Community Stories

Huntsville Group To Open Halfway House For Rescue Animals

Roscoe was a 10-year-old, totally blind, chihuahua mix when his owners decided it was too much trouble to take care of him and dropped him off at a rural shelter. Thanks to an undescended testicle that made it hard to tell if he had been neutered, vets and nurses had been poking at his boy parts for several days.

Then, Friends of Rescue, a group out of Huntsville, pulled him from the shelter to give him a better life. Roscoe was confused and grumpy when he first came to his foster home, but he calmed down once he got his bearings in his new surroundings.

After a few days, Roscoe joined a truck full of other animals headed to Felines & Canines, a rescue group out of Chicago, where he quickly found a new home.

For the past seven months, Friends of Rescue have been pulling animals from high-kill shelters and placing them in foster homes until they could arrange a transport to Chicago. But when Felines & Canines directors came to see the North Alabama shelters, the two groups decided there must be a way to help more animals.

That’s when they developed the idea for the Felines & Canines Rescue Center in Owens Cross Roads, Bethany Marbut, one of the leaders for Friends of Rescue, said.

“It’s a halfway house, if you will, where animals can be pulled from other shelters and held and vaccinated and everything until they can go on a transport,” Bethany said. “It won’t just be, obviously, to Felines & Canines, but to other areas and groups in the Chicago area who also have the same need to place adoptable (animals) in the home.”

The 8,000-square-foot facility will be able to house up approximately 90 dogs and 50 cats in a temperature-controlled environment. There will be an on-site medical suite, proper isolation areas, bathing areas, and an adoption room for local adoptions. Animals desired by the community will be adopted locally to qualified adopters, the remaining animals will be transported to receiving no-kill rescues up north.

“By having a safe haven, we are able to immediately transfer animals at-risk out of an animal control and directly into our facility,” according to the Felines and Canines Rescue Center website. “Without this facility, we are greatly limited to the number of animals we are able to save as we’re dependent on a limited number of foster homes who must be available to care for a new animal with little-to-no notice.”

The Felines and Canines Rescue Center anticipates they will be able to rescue approximately 3,000 homeless Alabama animals in the first year alone.

How It Started

In March 2016, Felines and Canines reached out to Bethany to see how they could work together.

“We knew we had the animals, and we knew they had the need,” Bethany said. “The logistics were the problem—getting the animals from here to there.”

One volunteer at Friends of Rescue had logistics experience, though doubtfully in the area of moving dogs and cats across state lines, and offered to drive the animals up north in a rented moving truck. They soon had drivers lined up to make the 600-mile trip once a month. For the next year, teams of drivers set off in the wee hours of the morning to take a truckload of animals to Chicago.

As a responsible adoption facility, Felines & Canines has a screening process that requires potential adopters to meet with adoption counselors and complete an application before they can take an animal home—people start lining up hours before they open to adopt a cat or dog from Alabama.

More than six months later, Felines & Canines is under contract on a property in Madison County and undergoing a major capital campaign to raise the money needed to pay for the property and renovate the existing facility to transform it into a high-functioning animal shelter.

Why Chicago?

So, why do we have to send Alabama animals up north? And why don’t they have many stray animals? There are a few reasons. First, spay and neuter, no-tethering laws, and animal cruelty laws are much stricter in the northern states. Second, most people in Chicago live in apartments instead of homes. Alabama animals get loose because they jump over a fence, but that doesn’t happen when pet owners live in an apartment building and the front door opens into an enclosed hallway, Bethany said.

Huntsville Animal Services is getting close to being a no-kill shelter, but the rural shelters in the surrounding areas often don’t have the resources needed to deal with the high number of stray animals coming through their doors. Some of these shelters even have a euthanasia rate of up to 70 percent, Bethany said.

Right now Felines & Canines are relying on individual donations to complete the project and cover future operating costs in order to make this a reality for the animals in need in Alabama. If you’d like to donate to the Felines and Canines Rescue Center, check out their website or find them on Facebook.

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About the author


Jessie Harbin

Jessie is a newlywed living in Meridianville with her husband and three dogs. She's learning to sail on their 26-foot sailboat in Guntersville. At the time of publication, nobody has fallen ill because of her cooking.

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