Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Brief History of BRAT

Basenji Rescue & Transport, Inc. is a creature of the internet. We would have never been created if not for the power of the web.

Back in the dark ages (pre-1995), purebred dog rescue was a local activity. The rescuers had their telephone numbers listed with local shelters and dogs clubs. They fostered the dogs locally and placed them with local people who happened to stumble upon them.

My first rescue basenji, Flash, came from just such a local rescue in Dallas. When we had issues, we called the rescue people and got advice.

After I adopted Flash, I joined the internet Basenji List. What an amazing thing the internet was! Basenji owners all around the world could communicate, share stories and advice, and understand that this breed had some unique challenges.

In 1997, I read an article in a dog magazine about how Chihuahua owners were using the internet to transport dogs from one location to another. They called it the Chihuahua Underground Railroad.

I posted a question on the Basenji List about whether anyone had ever set up an Underground Railroad for rescue basenjis. No one had but Nick Russell suggested that I try to organize a Basenji Underground Railroad.

I started gathering names, email addresses and phone numbers in a spreadsheet. Jackie and Don Kuhwarth helped us set up an email list and website. From there, we started posting dogs on the webpage and set up a database of applicants. We moved from transport to rescue on a national and international scale.

By early 1999, we realized that we needed a corporate structure so we incorporated the Basenji Underground Railroad under the name of Basenji Rescue & Transport, Inc. We then obtained 501(c)(3) status from the IRS so we could take tax deductible donations.

Because of the internet, we can handle dogs anywhere (at least within the United States and Canada). We use the underground railroad to move dogs from one location to another for fostering or final placement. We now use groups like Pilots and Paws to transport dogs longer distances.

BRAT now has more than 1,400 volunteers. We have scores of fosters and coordinators who place almost 300 basenjis every year.

If you own or have owned a basenji, we hope that you will consider joining us. We need people to screen applications, foster dogs, transport, conduct home visits, evaluate dogs in shelters, and do administrative work. To join BRAT, click here.

We have are well into our second decade and plan to keeping rescuing basenjis until rescue is no longer needed!


  1. Great post -- thanks! I was *just* wondering how BRAT got started, and intended to poke around to see if anyone had written a kind of history of the organization. Barely one click, and I found the answer.

    BRAT seems exceptionally well organized for a group that exists largely online, as it were. A great model for other rescues, staffed by some consistent regulars. Thanks for all you do.

  2. The quality of the people involved in BRAT is truly outstanding. Amazingly, many of us have never met in person (after all these years, I have not met Jackie and Don Kuhwarth in person). Our annual convention is a great way for us together and socialize. Thanks for the kudos.