Viral Photo of Stray Dog Cuddling Teddy Bear Sparks Controversy

When an animal rescue volunteer posted this heartbreaking photo of a homeless dog on Facebook last week, she never expected it to go viral and spark controversy.

The volunteer, Yvette Holzback of Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward, was on her daily feeding route when she passed the dog on the sidewalk. While she was saddened by the dog’s predicament, she made the decision to leave the sleeping dog on streets.

After posting the picture, Holzback received hundreds of angry comments asking questions like, “How can you just leave it there?” and pleading, “Pick the dog up, please.”

As a core volunteer with Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward, Holzback comes across dogs like this each and every day.

The organization, which was founded in 2012, aims to help care for abandoned and neglected dogs in an extremely impoverished area of Houston called the Fifth Ward.

If Holzback is lucky, every few weeks she is able to pick up 1, maybe 2, dogs and place them into foster homes. What about the rest? She drives around, day after day, feeding upwards of 50 dogs per route and educating the ward’s residents on the benefits of spaying and neutering.

Each day, Holzback sees hundreds of dogs just like the one pictured above. Though, most aren’t as lucky and suffer from serious health issues.

Here are just some of the dogs Holzback and her team have encountered in the fifth ward:

UPDATE: This girl is now safe with Vals Pals Rescue and is at VERGI. She has been named St Francis. Donations can be…

Posted by Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward Project on Thursday, December 17, 2015

UPDATE :: Huge thanks to Val’s Pals GSD and Large Paw Rescue for taking on this sweet girl. Her name is now Ellie and…

Posted by Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward Project on Wednesday, December 31, 2014

“We would like to say that we sincerely appreciate your concern for this dog that has gone viral, but we would also like to clarify a few things,” Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward wrote in a Facebook post this week. “We do not have employees. We are an all-volunteer organization and there’s a total of about 12 core volunteers… In 4.5 years, we’ve rescued 864 dogs from the 5th Ward of Houston, where we focus our efforts. We have 58 dogs currently up for adoption, some of whom need fosters of their own. This dog is but one of hundreds of thousands that is living on the streets here in our city.”

And as it turns out, the dog wasn’t homeless after all. The dog belongs to an elderly man named Calvin who has rescued over 20 dogs in the fifth ward. His life is devoted to feeding them and giving them a safe place to call home.

“I hope that by posting the picture awareness has been raised to the plight of the street dog,” Holzback writes. “We are facing an uphill battle and we can only hope that there will come a time when no dog will have to struggle to survive on the street.”

Learn what you can do to help Houston’s homeless dogs by visiting Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward.