MODESTO — When Jodi Baur moved to California from Wisconsin two years ago, she was troubled by the high euthanasia rate of shelter animals.
“It was really a culture shock because (Wisconsin’s) euthanasia rate was exactly the opposite – it was 10 percent, and then I get here and that is pretty much the live release rate,” she said.
Last month, she opened Wags and Whiskers Rescue at the former county animal shelter at 2846 Finch Road, south of Modesto.
Baur, who said she has a degree in business and has “climbed the corporate ladder,” had always volunteered at animal rescues, but she thought the need for her services to rescue animals in the San Joaquin Valley was more than she could offer as a part-time volunteer.
She started the nonprofit just six months after settling in California, first placing animals rescued from high-kill shelters in foster homes and coordinating their adoptions.
“We take the dogs that are on their last day or two,” she said.
Baur could house up to 40 animals at a time through her foster program, but she wanted to save even more and saw an opportunity in the empty building that once was Stanislaus County Animal Shelter.
After a year of paperwork and preparation, Baur and her son Jordan Baur opened the Finch Road facility in late November. All of the animals still go first to foster homes to get vaccinated and spayed or neutered, socialized and trained before they make it to the rescue for adoption.
There are about 65 dogs and 15 cats at the facility, and the Baurs know every one of them by name.
Starting in January, Wags and Whiskers will also offer low-cost pet training and boarding for other rescues.
Six kennels at the rescue are designated for free “emergency boarding” of pets whose owners need help because of a fire or medical reasons.
“We don’t want them to surrender their dog if there is a short-term issue, so we actually board the dog for free as long as the referral comes from social services,” Jodi Baur said.
She said every cent earned goes back into the shelter. Jodi Baur, the rescue’s director and vice president, and Jordan Baur, the president, make the salary of about 10 other full-time employees: nothing.
“And I am happy to say that regardless of our titles, we both clean up poop,” Jodi Baur said.
The most difficult part of her job, Baur said, is her inability to save all the animals whose time has run out at shelters.
She said she gets about 200 emails a day from shelters around the state asking her to take animals that are marked for euthanasia. “It’s hard because you look at them and they are perfectly good dogs, but you just can’t save them all,” she said.
Because of this, Jodi Baur stressed that Wags and Whiskers is not a place to drop stray animals or for owners to surrender unwanted pets. The facility doesn’t have the capacity and she said shelters must be the designated place for that so owners of lost pets have just one place to look.
Wags and Whiskers is open Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment on Monday.
There are many ways to help the nonprofit; from volunteering time walking dogs to bringing in recyclables or old blankets. For more information about the rescue and its services, including a list of adoptable cats and dogs, visit www.wagsandwhiskersrescue.org or call (209) 613-0958.