Once upon a time, 6-year-old Muneca had her own family in St. Charles Parish, about 20 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. But when the chihuahua gave birth to two puppies, her owners decided they couldn’t care for three dogs, even though their growing fur family stemmed from their failure to spay Muneca in the first place.
But when Muneca (which means “sweetheart” in Spanish) and her puppies were surrendered to the shelter, the staff made a disturbing discovery. The shy mama dog wasn’t just newly homeless. She was also heartworm positive, which often proves fatal for shelter dogs in Louisiana.
Heartworm is dangerous and potentially fatal, but it can also be prevented and treated with medication. Even so, the disease often proves deadly to shelter dogs in Lousiana, where overcrowded, underfunded shelters lack resources and space to care for heartworm-positive dogs — forcing them to turn to euthanasia.
This deadly dilemma is especially tragic because Louisiana is also a hotbed for heartworm infection, which is higher here than in almost any other U.S. state. Nevertheless, it looked like Muneca–despite having two puppies to care for–would meet this unjust fate.
Thankfully, Muneca was surrendered to St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter, one of 7 Louisiana shelters participating in Save a Heart, a life-saving rescue initiative sponsored by The Animal Rescue Site, Greater Good Charities, and Boehringer Ingelheim, the maker of HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel).
Save a Heart was created to fly 1,000 heartworm-positive dogs out of Louisiana — where their chances of survival are slim — to East Coast shelters with space and capacity to treat them. Muneca and her puppies will fly from Louisiana to Florida’s Broward County aboard one of our first Save a Heart flights, which will begin transporting at-risk shelter dogs to safety on April 19 and 20 — in honor of Heartworm Awareness Month!
In addition to flying heartworm-positive dogs like Muneca (who are asymptomatic and thus safe to fly) to safety, Save a Heart will also transport heartworm-negative dogs at risk of contracting heartworm disease. This allows us to save rescues like Copper, a sweet senior gal who wound up at St. Charles Parish animal shelter because her owner could no longer care for her.
The 12-year-old dog suffered from fleas and dermatitis when she first arrived, but Copper is slowly regaining her health. “Now I just have to find my new family,” Copper “writes,” according to St. Charles Parish Shelter. “I’m heartworm negative, which is lucky since I live in Louisiana with a lot of mosquitoes. I’ve started my monthly heartworm prevention, too.”
One-year-old Villian will also be getting a second chance because of this life-saving rescue initiative, which will help this poor girl overcome her rough past in Louisiana. The former breeding dog was still lactating when she arrived at St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter after giving birth to 8 puppies (which have since disappeared) and nursing an injured tail.
Shelter workers have spayed poor Villian and docked her tail into an adorable nub, before booking the one-year-old dog onto aSave a Heart flight — aka Villian’s best chance of staying heartworm-free and getting adopted.
“I’m a young ball of energy, but quickly learning that if I work hard at basic obedience, treats fly from humans,” “writes” Villian, who is now up-to-date on vaccines, taking preventative heartworm medication, and eager to meet her forever family.
By this time next year, Save a Heart will have transported 1,000 asymptomatic heartworm positive dogs and 1,000 heartworm negative dogs like Copper and Villian, who remain at risk of contracting heartworm disease (and being subsequently euthanized) if they stay behind in Louisiana. Save a Heart will also provide preventative heartworm medication to protect another 2,500 Louisiana shelter dogs.
But we can’t save Copper, Villian, Muneca, and her puppies without your help, because Save a Heart flights depend on the generous support of Animal Rescue Site readers. Donations of $25 allow us to buy 625 air miles for at-risk shelter dogs traveling with Save a Heart, but contributing any amount helps us save heartworm-positive dogs from euthanasia. Thanks for helping us give at-risk shelter dogs a second chance at life!
Learn more about Save a Heart in the video below!
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