Community Local News Making a Difference West Edition

Dog rescue program is barking up the right tree

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

His name was Ace. He was an 8-month-old American bulldog who was scheduled to be euthanized at the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter mere hours before Kari Whitman walked in and saved him.  

She had him for 12 years and recalls him being an “amazing dog.” She called him Ace because he had a spot on his eye.

Whitman’s experience with Ace was so memorable and made such an impact on her that she founded Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue about 20 years ago in honor and memory of him.

Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to rescuing dogs from various Los Angeles shelters the day they are to be euthanized and placing them in loving homes while they await adoption. The goal is to give dogs a second chance at a happy life and help reduce pet overpopulation. So far, Ace of Hearts has rescued more than 4,800 dogs.

“I’ve always been into animals,” said Whitman, who currently has a short-haired St. Bernard and another American bulldog. “Growing up I had a menagerie of animals. I was the only child so they all seemed like my family. I had about two or three cats and one or two dogs.”

Rescuing dogs that no one wants, or dogs that aren’t considered cute, are old or have some ailments is what sets Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue apart from other dog rescue facilities, according to Whitman, who is originally from Boulder, Colo.

“When we go into a shelter, we pull the ones who are harder to adopt,” she said. “We rescue all breeds. We focus on dogs no one wants. We find that senior (older) bulls are the hardest to place.”

Ace of Hearts has a Senior for Senior program. Whitman believes dogs should be able to live out their golden years in loving homes instead of dying in shelters.

“Our goal is to rescue more at-risk senior dogs instead of them living out their days in high-kill shelters,” Whitman said. “They get to live somewhere where there is unconditional love.”

Whitman said placing seniors with seniors is a good plan. Because senior citizens are usually on a tight budget, Ace of Hearts waives 50% of the adoption fee for all senior dogs eight years and older to “senior humans” who are 65 years and older.

Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue is a foster-only based facility that Whitman boasts has only a 1% return rate.

“That’s because we really know our dogs before we place them,” she said. “We know if they are great with kids. We know whether they are great with other dogs. 

“I’m strongly opinionated that a dog should come out of a shelter and go into a great home. We screen people pretty well. We know what’s going to work. Our fosters are so wonderful. You can’t take a good dog and put it in just an OK home. We have really successful adoptions.”

Even after a dog has been adopted, Whitman and her colleagues remain in constant communication with the family to make sure the dog is getting what it needs. The screening process at Ace is rigorous because Whitman is concerned about the conditions in which a dog will live. 

She suggests a child be over the age of 5 before being given a dog. She said a number of dogs are returned because of a “kid situation.”

“We do house checks, plus they have to fill out an application,” said Whitman, who owns her own interior design company (Kari Whitman Interior). “We know whether the home is really too loving or not loving enough. We can tell. 

“We don’t allow dogs to be outside dogs. We want them to be part of the family. I won’t budge on any of that. Some people tell me the dog is going to sleep in the kitchen. No, the dog has to have full access to the house.”

Surprisingly, Whitman, 55, doesn’t think a dog needs a yard.

“Maybe if you have a couple of dogs,” she explains. “But, literally, the dog wants to be next to you, not in the yard.”

“Man’s best friend” is a common phrase about domestic dogs, and refers to their history of loyalty, protection, companionship, unconditional love and close relations.

Their rapid tail wag and high-spirited, loving exuberance signals a happy dog, which is what Whitman wants for the 55 to 65 dogs she averages at any one time at Ace of Hearts. The average amount of time it takes for a dog to be adopted is about 30 days. The longest they’ve ever had a dog is over a year, but all dogs can stay until they get a home.

She rescues her dogs from several Los Angeles shelters and occasionally will take a walk-in dog.

“The hard thing for us is when we make it easy for someone to give up their dog,” Whitman said. “They will do it again and again and again. We have taken dogs in, but it’s a case-by-case situation.”

Whitman, who places about 25 dogs a month on average, gets her dogs from several shelters including ones located in Apple Valley, Moreno Valley, South Central and Carson.

It takes about $20,000 per month for Ace of Hearts to operate, which is why they have several grants and praise their monthly donors. They also receive generous food and treat donations.

Fortunately, they have volunteers that help make homemade food for the puppies and senior dogs, and also help out during the monthly adoption events.

Twice a month on Saturdays, Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue has adoption events at Petco in West Hollywood.

“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making A Difference” profile, send an email to newsroom@wavepublication.com.

Information Box

Organization Name: Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue

Leader: Kari Whitman

Title: Founder

Website: acesangels.org

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer