Shelter Builds Colorful Cottages for Its Pups Instead of Cages

ELIZA MURPHY

The lucky pups at Luvable Dog Rescue live in colorful, private cottages instead of cages.

Founder Liesl Wilhardt builds the shelter dogs’ private cottages on her 55 acres of land in Eugene, Oregon. She thoroughly researched to learn what the most comfortable, healthy environment is for rescue dogs.

“A quarantinable, private, quiet space” is what she came up with.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. It began as a labor of love and doing what I could afford on my own,” Wilhardt told ABC News. “I started with just fostering dogs in my home 17 years ago. This has been a long process evolving and I was able to do fundraising and donated a lot of my own resources and time and money.

“I realized in researching what dogs needed to be happy; the standard requirements that exist. I realized that doing individual cottages can meet some of those requirements.”

She decorates the cottages with upholstered furniture, paintings and televisions so the pups have background noise.

“There is a local furniture store that donates used furniture called Edgewater,” she explained. “They donate furniture to families and friends and they do used televisions and radios. Dogs loves having the TV on. To hear human voices and have that background noise is great. We put artwork on the walls. We try and have upholstered furniture so it’s cozier for them.

“We have flower boxes with flowers in the summer. We try to create a really cozy atmosphere because kennel stress is a really big stress for a dog. They can be fine when they get there and three months later they’re deteriorated.”

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Luvable Dog Rescue also has miles of private trails for the dogs to roam and hike.

“We have 55 acres of private trails for hiking and walking the dogs,” she said. “We have country roads to go down the road to see horses and chickens and goats. We’re only 10 minutes from town so the dogs go for field trips to town.”

There are six cottages in total for the 10 pit bulls, 24 little dogs and four litters of puppies at the shelter.

“The ‘mama’ cottage was for my mama,” Wilhardt said of the bright, yellow cottage. “When she died we started using it for pregnant dogs, for the mama pit bulls instead of my mama. We tiled the floors and made it into more a dog-friendly environment.

“It takes a long time to find pit bulls homes,” she added. “There’s a much smaller pool of potential adopters for pit bulls. And then of course we have really strict standards of adopters. We don’t want them to wind up in another bad environment.”

All of the adoptable dogs Wilhardt shelters were rescued from kill-shelters.

“They’ve all come from death row, high-kill shelters,” she said. “We get most of our dogs from Southern California. We have a huge network of people we work with.”

Although the cottages are built for the pups, they’re just as meaningful to Wilhardt so she knows her rescued puppies feel safe and secure.

“There’s a lot of love here and a sense of home and belonging,” she said. “Everyone here is part of a pack and a family and the dogs needs that to heal emotionally from the trauma and neglect they’ve been through. Something that feels like a home makes them feel like part of a family while they wait for their forever-family.”