One Dog at a Time

In theaters last year, moviegoers everywhere fell in love with Marley, a spirited Labrador puppy from the film Marley and Me. Now fall in love with Mo.

Mo was an abandoned lab that had been shot and left in a PetSmart parking lot until he was rescued by a non-profit organization called Heartland Lab Rescue. They saved Mo’s life, along with hundreds of other labs like him, and hope that like Marley, the puppy from the big screen, these dogs will find not just a home but also a family.

Jason Acebo has had a lab all of his life. Today he’s in Hafer Park with his dogs Zac and Autumn, both of which he adopted from Heartland Lab Rescue (HLR). Following the death of his chocolate lab last year, Acebo saw a billboard advertising the organization and got involved.  “If you want a dog that’ll really be a part of your family, this is the breed,” he says.

Heartland Lab Rescue works in Edmond, and throughout the state. It’s found homes for roughly 525 dogs since its start in March of 2006. Currently, they have around 60 dogs in need of adoption. The organization is completely volunteer run and all dogs are fostered out to families until permanent homes are found.

“We’re funded solely through donations and our adoption fees,” says Acebo. The adoption fees, ranging from 175 to 200 dollars, only cover about one third of the total cost for each dog. The organization spends around 475 dollars per dog to ensure all are spayed or neutered, current on vaccinations and heartworm medication.

In the meantime, HLR depends heavily on its foster family volunteers. “We can only rescue as many dogs as we have funding for and foster families for. Right now we are short on fosters,” says Acebo and adds that, “If people can’t donate, they can foster. It doesn’t cost anything except time.”

The organization pays all of the dog’s expenses for foster families, including food and medical care. “We all have a little extra time and love to give,” says Acebo.

Another reason for the abandonment may be contributed to lack of research done by families who buy a lab puppy. The breed is, “very rambunctious,” explains Acebo. He says that the organization gets a lot of dogs between the ages of eight months and a year and a half because the dogs are going through their puppy stage. “If they don’t get a lot of human interaction, if they’re just thrown out in the backyard, they will be destructive because they’re bored. They really want to be with their humans.”

HLR has monthly adoption events at the Petco on 2nd and Bryant in Edmond, as well as the store locations at I-240 and Penn and in Stillwater. More information on donations, adoptions and volunteering for HLR can be found at  

According to the Humane Society of the United States, between three and four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. This epidemic of homeless animals affects not just labs, but all breeds of dogs and cats.

There are many organizations in Edmond and throughout Oklahoma working hard to combat this issue. One of them is Free to Live, an Edmond non-profit and no-kill animal shelter that began in 1984. According to Annette Becker, Director of Business Development, the organization takes in abused and abandoned animals and not only adopts out but seeks to educate the public on the benefits of spaying and neutering.

Currently, Free to Live has close to 200 dogs and 200 cats in need of homes. They often coordinate with PetSmart for adoption days, and help organize “Dog & Cat Fun Days” for volunteers who would like to spend hands-on quality time with the animals in need. For more information on how to get involved, please visit their website at, or call 405-282-8617.

And in Edmond specifically, animals in need of adoption can also be found by visiting or by watching the Pets and Pals program on Cox channel 20.

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