For over 40 years, Edith Campbell has dedicated her free time to helping dogs in need throughout the City of Flint. “It really started at Christmas in 1967,” she remembers. “I worked at Buick and driving to and from work, I would see dogs that looked starved. I felt I had to do something about it.” She began to tell co-workers about her plans and they began donating food and pet supplies. “I started using Christmas as an excuse – I asked the owners of the suffering animals if I could give their pets a Christmas present.”
The project began growing and in 1979, Campbell started the North End Dog Project and for a time, joined forces with PAWS animal rescue. For the last decade, her organization has operated as Pets in Peril (PIP), a 501c3 organization dedicated to the mission of educating pet owners on proper care, reducing the population of at-risk dogs through spay and neuter, and lessening animal suffering. “We are an outreach organization, not a shelter,” clarifies Campbell. “When people are having trouble feeding and caring for their dogs, we help them do it. We just want the dogs to have a little better life through providing education and supply.” The organization is 100 percent volunteer-based and provides food, straw, dog houses, other miscellaneous supplies and spay/neuter services to “owned” animals. “The dogs we interact with are pretty much forgotten,” says Campbell. “We bring doghouses and straw to them in winter, pails of water during intense heat, and we provide food for the animals twice a week. We can go through 15 large buckets of food a day. Every donation we get for the animals is used up very quickly.”
A main goal of PIP is education. Many dog owners don’t truly understand how to care for their animals or simply can’t do it due to poverty. Campbell states that many dogs they come across have never been to a veterinarian. “The animals often die and the owner doesn’t know the reason,” she says. “Many of the dogs we help spend their lives chained outdoors and we find many that have heartworm because of it. Heartworm gets spread by mosquitos, so the more the dog is outside, the greater the chances for heartworm.” PIP works with the owner and can provide flea medication and fly protection. If possible, they remove chains and provide a tie-out for the dog.
A large part of the education work concerns spaying and neutering. PIP will provide help for the animal as long as the owner agrees to, or at least considers spay or neuter. “The population of strays and at-risk animals is off the charts in Genesee County, mostly because of the stigma the local population has about spaying and neutering. Many don’t want to do it,” Campbell explains. “Breeding is big business in Flint and because of that, it’s hard for us to get our point across. We fail just as often as we succeed, but we keep trying. Through donations, we provide the services free of charge.” Spay and neuter extends the dog’s life, prevents cancer, lessens female infections and improves behavior.
“It’s shocking to see how some animals live. ”
Currently, PIP helps dozens of dogs and owners every week, and conducts food deliveries for many more. Periodically, they have held free vaccination clinics for owners of dogs that are not up-to-date on shots. The free shot clinics were started by former police officer, Tammy Bice – a member of PIP. Bice helped raise money for vaccines that were administered to over 200 dogs. Sadly, officer Bice passed away before her clinics began, but they will continue in her honor as long as Campbell is able to procure funding. The organization is entirely donation-funded, with all monetary proceeds and goods going directly to the animals in need. Campbell and her volunteers organize a few annual fundraisers such as online auctions and food drives with local schools.
“A school in Grand Blanc helped us out with a fundraiser and raised over $2,000!” exclaims Campbell. “I couldn’t believe it. I am so grateful for all the help we get.” In response, she took the PIP mascot, Polo, with her to the school to meet the kids and tell his story. Polo is an extremely lovable pit bull that PIP was able to help five years ago. His owner had him chained in the backyard and he was being used as a breeder. He was malnourished and suffering from heartworm. PIP was able to convince the owner to give Polo up and he now lives happily in Campbell’s home. “Polo loves everybody, absolutely everybody. He is so enjoyable,” she says. “He was always so happy to see us when we came to his former home. This job is very hard to do sometimes. It’s shocking to see how some animals live. Sometimes, we encounter dogs that need to be out of the hands of the owner. At that point, we contact local authorities and let them handle the situation.” PIP works with other area organizations such as Paws Animal Rescue, the Humane Society of Genesee County, Animal Control, Adopt-A-Pet Fenton, Paradise Animal Rescue, Concept Hope and All About Animals Clinic.
For as long as she has been doing it, Campbell’s mission and the need of animals in Flint has not changed. “I have been at this for 40 years, but I can tell you the problem is still here. As poverty continues, the need of these animals continues,” she states. “I’m getting older and I can’t do what I used to do, like wrestle a pit bull or lift a 50-pound bag of dog food. I couldn’t do it without all of my amazing volunteers. We all just want to continue to make a positive difference in an animal’s life.”
Pets in Peril is always in need of food (dry and canned), doghouses (plastic igloos preferred), pet toys, tie-outs and over-the-counter flea medications. For a full wish list of goods, please visit the Pets in Peril Facebook page.
If you would like to make a monetary or supply donation to Pets in Peril, please visit petsinperil.org/ or send them a message on Facebook. To request assistance, call 810.288.6465. For all other information, call 810.767.6366.
Photos Provided by Pets in Peril