Save Our Scruff is a Toronto based non-profit dedicated to rescuing street dogs and finding them permanent homes. They have recently started addressing the street dog problem at its source by conducting spay and neuter clinics in the developing world.
Founder Laura Bye started the organization after being a dog foster parent for another organization exposed her to the harsh realities facing dogs worldwide.
“I didn’t realize that dogs were being put down in shelters everyday and that street dogs were being neglected and abused or dying on the streets,” said Bye. “These are things that I was unaware of, and the more I knew the more it was like, well I can’t really unlearn this, so that created the reason why Save Our Scruff needed to exist.”
Using her previous dog rescue connections, Bye was able to fly several dogs to Toronto from Los Angeles and Mexico to stay with five friends she convinced to foster dogs for her.
Since then the organization has grown, and now consists of Bye and over 1200 volunteers from the greater Toronto area. They work with international rescues to bring in dogs in need of homes, and foster them until forever homes are found.
Thus far over 1000 dogs have been adopted thanks to the organization.
Yet Bye realizes that adoption doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem, so the organization has started conducting spay and neuter clinics in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, with plans for Peru next year.
“As much as I love the idea of adopting out a lot of these animals and getting them off the street, some of them belong there, some are really happy. The root of the problem is that there is an overpopulation of stray animals,” said Bye. “Having these campaigns and getting to the root of the problem by fixing the dogs and then putting them back on the street is going to save more lives in the end. It’s preventing litters from being born, which kills off the mother, which kills off the litters, because it’s hard for these animals to survive with nothing. If we can end the whole process from the beginning, to me that’s a huge success.”
Megan Ewing is a Save Our Scruff volunteer, the former creative director of Photographers Without Borders, and a photographer who went to document the organization’s most recent spay and neuter clinic in Sosua, Dominican Republic.
“It’s a beautiful area that’s surrounded by beach, and the people are amazing, but there is not a lot of money there,” said Ewing about Sosua. “Even the people who really care about their animals, they want to do the spay and neutering but they strictly can’t afford it.”
Save Our Scruff partnered with GeoVeterinary International to facilitate the clinic. Representatives of GeoVeterinary International came to the Dominican Republic from the United States in order to perform the surgeries, while Save Our Scruff volunteers focused on the setup, cleanup and promotion of the clinic, as well as the pre and post-operation needs of the animals.
Over several days more than 120 dogs were spayed or neutered, as well as vaccinated and treated for fleas and ticks.
Though most of the animals were pets brought in by locals looking to take advantage of the free veterinary services, Bye and several other volunteers ventured into neighbouring villages to capture stray females to bring to the clinic.
It was with these stray animals that Ewing felt a particularly strong attachment.
“I think I cried for four days, it was really emotionally tough because I am such an animal lover I wanted to bring them all home,” said Ewing.
She fell in love with a dog the team named Christina Aguilera, who was found on the street. Once at the clinic she was found to have had a uterus so infected and swollen, it was several times its normal size and had to be removed.
“She was so happy, the next day she played with us and wouldn’t leave our side,” said Ewing.
After the surgery, the canine Aguilera stayed at a local dog rescue for the requisite 21 days needed after vaccination, before being flown to Canada.
“She went from living on the streets, probably uncomfortable and in pain and giving birth to litters when she shouldn’t be, she’s too old and not healthy enough, to being taken care of, happy, and now coming to Canada to start a new life,” said Ewing.
Both Ewing and Bye hope Ewing’s photos show both the nature and scope of the problem in the developing world, as well as what Save Our Scruff is doing to solve it.
“Unfortunately I can’t show everybody, I can’t bring everybody abroad with me and teach them,” said Bye when discussing how the photos will be useful in getting the organization’s message across.
“In underdeveloped countries in general, people really do care about their pets there is just no money to do so,” said Ewing. “I really hope people see in those images, it hits home for people, they realize there really is a problem all over the world for spay and neutering and animal welfare in general, and hopefully they will consider volunteering or donating.”
To learn more about Save our Scruff and how you can donate, click here.
You can see more of Ewing's photos of Save Our Scruff on Instagram, @mewingcreative.