Volunteers, Funds Needed For Katrina Ferals In Shelter Near Payson

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Feral dogs, severely neglected and abandoned on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, are now receiving loving care, stability and training, to replace their recent experience of hunger, mistreatment and abandonment.

Tara's Babies Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, headquartered in Sedona with a shelter near Payson, has taken in 15 feral dogs, in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society, to bring them back to health and to facilitate their socialization in order to extend their lives.

Tara's Babies now needs volunteers for ongoing daily care giving for the current dogs in their care and funding to expand their facility in order to accept more dogs in need.

The dogs are being cared for at the sanctuary located in the Tonto National Forest, outside Payson, where Tara's Babies originally began with 130 rescued dogs last fall, in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Of those rescued, all but 10 were either returned to their owners or adopted into new families in Sedona, Flagstaff and the Verde Valley. The mission of Tara's Babies has now expanded to include the rescued ferals, as well as saving the lives of dogs about to be euthanized.

"The outpouring of help and resources immediately following Katrina was truly inspiring," remarked Megan Gilana, manager of Tara's Babies. "Our mission has now expanded to include the ferals who were left behind and need extra attention and lots of love."

The training program for these traumatized dogs teaches them to become more socialized, friendly and trusting of people. Volunteers apply patience, regular monitoring and lots of nurturing care.

Tara's Babies' hope is that eventually these dogs will be adoptable and find good homes.

These animals were amongst the last remaining and most severely neglected dogs initially rescued by Best Friends, the national facility based in Utah, which was responsible for rescuing a large number of animals from the Gulf Coast Region.

At Tara's Babies, the complete wellness of the dogs' emotional, mental and physical state is the primary concern. The program includes up-to-date vaccinations and regular medical check-ups by the staff veterinarian.

Best Friends provides oversight, education and periodic visits by behavioral trainers to ensure that each dog continues moving forward in the program.

"Timmy, a black and white boxer pit mix, has pulled the heart strings of every volunteer coming out to assist," Gilana said. "He came to us very scared and it was obvious he had been beaten and used for fighting.

"Fear stricken, he rarely came out of his dog house, not even to eat. Now, he is actually eating out of the caregiver's hands and will sometimes even allow petting.

"This training program requires a lot of patience and empathy from the caregivers and is not without profound rewards when one is witness to the small steps of trusting and sweetness from each precious dog."

Tara's Babies is operated solely through volunteer efforts and support through grants and donations. Financial and volunteer help is needed to continue the program to care for these scared and appreciative animals, as well as to meet the many requests coming in for placement of dogs about to be euthanized.

For more information, e-mail tarasbabies@earthlink.net or call (866) 574-9655, or visit: http://tarasbabies.org.

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