A local dog rescue group celebrated its 1,000th rescue in a year on Dec. 29 when volunteers took in a black Labrador and her 11 puppies — the highest number of dogs the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac has ever rescued in a single year.
Bailey, the 3-year-old lab, and her puppies were abandoned in Hughesville, Md. by their owner. Fairfax resident Yvonne Young, one of the LRCP's 200 foster parents, took them in.
While the rescue was a milestone for the group, founded in 1991, it's also a reflection of the growing number of labs that are abandoned each year — a problem that requires more donations and volunteers with each passing day.
Locally, LRCP is most recognized for the two adoption events they host each year at Weber's Pet Supermarket on Lee Highway in Fairfax City. But since the group started more than 20 years ago, it has grown to include more than 1,000 volunteers who rescue Labrador retrievers across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Volunteers foster the homeless dogs until they find a permanent home.
In the last six years, however, they've had to step up their volunteer duties and outreach because of the increase in homeless labs.
Lab Rescue has seen an increase of more than 50 percent in rescues since 2008, in part due to the recession. In 2011, the rescue took in 902 labradors.
"In some cases this is caused by people losing their homes and not being able to take their dogs with them," said Stephen Push, public relations director for the rescue group. "[Some have to move into] rental apartments that don’t allow dogs or have a weight limit that effectively excludes labs."
The group answered that sudden need by reaching out for more volunteers, foster homes and donations. But sometimes, like now, Lab Rescue takes in a full load of labs and can't help any others until some are adopted out. When that happens they redouble their efforts, Push said, and hope spaces empty out in time to save the dogs before they're put to sleep in shelters.
Read more about the rescue group at www.lab-rescue.org.