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Downtown Dog Rescue is Changing These Pups’ Lives

Written By: Gaby Mungarro
Photographed By: Tae Kwon Downtown Dog Rescue

There is no better company than that of a furry, four-legged friend. As man’s best friend, dogs provide a significant companionship that many are unaware they need, and only a few are rewarded with. For Lori Weise, founder and president of Downtown Dog Rescue, those who need dogs the most are the sole reason she founded the shelter in 1996. With the help of dedicated volunteers, Weise works endlessly to provide low-income Los Angeles pet owners and dogs with the attention and support they need and deserve.

For Downtown Dog Rescue, finding dogs a happy home is just a scratch below the surface of greater issues Weise has faced since the opening of the shelter. What first began as a small operation intended to spay and neuter the dogs of low-income or homeless owners in Skid Row, with the help of founding member and secretary Richard Tuttelmondo, later turned into an establishment at an abandoned tow yard in 2013.

“It was all we could afford,” said Weise with a humble laugh as she remembered the initial stages of Downtown Dog Rescue. But little by little, the nonprofit shelter was transformed into a home filled with a warm atmosphere for its canine residents.

Weise and the team keep the dogs on a predictable schedule in order to avoid causing anxiety for the dogs. Every dog is in tune with the routine and aware of the no barking policy while in the kennel. However, there is always time for fun, and unlike most shelters, Downtown Dog Rescue encourages the dogs to leave their cages to play and interact on a daily basis, as they believe this helps dogs relieve aggression and become social.

Although shelters can be thought of as a place that houses abused dogs, that is not the case for this rescue. The majority of the dogs at Downtown Dog Rescue are there due to their owner’s economic conditions and financial neglect. Weise strongly believes shelters are meant to provide help, and not guilt owners who are unable to properly care for their pets and are forced to surrender them.

A dog’s loyalty and intelligence can make for great protection—their natural instinct makes for a great, reliable bodyguard. But what is often overlooked is the healing therapy and support they can provide to their owners. Weise realized that in many instances, pets were the only thing that brought happiness and encouragement to people who were homeless or living in temporary housing. With this in mind, Weise and the rescue set out to deliver veterinarian aid once a month with their mobile clinic to low-income communities in Skid Row and Compton. By providing vaccines, spay and neuter, and other case-specific surgery to dogs in need, the shelter has helped well over 5,000 pet and owners stay together. Even greater, the shelter has helped to significantly reduce euthanasia rates for often-overlooked breeds, like pit bulls, in the county shelter in Compton.

“[The mobile clinic is] helping people who don’t have anywhere to turn,” shared Weise. Downtown Dog Rescue asks for nothing in return when it comes to providing aid through their mobile clinic, no IDs or contracts are required. “If they’re willing to stand in line at 8 a.m., it means they care,” Weise said. The rescue volunteers work endlessly to provide those in need with numerous resources, whether it be tenants facing pet-related discrimination to people in need of housing, Downtown Dog Rescue partners with legal centers, food banks and counselors to lend a hand anywhere they can.

Weise and Downtown Dog Rescue aim to find loving homes for all animals in the shelter and recommend those who are looking to adopt to fully get to know the animal before adopting, to prevent pets from being returned. Weise suggests visiting the pet two or three times as an effective way of seeing if the pet is the best fit for you. “Pick a dog that suits your lifestyle, not just because it’s sad,” said Weise.  

While the shelter has found success in becoming organically sustainable since its establishment, the future holds great potential for Downtown Dog Rescue as Weise says she hopes to develop a program in the next three years that aims to train qualified shelter dogs as service dogs and pair them with veterans to provide trauma and recuperation support. Currently, Weise is expanding the mobile clinic’s reach and will soon add Watts to their list of monthly stops. For Weise, her mission has always gone beyond simply opening a shelter. “This is more than just animal welfare or rescuing dogs,” Weise said, recalling when she was nominated as a CNN hero, “It’s social welfare. It’s social justice.”

Puppy Love: Weise got her love of animals from her mother who always had pets around, and from a young age, Wiese used to ride her bike and feed animals near her home in Temple City.

Tail-Wagging Praises: Lori was recognized as CNN’s Hero, honored as a part of Those Who Make a Different For Animals in the Huffington Post in 2015.

Extending a Paw: Lori will soon be a certified counselor and wants to implement a people and animal support system to help owners and animals with trauma.

Downtown Dog Rescue
1309 E 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
213.403.0129

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