Many county residents are turning over a new leaf with animal rescue advocacy, and one new group is taking a different approach to support area dogs and cats. Richmond County Animal Advocates is a non-profit organization in partnership with Last Chance Animal Rescue in New York, and they’re currently seeking volunteers, sponsors and donors.
“We are a group of concerned citizens advocating on behalf of animals in our county and shelters,” said Allison Sweatt, program director.
The group was co-founded by Whitney Knowlton, founder and executive director of Last Chance Animal Rescue.
“Last Chance is a nonprofit that’s been around for about four years,” Knowlton said. “We mainly rescue dogs from the Carolinas. Unless you’re a local person, it’s hard to affect change on a local level. This is our first pilot program for a local level and we’re hoping that by having local people running it like Allison, but being able to utilize resources available to us as a national type group, we’ll be able to supply her with the things she needs to be successful, and she’ll be able to get the community to participate in a way that will make the effort successful.
“We’re looking to provide resources, infrastructure, guidance and handing — as much support as we can — to Allison and the program so that they can effectively change the community’s views on animals and the problems forever … There are just a lot of things we’ve been working on for such a long time that we feel like, if married with that local passion and we weren’t viewed as outsiders coming in, we’d really be able to engage a community to bring this home.”
Sweatt said the Richmond County Animal Advocates’ goal is to get out in the county and help raise money for spays and neuters. They hope to be able to pull animals from shelters, help them get fixed, clean them of parasites and find them a home or rescue.
“All of our animals must go to approved homes,” Sweatt said. Through the program, interested owners must fill out an application and agree to a contract in which pets must be brought back to the advocates rather than going to an animal shelter if owners are unable to keep them.
Although the Animal Advocates program does not yet have a facility, Sweatt said it is utilizing available fosters and a temporary boarding facility to house animals until arrangements can be made.
Sweatt added that the group does not aim to compete with area shelters — it will be available to help where the shelters cannot.
“We want to move animals out of Richmond County,” she said. “We love doing local adoptions, but there are so many animals and so many homes in Richmond County. Once you saturate the county, eventually those dogs are going to come back and circulate in the shelter. We want to be the other option besides taking them there.”
The Animal Advocates group has been working diligently to boost its presence throughout the county, Sweatt said.
“We’re going to be at the Blessing of the Animals this Sunday at All Saints Episcopal Church on Henderson Street in Hamlet,” she said. “Our next event will be the Seaboard Festival. We’re always looking for volunteers. We’re going to try to partner with some of the local stores and hold adoption events — and to just make people aware that we’re here.
“We are currently seeking monthly donors and sponsors,” she added. “We’re all about spay/neuter and education because an educated person can get a lot further in this field.”
The group will meet on the first Wednesday of each month at Fiesta Brava at 6:30 p.m., and the public is invited to attend.
For more information on the Animal Advocates group, find them on Facebook at Richmond County Animal Advocates.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com