HOPE in FC works toward establishing animal shelter
Interested members of the community are doing what they can to help save the stray dogs and cats of Franklin County. That shared desire is what has led to the formation of HOPE in Franklin County – with HOPE standing for Helping Our Pets Everyday.
The group consists entirely of volunteers, and while they don’t have a building yet, they are already active in fostering animals as a step along the way to transitioning pets to out-of-state rescues to be adopted.
“A lot of our local shelters are packed,” explained group director Laura Bonn, “and we want to open a new shelter to provide options beyond what the county facility is currently able to do.”
Bonn said the group hopes to find a building with some land attached, with plans to house animals at the shelter and continue private home fosters as steps along the way to adoption.
HOPE in Franklin County recently obtained non-profit status, already having approval for 501(c)(3) status, paving the way for accepting donations. Bonn said they are waiting to receive their tax identification number. In the meantime, donations to assist with vet bills can be made under the account Save Our Strays at Russellville Animal Clinic.
“We’ve been able to provide fostering to 19 dogs since Jan. 1,” said Bonn. “We’re a small group of people trying to help out the community, and we strive to promote responsible pet ownership. We do this through education, sheltering, fostering and encouraging spaying and neutering.”
She said fosters are currently being arranged through Heart of Alabama Save Rescue Adopt and the Florence shelter, and all supplies are provided. “You just provide the home and the love,” explained Bonn. “Since September, my family has fostered 14 or 15 dogs in total, keeping each one anywhere from two days to three weeks, depending on the situation.”
Although she said it’s a little sad to see the foster pets go, it’s been a great experience – not only for her family but also for the neighborhood. Neighboring children will come over and play with the dogs, which Bonn said helps ensure the animals are good with children.
“When other animals are around, fostering also provides an opportunity for them to socialize and get more accustomed to other animals,” she added. “Our neighbors have been great. Everybody just loves on them.”
Bonn said she feels good knowing her family has given a pet a lot of love and helped take care of them and prepare them for a new home. “It feels good to know you’ve done what you can to help them be happy in their new home.”
The primary method for letting people know about animals needing homes is via social media, a method Bonn said has proven effective. “By the time a rescue group sees an animal, they often want them pretty quickly and find somewhere for them to be adopted. Some of the fosters my family have had have gone to homes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Chicago and several other places.”
Bonn said the group doesn’t currently have a lot of people providing fostering for the animals, and it’s something she hopes people will feel moved to assist with. “Some people worry an animal won’t get along with the pets they already have, but we haven’t had any of the dogs returned yet. People don’t realize how easy it is.”
For the Bonns, it’s a family affair taking care of the fosters, and it’s something they all enjoy.
“We just need helping hands and loving homes,” explained Baillie Bonn, Laura’s daughter. “We had never fostered until a few months ago, and I find a lot of joy from it. I love it. It feels wonderful to know we did our part to help them be successful in the next part of their journey. There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment when it’s time for them to move on, even though it’s a little sad.”
Also active in fostering dogs, Donna Hickman explained when a rescue operation steps up and commits to an animal, they animal usually has to have someone to foster them first.
“The main thing is to keep them safe. When somebody finds a dog or one is turned in or injured or anything like that, they can be fostered, and you won’t be out any money for doing it because the rescue or another organization pays for the supplies,” Hickman explained, “though there might be a situation where you would need to drive them to the vet.”
Hickman said each rescue has its own guidelines as to what they look for as preferable in locating a home for the animals, such as having a fenced yard. “Fostering is so rewarding. A lot of animals start getting healthier and happier pretty quickly,” Hickman said. “A lot of the ones that wind up needing fostering in the first place were dumped somewhere or even abused, though some are from people who needed to re-home them for one reason or another, sometimes due to health or finances or other reasons.”
“We’ve got to stop the animal abuse, dumping and neglect that a lot of people are showing their animals,” added Hickman. “We need a whole new beginning, and that’s going to take teamwork and patience and a lot of people who care working together to make things happen.”
She said another way people can help take care of their animals is by keeping them put up, instead of letting them roam free. “Some people don’t keep their animals up, and they can get lost or run over. I live in Phil Campbell, and I drive to Florence every day,” Hickman said, “and every day, I see multiple animals dead on Highway 43. It’s because people won’t keep them up, and it’s sad, but that’s what’s happening.”
Hickman said when it’s time for an animal to go to a rescue, “it’s a little sad, but it’s tears of joy. It’s so gratifying to know you were able to help by fostering an animal and then getting to see pictures of them happy in a new home.”
Another active dog fosterer, Shari Mathews, said choosing to foster an animal is an easy way to make a major impact within their community. “Fosters are an integral part of the rescue process,” she said. “Many rescues don’t have facilities for a home base, so this is a necessary service in getting them adopted while people spread the word and try to help them find homes.”
Mathews said fostering has “endless rewards,” explaining the goal is to “nurture and love” while preparing the animal to be in the best shape possible for the next home. “We’re like stepping stones on the journey for these animals.”
She explained fostering a dog can help fill a void and provide a good opportunity to teach children about compassion and responsibility. “We’re giving these dogs another chance, and it’s saving lives,” she said. “There’s not a week in the past four years I haven’t had a foster in my home. It’s about opening your heart and home and helping them along the way.”
Mathews said one reason there are so many strays is because of people failing to get their dogs and cats spayed and neutered. HOPE in Franklin County wants people to know there are programs to help pay for that, sometimes for as little as $25.
Mathews said there are “just too many dogs out there and not enough places for them to be,” and that’s why it’s so important for people to be willing to provide foster homes.
“So many are from neglectful situations,” she said, “and it’s wonderful to see how quickly a lot of them can start being happy with proper care and a chance to learn to trust people.”
She said every dog deserves their own family. “I have four dogs of my own, and with the ones I’m fostering, nine total at the moment. I can’t imagine not fostering. I love it, and my dogs enjoy having new friends.”
For more information about HOPE in Franklin County, visit the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/HOPEinFranklinCounty, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.