There are dog lovers—and then there's the Mother of Dogs. That's Allie Rizzo: the model, dog mom and animal advocate who is devoted to raising awareness around shelter dogs and helping them get rescued. Her work has been instrumental in saving the lives of some special pups and finding them forever homes. We talked to her about the work that she does and how we can help support the cause:
Have you always been an animal lover?
I come from a long line of animal lovers so I have always had a love and respect for them. I was lucky to be taught compassion towards them at a young age.
When did you discover that you had a passion for animal advocacy?
Like most people I was blissfully unaware of puppy mills and the general horror of modern breeding or the state of shelters in this country. I had even bought a dog when I was very young from a pet store and it wasn't until years later when I learned that the breeder had been shut down because it was a puppy mill. Mills are so cruel, I was sickened that my money funded that kind of greed. I made the decision that in the future I would rescue my next pet and never considered buying again.
What was the first dog that you rescued?
My first rescue was an 8 week-old puppy that was almost euthanized in Georgia after it was picked up by animal control on the side of the road in a poor county with no proper shelter. Some of the highest kill shelters are in the south and I think the fact that 8 week old dogs are euthanized speaks volumes about the shelter system. After we saved this puppy and watched it blossom it served as a constant reminder of the other dogs that did not get so lucky. We named him Sam, and he's still the life of the party.
What inspired you to create Mother of Dogs?
Sam's rescue was really the inspiration because once you rescue your first dog you never stop thinking about all the others sitting in cages. I started it for the ones that never got that happy ending.
What do you think is the most important misconception about shelter dogs?
People think that they are in shelters because something is wrong with them or they deserve it somehow. The reality is that people drop dogs for all kinds of reasons: They got it as a gift and got too busy, they didn't realize the puppy would grow so big, it chewed a favorite pair of shoes. These excuses come from people who view animals as property and they are disposable items to them.
Of course there are some people with very real and heartbreaking reasons for why they have to drop them at shelters: The owner is suddenly unemployed and they had to choose who eats the pet or the kids. If the owners live in low income housing that decides they don't allow animals and sadly forces that tough choice.
Tell me about some of the work you've done with Miami Dade animal services?
Miami Dade Animal Services was the first shelter I ever toured that made me physically ill. Just a few years ago the old facility was open air cages in brutal Florida heat that was packed with suffering and neglected animals. My first tour I saw an emaciated dog curled up on the concrete floor. I took pictures so I would be sure to keep that image with me even though I wanted to forget. It's those really tough moments that motivate me to stay involved.
On the way out of that tour I spotted an American Bulldog that was suffering beyond belief. It had only days left in that condition. I went back to my hotel and networked him non-stop. Before I knew it he was at a vet and then in boarding and then adopted and living a new incredible life with a family. It continued from there and I became very good friends with the amazing woman who runs Urgent Dogs of Miami. She brings so much attention on a daily basis to so many dogs at MDAS by posting and networking them. We are constantly texting and discussing what dogs are at risk and what needs to be done.
What work have you done with the dogs at True and Faithful Rescue?
True and Faithful has been an incredible ally in almost every dog I've ever saved from MDAS. They are local and have always gone above and beyond to help me with emergency pulls when I am not in the state. They take the sick and old from shelters that nobody else wants and they give them peace in their last years. Senior dog rescuers are very special and selfless people—I have so much respect for them.
How has Ollie helped the rescue dogs there?
Most mass marketed dog food is nothing but chemicals and so many people don't realize they are feeding their beloved pets a diet equivalent to McDonald's and Skittles day after day. Ollie is incredible because it is all human-grade food and modeled specifically to your dogs breed and weight. It was created by a rescue dog mom so there is a lot to love about it!
How can people help support the animal advocacy work you're doing?
My primary goal has always been to raise awareness. The best thing people can do is spread the word! Don't breed or buy while shelter dogs die! You can follow our work on Instagram @theMotherOfDogs and see what current projects we are working on.