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'Summer Of Violence' Keeps Stray Rescue's Donna Lochman Busy Saving Dogs

Emily Woodbury
Donna Lochman holds Radio, an injured dog she just rescued off the streets, so the veterinary technicians at Stray Rescue can administer vaccinations and pain medicine.

For 20 years, Donna Lochman has driven the streets and alleyways of St. Louis, looking for stray dogs — and sometimes cats — to remove from harm's way. She works as a rescuer for Stray Rescue of St. Louis, the largest no-kill organization in the St. Louis area. When Lochman comes across animals in need, she coaxes them back to her Jeep with just a can of Vienna sausages and a slip lead.

“I mean, some of them are that easy,” she told St. Louis on the Air producer Emily Woodbury during a rescue mission in mid-August.

Emily Woodbury
Donna Lochman has worked as a rescuer for Stray Rescue of St. Louis for 20 years.

“Others, it takes more of a thought process. They’re either in an abandoned house, so you have to be careful about how you get to the animal, and how you get them out because a lot of times they’re so scared. … Going up the stairs is not a big deal for them, but then they’re stuck up there because the stairs are so bad,” Lochman said.

“There’s situations where they are injured — they’ve either been hit by a car or it’s a dog fight — it really does vary from situation to situation.”

Videos of Lochman’s rescues are frequently posted on Stray Rescue of St. Louis’ Facebook page and shared around the world. Many of the posts are heartwarming, yet others show cases of neglect and abuse. An Aug. 7 post described recent months as “the summer of violence.” Marketing Director Natalie Thomson said that Stray Rescue is receiving more reports of abuse cases than is typical, and that the cases themselves are more severe.

“It’s hard to see what these guys go through day in and day out,” Lochman said. “Getting them into a good home with a loving family, you know, meals all the time, soft places to lay, big yard to run in ... we owe that to them — because of the crap start they had — to give them the absolute best that we can.”

To date, Stray Rescue of St. Louis has rescued 1,566 animals in 2020. Currently, the facility in downtown St. Louis houses 92 dogs and 11 cats, and the rescue oversees the care of 346 animals in foster homes throughout the region.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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