Valley Animal Rescue needs some help
Julie Bilton, cat foster co-ordinator with the Valley Animal Rescue, sits with rescue dog Hunter, who recently found a home.
A group of volunteers on the verge of burning out is looking for new people to join in its mission to rescue animals across Renfrew County.
With nearly one year of operation in the books, the Douglas-based Valley Animal Rescue (VAR) has placed 21 cats and 13 dogs with loving, forever homes after rescuing them, in most cases, from death.
Talks about starting a rescue organization started more than a year ago with people who wanted to do something about homeless animals in Renfrew. The idea was to create something of their own so they could have more control.
The organization is a nonprofit run completely by volunteers and with only a small core group of members on the executive committee, as much as they enjoy saving the animals, they are burning out, according to Valerie Hutchinson, co-founder, president and adoption co-ordinator of VAR.
When they started, she never imagined how great a need there was for unwanted animals in Renfrew County. The organization does not receive funding from any source other than what is raised by the volunteers.
Despite running themselves ragged in the past year and pouring everything they have into their rescue efforts, including various fundraisers, Hutchinson and cat foster co-ordinator Julie Bilton are still finding people who’ve never heard of their group so they are trying to expand their reach.
“It is almost a 24-hour-a-day operation and we are getting to burn-out levels,” Hutchinson said. “We are willing to do the work, but we need help and some corporate sponsorships. We really want to continue to make a difference.”
Currently they are in desperate need of foster homes, which are their life-blood. Foster homes are committed volunteers who provide temporary homes, anywhere from a week to a month, to animals in need. Pet foster parents raise kittens, puppies and other animals until they are old enough to be adopted and they also care for sick, injured or abused animals until they are ready to be adopted.
“Our foster homes are great and willing to work with the animals, but we need more,” Hutchinson said. “A lot of these animals come with baggage.”
Valley Animal Rescue has foster homes throughout the Ottawa Valley and beyond, but they still need more. The organization’s highest priority is rescuing animals from the pound, as well as homeless, neglected and abused animals.
VAR prides itself on a vigorous screening process for potential adoptive homes to ensure a good match to limit further stress to the animals, as many have already endured trauma.
“We want to pick the family that is best for the animal,” Bilton said.
In the adoption contract, it also stipulates that if the family cannot keep the animal for any reason it must be returned to the VAR, Hutchinson noted.
While the organization would like to help every animal in need, it is limited by the number of volunteers and money coming into its coffers. The VAR covers all of the costs associated with fostering the animals and also pays to have the animals spayed or neutered, treated for parasites, vaccinated, checked for fleas and microchipped.
The adoption rates cover between 30 and 40 per cent of the medical costs for the animals, so the shortfall continues to grow. The goal right now is to cover the veterinary bill for January, which was $3,500. According to the treasurer’s report for April 1, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2012 VAR received $2,178.06 in donations, raised $4,634.66 and collected $2,350 through adoptions for a total of $9,162.72. In the same time it spent $7,587.97, including $5,671.97 in veterinary care. The volunteers cover their own travel expenses out of their own pockets.
The group has some upcoming fundraisers, but is also looking for people to help organize fundraising events. On Feb. 11 the VAR Snowflake Auction begins on Facebook. The organization is still looking for items that can be included as part of the online auction.
The Raise the Woof comedy show is also coming to the AFAC 433 Wing in Renfrew March 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at various locations. Raise the Woof is a stand-up comedy tour that works with local animal rescues, helping spread awareness and raising money.
VAR will also accept donations of food and toys, beds and leashes or gas cards to help cover travel expenses.
For anyone interested in becoming a foster home, adopting one of the animals currently available or volunteering in another capacity, or for more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ValleyAnimalRescue to see the animals up for adoption.
Tina Peplinskie is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist