Saturday’s Tails and Bells gala can only be considered a big success for county volunteers working to raise funds to build a new no-kill animal shelter for the county.
The event, the first large-scale fundraiser for the shelter, raised between $25,000 and $30,000 with an additional $20,000 in pledges being taken over the course of the night.
Dr. Deborah Cowan, who has helped lead efforts to build a new shelter over the past three years, said the money raised all but insured the group would soon be able to break ground on the new facility.
“Before tonight we had already raised $140,000 through poker runs, hot dog sales and kids walking around with donation jars,” she said. “If you see people out there with jars helping to raise money for this make sure you thank them. I want to make sure that all of the people who made small donations are also recognized because they helped us raise that $140,000.”
She said the new animal shelter would be built on property the county owns in the Meadows community.
“We will hopefully be breaking ground in the next few months,” said Cowan. “We still have to get the area surveyed, but we have everything in place in terms of the rezoning and we now have enough money to do the building and innards.”
She noted that a number of materials and services for the new building, including HVAC units, cement, and garage doors, were being donated or provided at a reduced cost by area businesses.
“Three years ago we had no money and now we are almost ready to get a shelter going,” she said. “The shelter will be housing the animals and trying to adopt them out. We will still have animal control officers at the old shelter.”
She added that, as of this month, any animal leaving the current shelter would be spayed or neutered before being adopted out.
“The animal control officers will also be working very hard on fining all the people in the county who are breaking the ordinances,” she added. “They are really going to be working on going out and addressing the neglect issues.”
Cowan noted that the new shelter is intended to be a no-kill shelter, but said that if animals were brought in in a state where it was beyond the ability of a vet to help them then they would be euthanized.
She added that while the Friends of Stokes Shelter group had raised enough to start construction on a new shelter, it was still far from its goal of $400,000 to provide funding for ongoing operating costs at the new shelter.
“This will become an annual event,” she said. “We had an awesome turnout. Once we get the shelter up and running we will have to keep doing fundraisers because that is what will keep it going.”
Saturday’s gala event, held at Moore’s Springs Manor, featured guest speaker Donna Lawrence and her dog Susie.
Lawrence was attacked by a pit bull that had been neglected when she was 40, resulting in a miscarriage, the loss of the ability to ever have children and a long lasting fear of dogs.
“That day cost me a lot,” she told attendees at the gala, “but I never blamed the dog. I blame the owners who turned him into what he was. If you neglect an animal and tie them to tree and isolate them they become lonely and don’t know how to fit in.”
Lawrence began her path to recovery when she heard about Susie, a pit bull puppy who had been severely beaten, burned alive and left for dead in a Greensboro park.
“I heard her story and got to meet her,” remembered Lawrence. The two formed an almost instant bond. “It was like God used that dog to bring healing into my life.”
Lawrence said police identified the man who had abused Susie, but she soon learned that under the excising sentencing guidelines he would likely not get any jail time for his actions.
“You could burn your neighbor’s couch and get more jail time than you would for burning their dog,” she said. “I said if we can do something to stop this kind of abuse from happening I will do whatever it takes.”
That dedication started a statewide effort to get the laws changed, eventually resulting in Susie’s Law which was signed into law, complete with Susie’s paw print, in 2010. The story of Lawrence’s and Susie’s journey was turned into a Hallmark Channel movie called Susie’s Hope.
“It feels so good to wake up knowing you have made a difference in the world,” said Lawrence, adding that she has continued to fight against animal cruelty across the nation. ‘When I see Susie’s scars now all I see is her voice, her hope, her perseverance as an animal that is changing the lives of animals across the country. It is a national movement.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.