Animal rescuers will do their best to save as many stray, abandoned, and injured animals as possible. However, sometimes there are cases so hopeless that putting the poor animal out of its misery seems to be the most humane option.
In Atlanta, Georgia, however, one animal rescuer has given up a life of luxury and to start saving dogs. In fact, the New York native is so determined not to turn his back on any dog in need that he has become known for taking cases so hopeless that no other rescuers will help…
A Beloved Family Member
While growing up in Queens, New York, Jason Flatt formed a lifelong love of dogs while being raised along with a pit bull named Calvin. “Calvin was regarded as a family member,” 45-year-old Flatt told Atlanta Magazine about the beloved family dog. According to Flatt, Calvin ended up passing away at 18 years old. Flatt, who always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, was just 12 years old at the time and the loss was Georgia for him to deal with. “Losing him was hard. That was the first big loss of my life,” Flatt explained.
Working On Wall Street
Despite his aspirations to work with animals as an adult, Flatt ended up on Wall Street chasing success and a lavish lifestyle. At first, he worked as a commodities broker and later worked as a managing director at an equity research publication on Wall Street.
A Selfish Life
Flatt thrived in the intense environment, and he had no plans of giving any of it up. “I was leading a very selfish life, very involved with myself and my career,” Flatt said. However, when Flatt was 32 years old, he got a phone call that changed the course of his life forever.
The Phone Call
“On July 22, 2005, I got a phone call that rocked my world,” Flatt said. “My older brother, Evan, who was a federal agent, killed himself. Nothing mattered to me during that time. I plunged into a really bad depression. I was dying on the inside. I died that day along with him.”
A Life-Saving Gift
Flatt needed to get away from his life and since his job allowed him to work remotely, he decided to move to Georgia. After arriving in Georgia, Flatt bought a home on a 14-acre plot of land to get some space during a difficult time. At one point, someone gave Flatt a five-week-old pit bull puppy.
Love At First Sight
Flatt quickly fell in love with the puppy he named Angelo. More importantly, Angelo gave Flatt a reason to live and helped pull him out of his depression. “This little dog literally saved my life by giving me a purpose,” Flatt said. “He was just what I needed. This little dog literally saved my life by giving me a purpose.”
A New Purpose
“He was easy to train, would do anything you commanded. He was so attuned to what I needed. He liked other dogs, was gentle with children and cats. I would take him running with me. He was my savior. I couldn’t find peace until I had him. That little dog made me get up in the morning,” Flatt explained.
A Heartbreaking Discovery
Soon after, Flatt decided to adopt another dog so Angelo could have a friend to play with. While at the pound, however, Flatt was horrified when he realized that almost every single dog was a pit bull. “At any given time, at least 80 percent, and possibly as high as 90 percent, of our dogs are pit bull types,” Audrey Shoemaker, director of client services for Fulton County Animal Services, told Atlanta Magazine. “Because pit bulls make up so much of the population here, they’re the dog most often euthanized.”
An Inaccurate Stereotype
Part of the reason that pit bulls are so common at animal shelters is that they are stereotypically considered to be dangerous dogs. They have also been over bred by irresponsible breeders, so many eventually end up in shelters after being neglected or abused. That day, Flatt realized how big the problem was and agreed to foster several dogs. He then worked hard to place them in loving homes.
Friends To The Forlorn
After placing those first pit bulls, Flatt went back to the shelter and got several pit bulls to foster and rehome. “Word got out that I was saving one dog at a time,” Flatt explained. “Pretty soon, I had placed 100 dogs in homes.” In 2009, Flatt decided to leave the business world behind and founded Friends to the Forlorn. The Georgia-based rescue specializes in rescuing pit bulls but will save any dog breed.
Walking Away From Wall Street
“I made good money. I’ll never be that rich again, but I don’t care. What’s important to me now is that I live a decent life, saving dogs,” Flatt said. Flatt turned his eight-bedroom home into the organization’s base and named it the ‘Pit Bull Palace’. “The dogs own the house. They just let me live here.”
A Dog Oasis
Flatt has painstakingly converted his home into a dream dog rehabilitation facility. Inside, the home is peaceful and clean for the rescues. Outside, Flatt sectioned his 14-acre lot into eight separate yards that are secured by eight-foot-high fences. To ensure no rescues escape, Flatt also had a layer of concrete poured two feet under the surface of the grass. Flatt has also installed security cameras that monitor the entire property.
Flatt’s rescue pit bulls spend time recuperating and healing if they need to. Once healthy, the dogs spend hours playing outside each day while Flatt and his small team work around the clock to give the dogs everything they could possibly need. For Flatt, he is dedicated to saving every single dog that comes his way and refuses to turn his back on complicated or hopeless cases.
Targets For Abuse
“The worse shape the dog is in, the more determined I am to fix it,” Flatt says. “Pit bulls are despised. They’re hated and feared and therefore more likely to be abused.” For the dogs that can’t be saved, Flatt makes sure they spend their last days being loved and spoiled. For Flatt, part of the reason is that he identifies with Pit Bulls on a deeper level.
The 45-year-old vegan is practically covered in tattoos from head to toe. For that reason, people often make assumptions about him and his past without even knowing him. Like Pit Bulls, people assume Flatt is dangerous. “People assume I’ve been in prison,” Flatt explained. “Women clutch their pocketbooks tighter when I walk by. Children point and stare. I get treated like a freak show.”
Proving Everyone Wrong
“Pit bulls and I both are looked down upon without people getting to know us,” Flatt added. “We are judged by what we look like and not what we are. We both are expected to fail. I have always had to prove people wrong. So do they. I relate to them.” So far, Flatt and his rescue have saved the lives of at least 600 dogs and two abandoned donkeys. Many of which were extreme cases that other shelters thought were impossible to save.
Above And Beyond
Since starting his rescue, Flatt has trained as a vet tech so that he knows exactly what to do in case of an emergency situation with a sick or injured dog. “At this point, Jason has a supply of medicine, and he usually doesn’t encounter an injury in the middle of the night he can’t deal with. I work with a lot of rescue groups, but Jason’s is the best because he goes above and beyond. He takes the cases that no one else will touch,” Dr. Clay Leathers, Flatt’s on-call veterinarian, told Atlanta Magazine.
Earning Their Trust
“We know the dog will have issues—parasites, kennel cough, or much worse,” Flatt explained. “So, we quarantine him for two weeks to get the health problems taken care of. We do temperament tests. If the dog is aggressive, we respond with lots of love and patience. We take our time with him. It’s very important not to rush a dog or force yourself on him all at once. Let him decide he can trust you, and you will eventually tame him.”
Tackling A Bigger Problem
Flatt has also implemented a spay-neuter program that has fixed over 6,000 stray dogs and cats to keep the number of stray animal populations down. He also has plans to expand his organization by building a brand new center on a property near his home that will have state-of-the-art equipment and rehabilitation facilities.
A Life Calling
“I haven’t had a vacation in years,” Flatt said. “I was even late for my mother’s funeral. But rescue work saved me,” he says. “I had to lose myself to find myself. I’m not saving these pit bulls—they are saving me. I would die for them. I’ve found exactly what I was put on earth to do.”