Downeast Dog News

Rescue of the Month: New England Lab Rescue

Placing Labs and Lab Mixes into Wonderful Homes
By Susan Spisak | May 01, 2020

In May of 2010, Heather Labbe’ of Limerick founded the foster-based 501(c)(3) New England Lab Rescue (NELR) because she has a big heart. It started with a Facebook post about a Labrador Retriever named Nikka facing euthanasia. She immediately jumped into action – after countless calls, securing a foster home and arranging transport, she helped that dog find her forever home.

Beautiful Nikka is thriving with her family in Connecticut thanks to Heather. “She’s doing great. She is about 11 now and has had an amazing life compared to having a few hours to live in the South Robeson, SC. kill shelter the day we miraculously saved her life. It’s remained an inspiration to me personally since that day.”

As NELR’s president, Heather’s grown the rescue with the help of her Board of Directors and volunteers. Together her 30-person team has saved 300+ dogs per year. To accomplish that feat, there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes work to rescue their dogs. It may start with social media and cross-posts that alert them to dogs facing death in overcrowded shelters. They also have relationships with several southern shelters. Heather credits them with doing much legwork including having the rescues vetted in that state in compliance with health laws.

Once those dogs are fit to travel, they’re transported north - they utilize volunteers, professional companies, and have their own van. Upon arrival, each dog is fostered in New England for at least two to five days depending on the age. Because of this, there’s always a need for more New England fosters. “The main thrust is foster homes for our pets, the Labs,” said Heather. She has no problem stepping up – she fostered 30 dogs in the first two months of 2020.

To facilitate that all-important rescue component, NELR has three Foster Liaisons, two in the south and one in New England. They set up their fosters for success by giving them manuals, instructional training info, and a package for every dog they care for including collar, tag, an “adopt me” bandana, toys, leash, and ear wash.

They’re an “interactive” non-profit, meaning they post urgent pleas for donations to aid specific dogs. Heather’s thankful to NELR’s 53,000+ Facebook followers that support them – they fund many rescues. “People respond. We depend on them, they’re generous and it works.” And she has great respect for her fellow New Englanders. “The people up here adore their dogs beyond anything I’ve ever known. They really just treat their dogs wonderfully.”

Costs associated with rescuing and vetting their dogs are high – especially their heartworm positive dogs. If you’d like to donate to NELR’s mission and for info on fostering, adopting, donating, and to see their available dogs, visit