Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Non-profit makes `in-your-face' bid to save dogs' lives


Sweet William, a young black Labrador retriever in Illinois, has two days to live. Sandy, a golden female Jindo in New York, also has just two days left.

On Saturday, these were some of the dogs in shelters across the US slated for death -- their fate posted on a Web site that aims to save their lives by offering them for adoption.

Each has a death date set by a shelter -- and a countdown clock showing the days, or hours, until the animal is killed. works with more than 120 shelters nationwide that destroy dogs. How much time the dogs get before death varies from state to state. In New York City, a stray dog must be kept a minimum of three days, while a shelter has the legal right to immediately destroy an animal that is abandoned there by its owner.

About 4 million dogs are put to death each year in the US.

In the three weeks since the site has been up, dozens of dogs have found new homes. Their photos are posted on a section of the site marked "Success Stories." The images of dogs that did not make it adorn the site's "In Memoriam" wall.

"It's not the fault of the shelters," said Alex Aliksanyan, a pet adoption advocate who made money in the Internet travel business. "They don't like doing this, but they have to abide by the law, which requires a shelter to control its animal population."

Aliksanyan spent US$500,000 to start The Buddy Fund, a nonprofit organization that operates the site.

"I've done well and it was time to give something back," said the 50-year-old Turkish-born entrepreneur of Armenian heritage. "So I thought, let's bring the story of these animals dying quietly in these shelters to the public and say, `Can you do something?'"

He hired a half-dozen staffers to manage and market the site. Shelters post information about each dog directly, with daily updates and information on how each shelter can be contacted. Aliksanyan ships out free digital cameras and software for the task.

A shelter can sometimes delay a dog's death date -- if it has room in its kennel and few new strays coming in. A death date can get moved up, too, if the shelter becomes overcrowded.

The adoption service is free for shelters and people looking for pets, allowing users to search by location, breed or time until death.

The in-your-face site, Aliksanyan said, "is not a place to sit with your six-year-old and say, `This one's going to die, that one is going to die.'"

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