By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—For former Canadian body-building champion Shawn Bacher, rescuing dogs has become an all-encompassing passion, leading him to create All For The Dogs, a new rescue operating out of Cayuga that is focused on saving large breed dogs from ‘high-kill’ shelters that are otherwise forced to euthanize the animals due to space limitations.
Fairly new to the rescue game, Bacher said he brought over his first-ever rescue dog, named Dutchy, from China during the height of the pandemic, which inspired him to continue in his efforts by raising $18,000 to donate to a Turkey-based rescue operation earlier this year and bringing five dogs over from the country.
It was around this time that he first became aware of some of the dire shelter situations impacting California and Texas, which he said were euthanizing “about a million” dogs between them per year due to lack of shelter space.
“That didn’t sit with me very well. I don’t believe we have the right to choose who lives or dies, especially for space,” said Bacher. “Ninety per cent of the rescues I have right now have been brought up from Texas and California.”
And thus, All For the Dogs Rescue was born: “We specialize in animals at risk of being euthanized. All these animals were at risk. They’ve now got a second chance at life – we just need to find them homes.”
He said that two dogs currently in his care came from a California-based shelter called Riverside, which euthanized “684 dogs in the month of December alone for space.”
Bacher continued, “Texas has always been the number one state, but California is getting real bad. They call it the wild, wild west right now. People are destroying dogs in the street and dogs are coming into these shelters sometimes 20-30 at a time. They don’t have the space for it … (and) unless rescues find homes, fostering, or adoptions, they euthanize them.”
Two breeds are particularly close to Bacher’s heart: German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. He explained, “I served in the military many moons ago and we had both dogs in the service. I grew up on a dairy farm and we’ve always had German Shepherds. They are the number one dog being euthanized in California and Texas right now, because no one wants a large dog. Everyone wants that little, tiny teacup dog that can fit in their pocket.
He added of the larger breeds’ needs: “German Shepherds and Malinois are working dogs. They need to run; you need to have them working. Huskies are on that list, Malamutes are on that list.”
“At the same time, I would never say no to any animal in need,” he added, noting that he is aware that there is a similar, albeit smaller-scale problem with dog euthanasia being done for space in Ontario as well, noting that he has also rescued dogs from “a couple of the SPCAs around the area.”
Living on a dairy farm in Cayuga offers Bacher an ideal setting for his rescue operation.
“My family has farmed here for almost 75 years. I went to JL Mitchener,” he said of his local roots, noting that the community has shown him great support in his efforts so far. “We’ve been converting our old dairy barn into a safe space for dogs.”
Currently, Bacher has 27 dogs under his care, which is no easy task.
He explained, “It’s a full time job on top of the full time job I have. I’m here 97% of the time, and when I’m not I’m on a job site working and I have volunteers here. There’s always somebody here.”
He is still always on the lookout for dogs he can help, searching Instagram for shelter pages where at-risk animals are often posted by animal advocates.
He said he would gladly accept help from anyone in the community willing to donate a little time: “I just need help with walking the dogs on a daily basis and feeding them. When you’re walking a dog 15 minutes a day and you have 30 of them, it takes quite a bit of time…. The dogs need exercise and time out of their kennels. The more they’re out of their kennels, the happier they are.”
Bacher is also continuing work to expand what his rescue can provide the animals, with plans in the works for three big dog runs on the property, and additional fencing that would allow the dogs some added room to move around outside of their kennels.
He said those interested in helping can search up his rescue on social media to reach out. There, they can also see photos of some of the animals available for adoption through the rescue. This includes some puppies Bacher is “desperately trying to find homes for” as he doesn’t “want them to be stuck here in the kennels too long.”
“All the dogs deserve a loving home. No animal should be wondering where they’ll be sleeping at night,” he concluded. “Every dog I have right now up for adoption would not be alive today if we didn’t do something about it.”