The Union Recorder

June 24, 2013

ARF provides meaningful public service

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Longtime Animal Rescue Foundation president and founder Bobbie Thompson, now serving as board treasurer, has 30 years worth of animal saving stories. Together with a local group, Thompson disbanded the old Baldwin County Humane Society and started ARF.

“It took us a few months to do all the legal stuff,” Thompson said. “We were finally incorporated on Sept. 20, 1983.”

A stint at the county animal shelter ended 12 years later. When Animal Hospital moved to its Highway 441 location, the old facility was sold to ARF.

Thompson said the building is mortgage free by bequest.

Donations are the lifeblood of the organization. Fundraising has no beginning or end as strays and unwanted litters pour in.

Special event auctions or fundraisers like last fall’s 5K and petwalk at the Oconee River Greenway support ARF operations.

Thompson admits asking for money isn’t easy. Overall, the community generosity has been amazing though a more consistent flow would boost morale.

Large scale donations kept ARF alive when the doors nearly closed two years ago.

The 501(c)3 nonprofit’s monthly bills averaging $8,000 are steady. ARF’s Peaceful Pet Crematorium’s profits assist the shelter. 

Considering that euthanized animals contaminate the soil for other wildlife, cremation is a safe and sanitary answer.

“We believe in respecting all animals living and deceased,” the ARF founder said.

Volunteers at all levels of facility maintenance, pet care and office duties are precious commodities.

“We need help all year long. In a perfect world, we could use at least six volunteers here every morning to walk dogs,” Thompson said.

After one year volunteering at the Animal Rescue Foundation’s shelter on South Wilkinson Street, ARF Board of Directors Secretary Debra Campbell said there is nothing she enjoys more.

“I haven’t regretted it for a moment. Love is like no other perk you get. If you love animals, you can’t do anything better than this,” Campbell said in regards to helping animals that can’t help themselves.

“Unwanted” animals and strays fill up the ARF building. The facility includes 12 dog runs, cat and dog isolation rooms and office space.

New animals spend two weeks in controlled isolation with a dedicated ventilation system. 

Animals receive exercise and socialization in addition to veterinarian care. No animal leaves ARF without being spayed or neutered.

A $100 adoption fee covers the cost of food, shots and spay or neuter.

Sometimes, that fee is the lone money coming in for vet bills, according to Thompson.

Luckily, nearby vets at Animal Hospital and Old Capitol Pet Care provide discounted services to ARF.

“If we did not have our veterinarians that supported us with early spaying and neutering, vaccinating and testing them and doing everything right, there would be no way we could do what we do,” Thompson said.

Often, staff members find animals abandoned out front.

“We are going to take care of these animals because apparently people think they are throwaways,” Thompson said. “We need money to improve animals’ lives.”

At the current rate, ARF only does one fix per week. A perfect world would enable the shelter to spay or neuter every animal.

ARF aims to educate the public that the majority of unregistered animals shouldn’t reproduce.

“If people took the time and money when that puppy was four months old, the cost of the surgery is minimal. If they do it before females go into heat, it reduces their chances of prostate cancer to zero,” Thompson said. “Spaying and neutering and roaming animals all go hand and hand. That’s how they get their litters of puppies and kittens.”

Until the end of the month, ARF has a reduced cat adoption fee of $25. Animals are also placed on Petfinder in hopes that the right home walks in the door.

ARF understands special needs of each potential pet.

“We know if it’s going to a good fit or not. We are looking for forever homes, but on our side we want to feel like it’s a good match. We don’t want animals brought back to us,” the ARF founder said.

Dogs and cats are fully loved at the shelter until paired with the perfect adoption scenario. No healthy animal is ever put down at ARF.

Several dogs, yet to be adopted, have spent several months or even years at the shelter. 

Campbell said staff and volunteers treat the dogs wonderfully.

“I love each and every one of these dogs,” Campbell said. “We get attached.”

Petsense allows some pet adoptions and the foundation will continue pairing with local events like Deep Roots Festival.

The caring volunteer staff makes a daily difference. Even when they probably shouldn’t help, that love of animals kicks in.

“You can’t turn them away,” Campbell said. “How do you say no?”

Visit the ARF Facebook page, animalrescuefoundation.org or call 478-454-1273 if interested in making a donation or volunteering. Tax-deductible donations are available via PayPal on the website.

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