The Labrador retriever, one of the most popular breeds in the United States, is known for its smooth chocolate, black or yellow coat, its athletic physique and its playful disposition. But even popular breeds sometimes need help.
Founded in 2000, Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida is a Web-based, nonprofit organization that helps find homes for this feisty breed of dog. Their mission, according to current president Cheryl Stine, is to rescue Labs and save one dog at a time.
According to Stine, who lives in Tampa, the group boasts more than 160 volunteers who, last year, worked to find homes for 549 dogs. Eighty Labs are currently in foster care across Florida. There are about 20 foster homes in the Tampa Bay area, but not all of them are active, she says.
The dogs are given to the organization by shelters or are surrendered by their owners. The group makes sure the dogs are not aggressive and are good with people (no biting, snarling, snapping or inbreeding). The dog is then placed in a foster home.
Those interested in being a foster caregiver for a dog must file an application and demonstrate that the house is dog friendly. Dogs must be cared for inside the house. The rescue pays for veterinary costs, while the foster home takes care of food. During the dog's stay at the home, which can last from five days to a year, the dog's temperament is assessed as it interacts with people. If the dog is ill, has separation anxiety or orthopedic problems, it will usually stay in foster care until it's healthy enough to be adopted.
The rescue cannot guarantee the breed of the dog unless it was surrendered with papers.
The rescue is piloting a program that pairs seniors with an older dog, which are more difficult to adopt out. The organization will pay vet bills and even watch the dog if needed.
The group also gives back to the community. Some Labs have been trained for tasks, like an arson team. One ill-tempered Lab that might not have been a good pet turned out to be an effective cadaver dog. Another dog was cast in a film.