Name: Robin Boudette
Name: Scott Bennett
Organization helped: Southern Comfort Animal REscue
Reason for nomination: For the last two decades, Scott Bennett has dedicated his life to rescuing, healing, and re-homing abandoned, neglected, and abused dogs in rural Georgia. He runs Southern Comfort Animal Rescue (SoCo) based in Wheeler County, one of the most impoverished counties in the United States. If you are familiar with dog rescue in Southern Georgia, you know the challenges Scott faces everyday: too many dogs, pups living in horrid conditions, injuries and illness adding up vet bills, not enough foster homes and too little money. Despite all this, SoCo has continued to be a no-kill shelter. A dozen or so dogs have been at the rescue for most of their lives. To some it would make sense to have them euthanized to make room for other, more “adoptable” dogs. But no: Scott is determined to give them their chance and provides them with safety and care until they find their forever true homes, or, allows them to live out their lives at the rescue. SoCo is at capacity much of the time. But that does not stop Scott from driving far and wide to bring in a dog that has no other options. Just last week, he drove out to Dublin to save Antonio (named for the gentleman who found him). Antonio appears to be a Maltese mix, approximately 9 years. He was found covered in abscesses and suffering from entropian (eye lids turn inward), causing him to be blind. Many would have given up, let him be put down. But not Scott Bennett. He rushed Antonio to the vet, had him cleaned, sutured and treated and now Antonio is at home with Scott. Next will be the challenge of raising funds for the vet care and finding Antonio a loving home. Different versions of this story—starving dogs, puppies abandoned at the dump, dogs living on a chain—appear every month on the SoCo Facebook page. We have just about 13,000 followers cheering on each dog, and Scott, and waiting to hear the fate of these precious beings. SoCo Rescue is a former industrial building outfitted with kennels, and several outdoor pens – enough to hold about 80 dogs at a time. Each week dogs that arrive are vaccinated, de-wormed, and treated with antibiotics if they have infections or disease. Many of sick and injured live with Scott, in his office or master bath as he helps them heal. Each month Scott drives 25 to 30 rehabilitated dogs in a bus 850 miles north to New Jersey. This is an arduous mission as the pups and dogs need to be fed, cleaned and walked. At night, Scott joins the pack setting up his bed on the floor of the bus. This has affectionately become known as the “Freedom Ride.” At the end of the journey, the bus is greeted by eager volunteers who organize adoption events and often foster puppies and older dogs. While in foster homes, the pups and dogs are given basic training and have time to overcome their anxiety and trauma while they become accustomed to interacting with people, other dogs, cats or other pets. Sooner and sometimes later, each pup finds it’s way to a loving home. Adoption photos are shared so all can witness the wonder of rescue, the power of kindness and good in the world. Over the years a community has evolved where the values of generosity, care and hope are cultivated. Scott Bennett has been the inspiration for this community. He knows almost every adopter and they all remember him fondly. The moment of inspiration for me came some time ago when I was fostering a dog named Barkley who was afraid of people, especially men. Barkley had been taken into several homes but returned each time. I asked for help and Scott came to my home to visit with Barkley. I could not believe my eyes when Barkley met Scott with a wagging tail, jumps and kisses. I saw the truth of trust and hope. Barkley was eventually adopted and today lives a happy and healthy life in a loving home. Of course, the overpopulation of dogs will not be solved by adoptions. Committed to ending the overpopulation problem, SoCo has received a grant from Fix Georgia Pets to assist those who do not have means to spay/neuter their dogs and cats. Volunteers at SoCo vet applications and notify pet owners of support awarded. Still, many do not have the funds for the required rabies vaccine or have transportation. In these cases, Scott will have SoCo cover the cost of vaccines and arrange transportation so that everyone who wants their pets spayed/neutered can do so. When people say Scott Bennett has “dedicated” his life to rescuing dogs, there can be no overstating the meaning of the word. He is CEO of SoCo Rescue, but also its chief medical officer, head trainer, main doggy psychologist, pack leader, handyman, pooper-scooper, driver, and fund-raiser. He takes no salary from the rescue. He works, literally, every single day. He has few days off and takes rare vacations. Saving dogs is his life. The miracle of his work is that while SoCo Rescue is a small, shoe-string operation, its impact is massive. In 2020, SoCo adopted out more than 400 dogs – more than one per day. Thousands of dogs have gone from lives of desperation, deprivation, and cruelty to loving, caring homes. Thousands of dogs that would almost certainly have suffered and died have come to SoCo and hit the lottery – they’ve gone on to live the kind of happy, comfortable lives every dog deserves. There are certainly many people working in dog rescue who do great work. Scott Bennett is one who is eminently worthy of recognition.