By Rebecca L. Rhoades
As Robin in the 1960s television series Batman, Burt Ward helped rid the world of crime and injustice. Today, Ward is fighting a different kind of injustice—the senseless killing of homeless animals. Ward and his wife, Tracy, run Great Dane Adoptions and Rescue, and for the past seven years, they’ve devoted their lives to finding good homes for any and every unwanted Dane. Since 1994, they’ve found homes for more than 3,000 of the giant dogs, most of whom would otherwise have been euthanized.
The Ward’s crusade began when Tracy adopted her first Dane, Beauty, from a local shelter and learned that 28 others in homes throughout the county were also awaiting adoption. Tracy quickly adopted a second dog, Apollo, but when she called to inquire about the status of the remaining animals, she was horrified to learn that all had been destroyed. Since that day, the Wards have taken in every Great Dane they can find, no matter what his physical condition. "We take them if they’re perfect," says Tracy, "and we take them if they need $10,000 worth of operations."
While rehabilitating injured dogs and searching for homes for those ready for adoption, the Wards care for the animals themselves. Situated on five acres in Riverside, CA, the Ward’s 4,000-square-foot house is both sanctuary and home for the dogs—more than 50 at any given time. There are no kennels, and the dogs have the run of the house, playing with the Ward’s 11-year-old daughter, Melody, and sleeping in the bedroom.
"You know what the most dangerous thing is in our household?" asks Burt. "Trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night without tripping over a dog."
Having so many dogs requires a considerable commitment on the part of the entire family. According to Tracy, they’ve used more than $700,000 of their personal funds to finance the organization. Many of the dogs who come to the Ward’s home need medical attention, and it requires about 1,200 pounds of food a day just to feed all those hungry mouths. Tracy is responsible for the day-to-day care of the dogs, while Burt spends most of his days running Logical Figments, an animation company that provides feature film special effects, in order to help finance their passion. The Wards also have a large menagerie of their own pets to care for: seven cats, four horses, a pony, a sheep, two birds and four dogs, including the world’s largest Great Dane, Avalanche, who stands 43.5 inches tall at the withers and weighs 305 pounds.
But Burt and Tracy can’t imagine doing anything else. "We can’t stop," says Burt. "Every one of these beautiful, loving animals would be dead if it weren’t for us. I see lives, healthy lives, innocent puppies who are going to be put to death simply because they don’t have a home. And that to me is a great injustice."
Potential adopters must visit the Ward’s home to personally select a dog. "We get more than 100 calls a day. What’s difficult is sorting out the great homes from the okay homes," says Burt. "We’re very selective as to who we give our dogs to." And if for any reason the new owner must relinquish the Dane, he must be returned to the Wards. The adoption fee is $400. To adopt a Great Dane or to send a donation, contact Great Dane Adoptions and Rescue at (909) 273-1330.
© 2001 ASPCA Animal Watch - Winter 2001
424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804