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What would you do for a dog?

March 4, 2018
Jessica Larsen - Managing Editor , Reinbeck Courier

Longtime Reinbeck resident, Diann Helmers is the founder and director of Agape Fosters, a licensed non-profit no-kill pet rescue shelter. Diann owns and operates one of the longest running pet rescue centers in Iowa. Helmers says that Agape Fosters has helped Grundy County for over twenty years and became a shelter in 2006.

Agape Fosters helps low-income families spay and neuter their pets. A few years ago Diann trapped, fixed and took care of the placement of a twenty-six member cat colony. Helmers says that spaying and neutering is the only way to keep the animal population down and believes that every progressive city should have a trap, neuter and release program.

Most of Diann's education has been hands-on by reading and researching animal welfare. She has attended workshops, seminars, worked in a veterinarian's office and has volunteered for decades helping animal shelters. She also ran an animal control rescue program with the help of volunteers and saved over 96% of the animals.

Article Photos

A billboard was put up in Des Moines of Pinky and her plight by Friends of Pinky.
Photo submitted

Agape Fosters handles approximately 80 100 cats a year and 30 40 dogs. They currently have a pot belly pig sanctuary and a few other rescued barnyard pets. All of the animals are spayed or neutered. Some of the pets have been with Agape for years and are still waiting for homes.

"It is impossible to help every animal that we are asked to take," says Helmers. "Exercise is a key for these pets while they wait for a home so that they don't go stir crazy. The cats have their own room and take turns being cage free daily, but have roomy areas where they are confined," Helmers explains.

Helmers says that Agape Fosters goes to any length to save an animal that is in need. "We have gone into ankle-deep feces to save pets. We've pulled dogs out from under wood piles that were full of ticks. We've rescued cats that have been caught in leg-hold traps, saved pets from being hit on the road, helped pets that needed life-saving surgeries and we've bottle fed kittens and puppies to save their lives. It is never-ending."

Diann's building, Clyde's House is dedicated to Clyde, a Great Dane that faced death in a shelter. Diann says that she took a chance on him, and he was her best friend and right-hand assistant in her work with dogs with behavioral problems.

In 2016 Helmers took on the rescue of a dog named Pinky. Pinky was seized by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa in Des Moines because the dog had an altercation with a cat. Helmers says, "There were no witnesses to who or what started the spat. Cats can attack dogs, Pinky could have been defending herself."

According to the ARL website, Pinky is considered to be a dangerous dog and they are holding Pinky as required by the city code of Des Moines dangerous dog declaration. Pinky's owner was fined by the City of Des Moines for the incident. Helmers says that the owner also covered all of the medical bills, as both pets were injured and both pets were at large. The cat was not killed and appears to be back to normal. The cat's owner was not fined for the incident and the cat was not seized.

Helmers attended the first hearing for Pinky and says that she was shocked they were trying to kill a dog that she believes is a very nice dog and not a danger to society. Helmers says that Pinky was labeled as a pit bull by the ARL. Helmers thinks that Pinky is a mixed breed dog with zero pit bull lineage.

Helmers testified in the dog's defense and offered to remove Pinky from the City of Des Moines. Her request was turned down. Pinky's owner felt financially and emotionally that he could not fight for his dog and transferred ownership to Helmers.

Helmers hired attorney Jamie Hunter from the Dickey Campbell firm in Des Moines. Helmers would like to bring Pinky to Agape Fosters where Pinky will be able to see her previous family and live the rest of her life at Agape.

Helmers feels that every pet that is truly not dangerous, or suffering beyond help, deserves a chance and that every animal welfare organization and animal advocate should step up and fight for animals like Pinky.

Helmers has studied court transcripts and talked to those involved in the incident. She believes that lower-income people and minorities are being singled out by the ARL. Helmers says that she was raised to fight for justice for those whose voices have been silenced or ignored.

Helmers is hoping to get Pinky freed and into her care. There is a Facebook page made for Pinky by those who care about her called Save Pinky's Life.

Helmers has gone far beyond what many will do to help animals. Pinky's case may go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Scott Sanders, City Manager for the City of Des Moines released a letter saying in part, "Since February 2017, the city has attempted to resolve this matter by offering to send Pinky to an out-of-state no-kill shelter for potential adoption. This proposal has been rejected several times by Ms. Helmers as she continues the litigation. This is the sole cause of the delay and the sole cause for the dog continuing to be confined. Should the city prevail [in court], we still hope to unilaterally carry out this offer."

Pinky is still in long-term impoundment at the ARL, as required by the Des Moines City Code. (Des Moines City Code 18-202(e) provides: "Any animal which is alleged to be dangerous and which is under impoundment or quarantine shall not be released to the owner, but shall continue to be held at the expense of the owner pending the outcome of the hearing."

Helmers believes that the ARL is not being transparent with the public. "The ARL has had their hands all over Pinky and will make thousands of dollars off her boarding there," says Helmers.

Helmers would like Pinky to be able to spend the rest of her days in rural Iowa and for Pinky's previous owner to be able to see her.

"This is hard work to do it right and you can't make everyone happy, but it has been an adventure. It's one of the hardest, sometimes painful, rewarding jobs I've ever had," says Helmers. "I'll always have a finger in helping animals, but will be scaling back greatly over the next few years."

If you would like to donate to Pinky's case or Agape Fosters, there is a donate button on the Agape Fosters Facebook page, or you can message them from that page.

Helmers Pet Rescue/Shelter information and some of the pets for adoption may be found on Facebook under Agape Fosters. Agape Fosters is also on under zip code 50669.



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