The slogan for Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue says it all: “Saving Badass Dogs from Idiot Humans.” Sara Alize Cross founded the grassroots network of rescuers, fosters and volunteers in 2011 and has since found homes for some 900 dogs sprung from shelters in the rural south.
Two years ago, Cross, a documentary filmmaker, was scrolling through her Facebook News Feed and came across a picture of Fred, a mutt in a North Carolina pound. She rescued and rehomed him, but the pictures kept coming. “I have personally been to a few of these places and they are hell on earth,” Cross says of the animal-control facilities in the southern United States. “These are high poverty, low population areas that place no value on dogs’ lives. While the shelters in New York are horrible, people actually adopt pets so some of the dogs have a chance to get out alive. The kill rates at the shelters we pull from are over 90 percent, so if we don’t rescue these dogs, they will die.”
Fred was the first, but not the last. Cross teamed up with Johnny Bergmann (another documentary filmmaker), Kristin Wilhelm (a high-school math teacher) and Eva (the owner of doggie daycare Eva’s Play Pups) to form Badass. “For a long time Johnny, Kristin, Eva and I did everything—pulling the dogs, organizing transport, raising money, managing logistics, processing foster/adoption applications, doing home visits, checking references, driving dogs to the vet and crisis management—but in the past six months we have built up a great group and have divided up the work between us,” she says. “We all juggle two full-time jobs, so you can imagine that none of us are able to do anything but work and rescue!”
Social media is still at the heart of the operation. Cross has established connections with local volunteers in the south, who pull dogs from the pounds and get them veterinary treatment. When they are healthy enough to travel, the dogs are transported north, where fosters are waiting to give them names to match their big personalities like Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch. Meanwhile food, transportation and vet bills pile up. “We run completely on donations so it’s always a struggle,” says Cross. “We have a dog now named Christy Turlington who was hit by a car. She will need multiple surgeries that will cost over $4,000 but she really wants to live and we will do what we can to make sure she does. I called the rescue Badass because you have to be a badass to get it done. Rescue is indescribably difficult. It is full of seemingly impossible-to-overcome obstacles, constant emergencies and heartache.”
Badass’ federal nonprofit status is pending, and Cross plans on opening a brick-and-mortar adoption center in Brooklyn within five years. “We hope to rescue 365 dogs in 2013, which would be one dog for every day of the year. I think we are well on our way to that goal.” Badass, indeed.
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