Columbus area animal rescue in dire need of financial assistance
GEORGETOWN, Ga. -- Angel Dog Rescue needs some angels to rescue it.
In 11 years, the few volunteers for this no-kill shelter in southwest Georgia have saved hundreds of dogs – abandoned or abused, hurt or helpless -- from dire environments. But they have run out of space to house these dogs, and they have run out of foster homes to place these dogs.
Maxed out on credit, Angel Dog is approximately $30,000 in debt, mostly from veterinary bills, said Susan Hayley, the unpaid director. All of the funding for the nonprofit organization comes from donations. “We have no government agency supporting us,” she said.
They’ve occasionally received small grants, but they haven’t been successful in getting the larger grants that would make a substantial difference, she said.
So lately, the volunteers at Angel Dog have been forced to make heart-wrenching choices: rescue only the dogs they figure won’t survive without their help. But even that effort is at risk.
In her Georgetown home, which doubles as Angel Dog Rescue’s headquarters, Hayley has 25 dogs living with her, including 15 inside, because no more foster homes are available.
“I was all there was left,” Hayley said, “and I basically swapped furniture for dog crates in three rooms here, and I don’t have any more space without somebody being in danger, so we just desperately need somebody that can take even one dog.”
Hayley, wearing a “Life is Good” shirt, added with a laugh, “It’s so rewarding but not when there’s 25 of them.”
‘Just went downhill’
Angel Dog’s treasurer died two years ago, then “things just went downhill,” Hayley said.
“I think everybody in the area that was excited about (Angel Dog) jumped on the bandwagon, then, for one reason or another, they all got used up,” Hayley said. “I mean, we can’t rescue without a foster.”
Angel Dog serves mostly these five contiguous counties: Quitman, Clay, Randolph and Stewart in Georgia and Barbour in Alabama. But most adoptions are sought much farther away.
“We learned early on that doing adoptions in this particular area is just not dog friendly, and people don’t have the money to do it,” Hayley said. “I mean, this is a really poor community, so even when people know how to take care of dogs, they just don’t have the money. So we send them up North, and we send them to Atlanta and the Gulf and the East Coast, to Florida, to sister rescues. We’re known as a sending rescue.”
Angel Dog foster families can live “anywhere between here and Atlanta,” Hayley said, “and all the surrounding area.”
‘Breaks my heart’
Angel Dog had as many as a dozen foster homes, but over the past 11 years, “a couple of them got burned out, tried to do too many. Then a couple died, one moved away, health problems.”
Now, when she gets a phone call with an urgent request – “Please, come get this puppy before somebody hurts it!” – Hayley she sometimes must decline the chance to save a dog.
“It kills me,” she said. “I’ve never had to say no until now. It just breaks my heart. I mean, I can’t stand it.”
She keeps some of the dogs inside because she started running out of space for them in her yard, plus the shy or semi-feral dogs become more social that way, she said.
“It’s like a miracle,” she said. “It really is. … It’s the most rewarding thing in the world for them to gradually warm up to you until finally you can pet them or they give you a kiss. I mean, it’s just absolutely thrilling.”
‘Get on the phone’
The rescue process for Angel Dog almost always starts with a phone call:
“A car ran over a dog.”
“Somebody in my family took in a stray, but I don’t want it here.”
“My husband’s going to shoot it if you don’t come get it.”
“A box of puppies was left on a country road.”
Regardless of the reason, the first stop for many of the rescued dogs is the veterinarian.
“A lot of them have been hurt or abused or on chains with no protection or shelter, starved,” Hayley said. “So an awful lot of ones we get calls about are really in dire need of major medical (treatment) or surgery.”
But with Angel Dog burdened by debt, the rescue system isn’t so smooth.
“There was a time we could just take the dog to the vet and get him fixed and then worry about how we’re going to pay for it,” she said. “We’d go because we knew we had the money to pay for it or could get it easily. Now, it’s ‘Oh, my God. What am I going to do? There’s nowhere for this dog to go. I can’t be sure I’m going to get the money. The vet wants the money up front.’ So it’s hard.”
Angel Dog is down to only two veterinarians who will treat its rescued dogs without an advance payment, she said.
Hayley has “three or four” drivers available for rescues.
“If the dog is friendly, we just put it in a cage in the vehicle,” she said. “… Get on the phone right then and start trying to find a foster. That’s when we had, like, 12 people. Somebody usually had a space. And now, there are no more people.”
She has “two or three” volunteers to help her care for the dogs in her home, “but that’s not the greatest need. Yes, we’d love some more volunteers, but the greatest need is the foster homes.”
A foster home for dogs such as Slate, a young adult male pit bull mix, tan and white. Slate is recovering from surgery at a veterinary hospital in Blakely after being rescued with bite wounds on his head and ears and what looked like a dislocated hip, Hayley said. Angel Dog is trying to raise $1,000 to pay Slate’s bill.
Asked what she would do if she gets a call now about another injured stray, Hayley said, “I don’t know. I mean, I have actually had to say no a couple of times in the last few weeks, and it’s making me sick. So I don’t know.”
‘Sent by God’
Hayley has been the shelter’s only director, but she insists a beloved dog is the founding director.
Angel Dog is named after the abandoned redbone coonhound that took care of abandoned puppies until she became sick and disappeared.
One day, the dog arrived at Hayley’s door.
“She was too far gone for me to help,” Hayley lamented. “I didn’t know how to help her.”
Hayley, 78, said she almost always has had a dog at home, but she didn’t when this stray showed up.
“She came to my door for a reason,” Hayley said, “and I believe with all my heart that she literally is an angel, sent by God.”
But the dog was too sick and injured to survive, so it pains Hayley to realize she had the space to help but she was too late.
“I should have done something weeks and weeks and weeks before anything like that happened,” she said. “…I wasn’t involved in any kind of rescue before that. I was just like anybody else. I had no idea what the stray situation was like – an ignorant animal lover, I guess.”
Since that November 2005 revelation, Hayley, a retired mental health counselor, does a different kind of counseling.
“But it’s easier to help emotionally dogs than people,” she said, “because a lot of times people don’t really want to be helped, and the dogs do and they appreciate it.”
In its first year, Angel Dog rescued an estimated 100-125 dogs, Hayley said. That number quadrupled to around 450 by 2011, she said.
“After our third year, it was pretty steady,” she said. “The numbers looked awfully much the same. We do a lot of outreach. People don’t want to give up their dogs, even if we had space, but they need help. So we help with food, sometimes vaccinations for puppies, giving away a doghouse. That’s why a doghouse is on our wish list.”
That wish list for Angel Dog also includes:
▪ Pee-pee pads, smallest and largest
▪ Bed pads, large
▪ Laundry detergent, All Free Clear
▪ Bolster beds, large
▪ Raised,outdoor pet beds, medium
▪ Comforters, twin
▪ Dog food, adult Pedigree or Purina, also for sensitive stomachs, allergies, senior and small dogs
▪ Wire crates, folding, large (not jumbo), two-door
▪ Kennels, chain link, 4 feet high or 6 feet high and 10 feet long
▪ Mange treatments, Revolution, NexGard or Bravecto
▪ Flea prevention, Capstar, Revolution, Bravecto, Comfortis or Vectra 3-D
▪ Heartworm medicine, Trifexis, Heartguard, Iverheart or Revolution
▪ Toys, stuffed or unstuffed, durable chews (no raw hide or rope)
▪ Merrick GI Bones, 2-3 inches and 5-6 inches, Jeffers or Amazon
HOW TO HELP
Those interested in helping Angel Dog Rescue can email director Susan Hayley at email@example.com
Financial donations can be made through PayPal at www.angeldogrescue.com or by mailing a check to Angel Dog Rescue, 21 High St., Georgetown, Ga., 39854.
To foster a dog, Angel Dog requires a fenced yard. But folks don’t need one before they become a foster family, Hayley explained.
“Sometimes all that holds people back is not having a fence,” she said. “Then there are people who could afford to help with fencing but can’t foster.”
So she suggests matching financial donors with foster families.
“Presto, problem solved,” she said. “I recommend using chain link panels like dog kennels are made of. … If the foster doesn’t work out, it's easy to move the fencing elsewhere. It could make all the difference in getting foster volunteers to step up.”
For more information, call Angel Dog Rescue assistant director Aprille Tew at 334-695-5163.