Labrador Love

Nonprofit gives abandoned dogs a second chance

By Cathryn Rakich
April 2024

Roo was 11 months old with a broken femur. X-rays showed the break was not a first for the yellow Labrador. His owners wanted him euthanized.

Instead, their veterinarian reached out to Central California Labrador Retriever Rescue.

The rescue group secured a foster home for Roo. Following surgery and six weeks of restricted activity and some training, the pup was cleared for neutering and went up for adoption.

“Roo hit the jackpot with an amazing family committed to helping him become the gem of a lab he had the potential to be,” says Erika Sechrist, Roo’s foster mom. “He’s living the life.”

Based in Sacramento, the nonprofit organization has been rescuing Labrador retrievers (and occasionally other breeds) for 26 years, placing them in homes from Redding to Fresno.

The volunteer group pulls the majority of its dogs from area animal shelters.

“Dogs at the shelter are our No. 1 priority,” says Cathy Chance, a volunteer for more than 20 years. Labs come from shelters in Sacramento, but mostly Merced, Stanislaus, Stockton, Turlock and Elk Grove.

“The Sacramento shelters do not have nearly the number of labs as the valley does,” Chance says. Sacramento is overrun with shepherds, huskies and pit bulls.

The pandemic made everything worse. “It’s unbelievable. We’ve never seen it like this,” Chance says. “During Covid, people wanted an animal to be at home with them. The breeders were breeding—supply and demand—and are still breeding. We are seeing all those dogs dumped.”

For owners seeking to surrender their labs, temperament and foster availability come into play. “The dogs have to be dog friendly,” Chance says. “As long as we can find space for those dogs, we will bring them in.”

The group focuses on Labrador retrievers, “but there are accidents,” says Chance, who recently fostered an 8-week-old puppy from Merced. A shelter volunteer contacted the rescue group about a dog who appeared to be a lab. “She sent photographs of this little white pup and we are all guessing what it is,” Chance says. “We had to get that puppy out of there.”

The cute canine turned out to be an akbash, an uncommon breed that looks similar to a great Pyrenees. “We take our best shot. Especially when they’re tiny,” Chance says. “They have floppy ears and whitish coats.”

In addition to fostering, Chance visits shelters to evaluate and pull dogs for the group’s 25 or so active foster homes. She and another volunteer set up the foster homes with food, beds, dishes, toys and crates. “I always thank our fosters because they are so critical to what we do,” Chance says.

When a foster home is not available, the group turns to Tug Dogs in Elverta and Peaceful Pets in Sacramento for boarding and “a little bit of training while there.”

Late last year, the rescue group took in nine puppies—six from the same litter dumped on property in Lake County and three from area shelters. “That was more puppies than we ever had at one time,” Chance says. “It was quite a feat.”

The rescuers waited until after the holidays to post the puppies for adoption. “We don’t want the Christmas puppy that is going to be a gift and then end up back on our front door,” Chance says.

When interviewing potential adopters, the group asks: Do you have a fenced yard? How many hours a day will the dog be left alone? What type of exercise will you do with the dog? Where will the dog sleep at night? Do you have another dog? “In many cases another dog will help shelter dogs with their confidence,” Chance says.

“We vet people. We meet them. We have all kinds of conversations with them. We go to their homes. Do yard checks. We do the very best we can. I feel very good about the adopters we have for these guys.”

Dogs receive a health check, vaccinations, heartworm and fecal tests, flea and heartworm prevention, and a microchip. All dogs are spayed or neutered. Some require more extensive tests, treatments and surgeries.

With last year’s expenses at $68,000, donations are gladly accepted. Volunteers are needed to help with transport, fundraising and fostering.

“People always ask me ‘How can you foster? I would never be able to let them go,’” Chance says. “But when you know you’re putting them in the best home you can, and there’s another dog at the shelter waiting to get out, it’s easy to send the dog you have on its way.”

Help raise funds for Central California Labrador Retriever Rescue by participating in an online auction April 15–30. View auction items, place a bid and get information on adopting, volunteering and donating at

Cathryn Rakich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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