A DOG JOURNAL INTERVIEW WITH DAVID PASZTOR FROM HARD LUCK HOUNDS
Mr. David Pasztor, founder of Hard Luck Hounds, was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding this wonderful rescue organization which is based out of Austin, Texas. Hard Luck Hounds helps find permanent homes for dogs who are often overlooked in the adoption process and are the “longest-stay” dogs at the shelter. In addition to pairing up dogs with new families, volunteers provide a variety of services such as consultation and training to ensure that the dogs have the best adoption experience possible.
First, can you please tell us how your organization, Hard Luck Hounds, got started?
Hard Luck Hounds started in the spring of 2011. Two dogs that were well liked by volunteers – Emily and Diamond – were euthanized. Their deaths crystallized long standing frustration among volunteers over adoptable dogs who were becoming stuck at the shelter for so long that their behavior deteriorated until they were put down. Although volunteers routinely fought at the last minute to save many of these dogs, there was no organized effort to target long stay dogs and work aggressively to find them homes before they faced immediate death.
What was the inspiration behind this project and why are you focusing specifically on “longest-stay” dogs?
We focus specifically on longest stay dogs because they need the most help, and are at greatest risk of ultimately being euthanized. The Austin shelter has distinguished itself by becoming the largest open intake No-Kill shelter in the country. That’s outstanding. But it also means that there is always a population of dogs that languish in their kennels for months on end without being adopted. Some have behavior or health issues, others are older dogs that tend to be passed over by adopters. If someone doesn’t actively market and advocate for these dogs, they will sit there forever.
Are there certain types of dogs that end up staying in shelters the longest and that are commonly passed over in favor of other dogs for adoption?
Absolutely. First and foremost are the so-called bully breeds. “Pit bull” and “Pit bull mix” have become generic classifications for any solid looking dog that even slightly resembles a Staffie or bull terrier. This mythical breed designation is meaningless at this point, but it conjures the whole array of uninformed prejudice and fear that has come to surround “pit bulls.” Many people simply won’t consider adopting them. Many landlords and apartment complexes bar them. The ignorant myths about them refuse to die. So it’s always harder to find them homes.
Puppies, young dogs, purebreds, and fluffy dogs are fairly easy to get adopted. Older dogs are much harder. Dogs with medical issues are much harder, and heartworm positive dogs are challenging.
What methods and tools does Hard Luck Hounds use to promote dog adoption?
Our approach is basic customer service. In fact, we call it concierge service. We have volunteers at the shelter approaching customers, talking to them about their lives and asking what kind of dog they’re looking for. The key is trying to identify good matches. Very often, getting a long stay dog adopted is no more difficult than introducing them to an adopter who might otherwise have walked right by the kennel. We spend however much time it takes with an adopter answering questions, talking about dog care and training, and telling them everything we know about a specific dog.
If they decide to adopt, we offer full support to increase the chances of a successful match. We provide a free crate. We give vouchers for heartworm treatment and behavior training when appropriate. We check in after the adoption, and offer our version of tech support. Hard Luck Hounds adopters can call us anytime if they have questions about behavior, crate training, finding a vet near them, or just about anything. We try to engage them in an ongoing conversation after the adoption so we can keep track of how things are going, and make sure small bumps in the road don’t become huge obstacles that lead to a dog’s return.
I imagine that raising funds to help the dogs is a major headache for most rescue organizations. What are some common obstacles you’ve encountered in your day-to-day operations?
We designed our program to be as cheap as possible, and the key to its success is volunteer hours as opposed to money. But we do need funds for crates and training costs. Austin is an animal-friendly, generous town, so we’ve been able to raise what we needed so far. But there are a lot of rescue and animal welfare groups in Austin – all doing good work – and can be hard to differentiate a specific group and what it is trying to do.
Finally, do you have any upcoming events you’d like to share?
On Oct. 13, we’ll be having our monthly Happy Hour and fundraiser at House Wine, and on Nov. 10 we’ll be marking the 1-year anniversary of the new Austin Animal Center. Information on both events is on our Hard Luck Hounds facebook page and our website, www.hardluckhounds.com.
Thanks again to Mr. Pasztor for telling us about this great organization. Click here to learn more about Hard Luck Hounds at their website. You can also “Like” their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, and don’t forget to follow their Tumblr blog, hardluckhounds. A special thanks to shyfox for helping facilitate this interview!