'There's definitely stigma': Toronto charity seeks homes for big dogs to save them from euthanasia

Nicole Simone runs a Toronto-based charity that rescues at-risk dogs. Although she only prepared to collect 40 dogs during the upcoming trip to Texas happening next weekend, there's been a slight change of plans.

Redemption Paws will travel to Texas next weekend to pick up 60 rescue dogs

'Shane West the Dog' was named after the lead actor in A Walk to Remember because of his facial expression. He's being rescued by Toronto-based charity Redemption Paws, and is scheduled to arrive in Canada next weekend from the U.S. (Submitted by Nicole Simone )


  • After the publication of this article, all of the dogs found foster homes.
  • Many of the dogs still seek adoption.

"If I didn't say anything, they would be dead." 

That's the reality for Nicole Simone, who's been helping rescue stray dogs from Texas since Hurricane Harvey devastated the state in 2017. 

Simone and her team of about 200 volunteers at Toronto-based charity Redemption Paws travel to areas affected by fires, flooding and storms to find homes for at-risk dogs — they've helped rescue about 400 to date. 

Although she only prepared to collect 40 dogs during the upcoming trip to Texas happening next weekend, there's been a slight change of plans. 

Nicole Simone, the founder and executive director of Redemption Paws, offered to take 10 dogs in from Texas displaced by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and started a GoFundMe. That initiative turned into her full-time job. (Tara Noelle Photography)

Her friend runs a shelter east of Dallas, Texas, in a rural area that has experienced a surge of stray dogs since the hurricane. The shelter was planning on euthanizing a group of larger dogs, who are each over 25 pounds.

But Simone couldn't let that happen. 

"I usually don't accept 20 dogs with just a week's notice," she told CBC Toronto Sunday. "We're really hustling." 

Her last-minute decision means she's now scrambling to find temporary foster homes and long-term adopters for this incoming group.

'People think you can't have a big dog in the city' 

Simone says there's actually surplus of adopters in Toronto, who are usually millennials. But she says this age bracket usually prefers to adopt smaller dogs.

She says this tendency is caused by reproach toward housing larger canines in city condos. 

"People thinking you can't have a big dog in a city," she said. "I think there's definitely stigma about having a larger dog in an apartment," Simone said. 

Because of that stigma, Simone says it's harder to find homes for larger dogs, like the ones being picked up next weekend. 

A doodle named Parker was up for euthanasia in a shelter in Dallas, Texas. Now he's being rescued by Redemption Paws, and the organization will try to find him a home in Toronto. (Submitted by Nicole Simone )

According to the City of Toronto's website, a tenant can't be evicted for having a pet, unless the animal is dangerous, making too much noise, damaging the unit or causing others to have allergic reactions. 

But despite the bylaw, Simone says people fear they'll either be evicted by their landlords, or do an injustice to a larger dog by keeping them in a smaller confined space. 

"It's the quality of care that they get," she said. "It doesn't matter if they live in a condo or a farm in Texas — that's not what these dogs care about." 

Simone says adopters don't need a backyard — if they have one it's a luxury. 

"You just need to walk them, spend time with them, feed them, and give them love and care." 

Dogs up for euthanasia 48 hours after arrival 

Simone says the dogs are seen by vets before they leave the United States, and again once they arrive in Canada. 

When they get here, they're deemed homeless by local city shelters and are given 48 hours to find a home or they are up for euthanasia. 

For the most part, the group of 20 dogs were waiting for homes in the Dallas shelter for about a month. Although Simone says that could have been less for some of them, others could have been waiting for up to six months. 

Meet a few of the other dogs set to arrive next weekend: 

Sheba is a young Hound mix. (Submitted by Nicole Simone)
Holly is a young Catahoula-Hound mix. (Submitted by Nicole Simone)
Luanne is an abused Hound-Shepherd mix. (Submitted by Nicole Simone )
Portia is a Cattle Dog mixed breed. (Submitted by Nicole Simone )