BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "So it's sad," Renee Bacher said, speaking about animals living in shelters. "There's no reason for highly adoptable dogs to be euthanized for space reasons."
Five years ago, Renee Bacher and her family began taking home foster dogs from Companion Animal Alliance (CAA), an open-intake municipal animal shelter in Baton Rouge. Since then, she's fostered and found homes for more than 40 dogs that might otherwise have been put to sleep if for no other reason than there simply wasn't enough room at the shelter.
It was 40 or so, minus one.
"This is Crespo, my foster fail," Renee said, as she received a sloppy, wet kiss from a beautiful, lab-bulldog-pit bull mix.
The fact is in 2007 alone, the CAA shelter had to put down almost 11,000 dogs and cats that came through its doors. Today, that number has been cut in half thanks to people like Renee. Last year, the CAA took in 8,134 animals. Of those, only 2,852 were euthanized.
That's still way too many said Trudy Bell Wickham, a close friend of Renee's and member of an all-women's social group called Sacred Circle.
"It's a group of women who've been meeting, really, to learn ways of connecting each other to our main source; to who we truly are supposed to be in this universe," Trudy explained.
And it's through this group that Trudy and Renee learned of each other's passion for shelter dogs.
"I have always loved dogs, but Renee takes it to another level," Trudy said of Renee.
"[She] is a woman of action and is known by many as a dog rescuer. On a routine basis, Renee, who lives in Mid-City, drives to north Baton Rouge to Companion Animal Alliance, finds dogs, takes them home to teach and train them into loveable dogs ready for cuddles and care from new owners," Trudy added.
"For Hand It On, it really just kind of clicked. Renee has been doing this work for years and has connected animals to owners for so many families that just didn't know what would be the first step. So, we thought that Renee is just the prime person for this award," Trudy said.
There is a sidebar to our story. In 2013, CAA and LSU signed a memorandum in which LSU will donate land on campus for a new $12 million facility to be located across from the LSU Vet School. That space will incorporate a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic along with a shelter and an adoption center. CAA has $10 million already in the bank but needs community efforts to raise the balance of $2 million before breaking ground on the new facility.
And, as that relates to Renee and Hand It On … Trudy Bell went on to explain that merely fostering dogs was not the only reason Renee was a 'prime person' for Hand It On. You see, in 2015, Renee launched a social media campaign to raise $10,000 for the new shelter by her birthday, which was May 13. And that she did prompting others to set up similar campaigns to help raise the needed $2 million balance.
We met Trudy and Renee in front of the Baton Rouge Gallery at BREC's City-Brooks Community Park on Dalrymple. Renee introduced us to her 'foster fail,' Crespo, and Crespo's step-sister, Luna. Renee was there to take the pair on a fun outing at the Cane's Dog Park across the street.
Before the doggie romping began, Trudy awarded Renee with our Hand It On gift.
"I've admired the work that you do with these lovely dogs. I learned about a wonderful program called Hand It On. And I would like to offer you this money because you do a wonderful job as being a foster dog-rescuer mom! You've done so much for so many little ones like these and made sure they're in the hands of others," Trudy said as she handed Renee three crisp, new $100 bills.
Renee was asked what she was going to do with the money.
"What do you think I'm going do with it?" Renee quipped, a bit surprised at the question. "I'm going to give it to the new shelter," which she did that very afternoon.
Many people have set up online fundraising campaigns through which the public can donate money toward the balance needed to begin work on the new shelter. Renee was quick to offer a reminder that people don't necessarily have to donate through her campaign.
"Just donate," she said.
So, below are links to several other fundraising sites created specifically to raise money for the new CAA shelter. These sites are:
Abby Knight, Vet Tech
And, as always, if you'd like to nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On recognition, just send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Be sure to include your contact information especially your phone number.