around Toronto. Laura started in spa and sport management and was rescuing animals with an organization for a year and half before deciding to be in the drivers seat for a cause she deeply cares about.
How does the organization work?
We rescue and rehome. In most cases, we are bringing dogs from overseas that have been rescued by other organizations. There are so many street dogs in need of homes and the chances of them surviving without one is very small. Dogs come in and go straight into foster care. I work with some great people at Helmutt's and Wooftown who are donating to me regularly. This is where I get food, treats, crates etc. Foster parents help in the process of finding their rescue pup a forever home. Meet and greets take place, as well as home checks and/or reference checks.
How do you get alerted of dogs that need a home, and where are they found?
Now that I have been working in rescue for so long, I get tagged almost daily in dogs needing my help. I also work with specific organizations that'll inform me when a dog is ready and healthy so they can fly here!
Has there been any challenges or set-backs in starting the organization, and if so, what did you do to overcome them?
Trusting of others. A lot of people are in difficult situations with dogs and are looking for a way out. I've had a few owner-surrenders where they say the dog is 'perfect', non-agressive, trained, etc. but after receiving the dogs I find thats not the case. I definitely know the questions I need to ask and the process I need to go through with people before I can open my arms to their dogs. I'm open to helping dogs with different behaviours from different situations but I also know I don't have the resources to care for multiple difficult cases at the same time. I hope in the future to be able to provide more assistance in these cases, but first I need to gain the knowledge and get the connections needed to be able to make a positive change in the lives of these dogs.
Can you share with us a story that makes the work all worthwhile?
A couple months ago I brought over a dog named Escoba that came from Isla Animals in Mexico. She was so easy to love and so appreciative of life even though she'd been through so much so young. Although she was always very sweet, when she arrived her hair had not fully grown back yet. It made people uncomfortable to look at her as they didm' t quite understand. Unfortunately sometimes, dogs come in and look very unhealthy as they're still in the process of working on skin issues, or putting on weight. She did however get adopted by her fosters' brother who instantly fell for her. it was an amazing end to her story. But in saying that, she had a story. Escoba was found by one of her rescuers in Mexico being swept into a dirt pile like a piece of trash (Her name 'escoba' means broom in spanish). Her rescuer grabbed her and took her in - she was extremely malnourish and covered with mange. She was in terrible shape. But she survived. Not only did she survive but she thrived. She is now the happiest and most loving she can be. And appreciates life more than ever. She was one of these stories that made me realize that you need to just take a chance sometimes. There is value to animals, to dogs to living creatures. No living thing deserves to be swept away. I think about the life she has now, how happy she makes her adopter and how happy he makes her. It makes it worth it.
Where do you want to see Save Our Scruff go in 5 years?
Larger. The more I connect with people the more dogs I see that are in need of help. I'm finding my roots right now and hope to be able to use my knowledge, connections, followers to help SOS reach larger amounts of dogs. Also, right now I'm focused on SOS but I hope one day I'll be able to use it as a platform to communicate the issues I see these animals coming out of to build awareness to stop these things from happening. Not just saving the few dogs I can but generally speaking, changing the lives of dogs.
Can you leave some advice to those aspiring to start their own non-profit?
Take opportunities that speak to you. Use the pain you see in something as a driving force to change it. I mean starting a non-profit on your own is pretty challenging, but do it on whatever scale you want. But to grow, you just have to be willing to ask knowledgeable people important questions. You'll slowly be able to do more and more.
Bingo is a loveable rescue looking for a permanent home with an experienced a patient owner, as he is still learning to trust new people. If you would like to meet Bingo, Laura would love to hear from you!
Contact Laura Bye at email@example.com. For more on Save Our Scruff, visit the Facebook page, and follow on Instagram @saveourscruff to fill your feed with adorable puppy photos like these recently adopted pups that Laura calls the "Scruff Success Gang".