September 22, 2018
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Give a Dog a Chance

It may take only one to love pets, but it takes a village to save them
Inside the It Takes a Village facility, president Susan Odoyo (middle) hugs sweet-faced Diego, a boxer mix. Executive director Tangila Wells (left) holds Hoss, a perky pit bull puppy, and board member Kelly Miller (right) has Ginger, a quiet schnauzer.Inside the It Takes a Village facility, president Susan Odoyo (middle) hugs sweet-faced Diego, a boxer mix. Executive director Tangila Wells (left) holds Hoss, a perky pit bull puppy, and board member Kelly Miller (right) has Ginger, a quiet schnauzer.
President Susan Odoyo (middle), executive director Tangila Wells (left), and board member Kelly Miller (right).

In March 2009, when Indianapolis native Brietta Stafford went to Evansville Animal Care & Control shelter to purchase a city license for her pet, she discovered a grim fact. When she asked how many dogs the facility euthanized, an employee told her more than 3,000 each year. Having been actively involved with animal control in Indianapolis, it was only natural for Stafford to then become a volunteer coordinator at the shelter. In November 2010, Stafford pursued her passion further, founding a no-kill dog organization called It Takes a Village. Since its humble beginning as a simple Facebook page and a group of volunteers, foster homes, and board members, the effort has grown into an organized nonprofit that currently supports nearly 130 dogs.

Though It Takes a Village has a facility, few dogs are kept there on a daily basis. The small space doubles as a thrift store, so it is not possible to hold more than a small number of dogs at any given time. The organization relies almost entirely on foster homes to provide food, shelter, and love. “We just want them (the fosters) to treat the dogs as their own,” says current president Susan Odoyo, who has been involved with the group since its inception. The nonprofit currently has accumulated about 50 active foster homes, Odoyo adds, as well as 30 active volunteers who work at the shelter, help with organization-related events, or drive dogs to and from vet appointments.

Most of the dogs come from shelters throughout Vanderburgh, Gibson, Warrick, and Daviess counties, but the organization does not limit its reach to these areas alone. “We have a philosophy that we’ll help a dog no matter where it is,” Odoyo insists. “If we have space, and there’s a need, we try to help when we can.”

One of the organization’s most important missions is to correct misconceptions about bully breeds — dogs that have a reputation for being especially aggressive. Pit bulls often are the first dogs people think of in terms of aggressive breeds, but Odoyo insists the breed’s bad name is not entirely warranted. “I deal with pit bulls every single day, and I have never been bitten by one,” she says. “It’s really about how the dog is raised, not necessarily about the breed.” She also points out that trainers at foster homes often correct any bad behavior a dog may have when the shelter receives it.

Since its beginning, It Takes a Village has rescued 875 dogs and found permanent homes for 748 of them. The organization hopes to grow these numbers while decreasing the euthanasia rates in local shelters. To do that, it will take a community of support. “If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, donate. That’s our theme,” says Odoyo.

Editor’s Note: Susan Odoyo, an attorney, and her husband were featured in the May/June 2011 issue of Evansville Living for their work in Kenya in organizing a free soccer tournament that promoted HIV testing.

It Takes a Village opens its facility at 1417 N. Stockwell Road every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 p.m. Find them at PetSmart every Sunday from 12-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.itvrescue.com.

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