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Walking The Walk: Former Military Paratrooper Has Saved 250 Dogs From Death Row

Walking The Walk: Former Military Paratrooper Has Saved 250 Dogs From Death Row

I have always been fascinated by problem solvers.  Those people who see a need, and move to fill it: The go-getters who light a candle instead of cursing the dark. Steffen Baldwin is the consummate problem-solver.

My first impression of him was that he could easily be one of my son’s punk band mates, not the founder and CEO of a respected non-profit organization.  But don’t let his hard-edge good looks and tattoos fool you, he’s no slacker. He’s deadly serious about combating animal abuse.

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A young Steffen Baldwin ran a resource center for people experiencing homelessness in CA

A former military paratrooper, Baldwin has had a career that has encompassed everything from running a homeless resource center for humans in California to running an animal shelter and serving as a humane officer.  He recently became the founder and director of his own animal cruelty non-profit organization, dedicated to educating the public, assisting those in need, and enforcing the law when necessary.

Talking to Steffen Baldwin is like talking to a bolt of energy.  Pure intensity and passion shine through as he speaks. His words run together so fast one has to concentrate to keep on top of the conversation. This is someone who cares deeply about what he does.  He seems to have two driving passions: caring for animals and being a good father to his young son. He recently posted a picture of himself and his boy, with this touching caption:

My inspiration and my motivation to work tirelessly every day, because he always calls and asks me what animals I helped that day and I always want to have something to tell him.

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Steffen Baldwin and his son make an appearance on the local NBC news

When Baldwin sees a need or an injustice, he doesn’t spend time bemoaning the problem…he finds a way to address it:

1. Pit Bull Terrier-type dogs face real discrimination in Ohio, so he co-founded Ohioans against Breed Discrimination, a political action committee dedicated to fighting breed stigmas.

2. The majority of dog bites are to young children. Baldwin began holding classes in dog safety skills for children, using his own rescue dogs as assistants.  He’s held classes for as few as five children and as many as 1000 in a two-day event last year.

3. Many rural counties in Ohio couldn’t afford a cruelty officer, so he formed a non-profit organization that offers support in the fight to end cruelty at no charge to the local communities.

4. He became concerned by the number of dogs being shot by police and how it affected everyone involved, not the least the officer involved.  So in collaboration with retired mixed martial arts fighter Gordon Shell, who had already developed a training program for local police departments, he will be teaching local police departments dog body language, behavior, and non-lethal methods of dealing with canine/human issues.  His own dog Chesty will be helping with the class. Chesty knows how important this issue is. He was shot in the chest by a police officer in 2012 when he was living as a stray.

5. Baldwin saw dog reactive dogs dying in shelters in huge numbers, so he started personally fostering and working with them, helping them learn coping skills and finding them the right homes

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Teaching children how to safely and kindly interact with dogs is something dear to Baldwin’s heart

I asked him about his magic touch with reactive dogs.  I jokingly said that I often see a picture of him pulling a dog from death row, and then 10 minutes later the dog is running with his personal “pack.”  Baldwin quickly corrected me.  One of the most important tools in his work with reactive dogs is giving them the time to decompress and feel safe without forcing them to interact with other dogs.  It is hard work requiring patience and dedication.  Most often these are Pit Bull Terrier-type dogs, young, with a lot of energy.  They need mental and physical stimulation.

Baldwin’s secret is that these troubled dogs are the ones he takes with him on his daily rounds.  He spends time with them, exercises them, builds a relationship with them.  And then he slowly integrates them into his pack as fosters until the right adoptive home comes along.  He laughingly said he was “down to eleven dogs.” His success rate is phenomenal.  In the past three years he has pulled 250 dogs from death row; only three of which had to be humanely euthanized for severe aggression issues.

Last Friday, Baldwin saw a man and his dog pan-handling in the frigid temperatures of an Ohio winter.  As an animal warden, he stopped to tell the man that he needed to get his dog somewhere warm with access to water.  The man, who identified himself as Vincent, told Baldwin that the only shelter they had was a broken down van in the parking lot across the street.  In sub-zero temperatures, a vehicle is no protection at all.

Many people would have given a warning and then driven away.  Instead, Baldwin followed Vincent to his van and actually talked to him about his situation.  Vincent had lost his job as a forklift operator. He was traveling east, looking for work, when his van broke down.  He was out of funds and out of options in the middle of a cold, harsh winter.  Just as evident as his crisis situation was the love and care he had for his companion Bruno.  It was readily apparent that the dog was well-loved and well-cared for.

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Vincent’s van, repaired and ready for the road

Baldwin posted about the meeting on Facebook, and within a very short amount of time a local business, Minit Lube, had agreed to look at the van for free, and to donate labor costs to repair it.  Vincent was transported to The Hope Center which offers services to people who are experiencing homelessness.  Baldwin set up a YouCaring fundraising page to help get Vincent on his feet and to provide a vet check, heartworm preventatives, and dog food for Bruno.  The fundraiser was instantly successful.

People responded to the appeal because Baldwin has a reputation for doing what is needed for dogs and their people.  He is a genuine, caring man who is making an absolute difference in the world. People recognize that about him.  If he said this man needed assistance, people were willing to take his word and step up to help.

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Bruno relaxes in a warm motel room, ready to hit the road with his person once again.

Thanks to the community support, Vincent is once again on the road in a repaired van.  Bruno has been fully vetted, and Vincent has enough funds to move on to the next stop.  Baldwin’s example of taking the extra step made an impression on Vincent as well.  He asked to donate some of the excess money to help a homeless family find shelter while they wait for transitional housing.   He also donated $300 to ACT Ohio to sponsor adoption fees for two dogs who formerly belonged to a homeless person.

So what’s next for Steffen Baldwin and ACT Ohio? Next week Baldwin will be appearing on the local ABC channel to discuss dog fighting and to man a phone bank to take tips on possible dog fighting situations.  His organization will be offering a cash reward for any information that lead to a conviction of the people responsible for a dog who was recently found with wounds consistent with dog fighting.  He is also currently in negotiations to do a television show with Gordon Shell.  They are both passionate about dog rescue….Baldwin in rural Ohio and Shell in urban Detroit.

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Steffen Baldwin and Gordon “Shotgun” Shell working together to combat cruelty and neglect

We need people like Steffen Baldwin in the world.  He offers solutions to many canine based problems, without ever charging a dime for his services.  All his programs are funded totally through donations.  You can join in his work and help make a difference by donating on his website.

Steffen Baldwin is the Chief Humane Agent in Union County, Ohio , the Founder and President/CEO of the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio (ACT Ohio), and the Co-Founder of the Ohioans Against Breed Discrimination, a Political Action Committee dedicated to fighting Breed Discriminatory. 

Do you know of someone who is actively involved in individual rescue?  Someone who goes above and beyond to do whatever is necessary to improve things for homeless animals?  If you’d like to nominate someone for this “Walking the Walk” series, please send me an email at [email protected]

Featured image – with Steffen Baldwin and his companion, Chesty – via Steffen Baldwin

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