Zheutlin sees firsthand the poverty of the Deep South, particularly the Fifth Ward in Houston, and the disregard of human as well as animal life. The so-called shelters are often nothing more than brief holding cells for euthanasia. Some of the facilities have a 90 percent kill rate, usually targeting puppies first rather than have to fund vaccinations. Compared to shelters in the north, that seems unbelievable, but it's a reality that rescuers know well.
The reasons for so many high-kill facilities in the south, and for the general poor treatment of domestic animals there, are complicated. There are cultural issues concerning how animals have been traditionally regarded, especially in the rural areas. There are, of course, financial issues. A family stuck in severe poverty is not likely to take measures to care for their pets. In fact, "pet" is not really a term to apply to the creatures who are forced to live their short lives outside, with no medical care or socialization. This mindset is changing slowly, thanks to educational initiatives that many rescue organizations and southern shelters are taking, but the tidal wave of unwanted, neglected, abused, and forgotten dogs still seems endless. In spite of the odds, however, rescuers such as Greg Mahle, and his colleagues in the south, push on, never taking a breath, it seems.