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Posted by on October 24, 2012.

Local groups strive to save pets in trouble

Zach and Kylie McElveen of Brookhaven in their backyard with Bea.

By J.D. Moor

The 3½-year-old terrier-bulldog mix named Bea apparently had been bred to fight.

She was saved from a breeder and her photo was posted on a website affiliated with a Brookhaven-based nonprofit called Doggie Harmony. The organization places rescued dogs with families.

Kylie and Zach McElveen of Brookhaven saw Bea on the web and took her in. Soon, they were smitten.

“We fostered her for three months,” Kylie said, “and couldn’t resist keeping her.”

They adopted Bea 18 months ago.

“My wife takes Bea for drives around the neighborhood, just because she loves to ride in the car,” Zach McElveen said. “When she sees us starting to pack suitcases, she’ll hop in the car and wait there for hours. We take her on camping trips and to the beach.”

Occasionally Bea’s background can create some confusion, they admit. “We introduced her to my parents. They loved her right away, too, but they wanted to see how she could rescue someone!” Zach McElveen said. “We had to explain she was the rescuee, not rescuer!”

Liz Mansour of Brookhaven co-founded Doggie Harmony in 2009. It’s focused on matching the right people to the right dogs.

The organization finds homes for dogs that come from a variety of circumstances. Some were strays. Others belonged to owners forced to give them up. Still others come from animal control facilities, where they likely would have been killed.

“Unlike shelters, we’re never full, so the pets live,” Mansour said. “We network, find fosters. We re-home the animals.”

She estimated her organization has placed 383 dogs. Another 70 currently await safe, new homes, she said.

“All our dogs must live indoors with responsible owners. We screen all our applicants to make sure the pets are moving to a better place,” she said.

And Doggie Harmony isn’t the only local nonprofit working to save dogs and other animals that suddenly need homes.

Lucinda Shore of Buckhead founded Safe Haven 4 Pets in 2009, an organization that seeks to reunite pets with their original owners once a temporary hardship has passed.

“We’re not another pet rescue, shelter or adoption organization, because we provide foster care when owners have a displacement due to medical, financial or military issues, with the intent of placing the pet back with that family,” Shore said.

To date, they have provided some 100 animals and their original owners with more than 8,500 days of foster care, Shore said.

The average cost for this service is $10 a day, but when the hardship is job or money-related, that charge can be paid forward by the owner volunteering to foster in the future. Shore admits that it’s tough to meet the demand in all cases.

“We are keeping families together and we love what we do. But we want to be able to provide services to every family that qualifies for our services. Our 2013 goal is to raise $50,000 so we may help twice as many animals,” she said.

Dale Wintlend of Sandy Springs has an idea for an altogether different sort of animal rescue. He founded the Animal Companion Rescue Foundation in 2004, when he became concerned about what would happen to his pets if he died.

He hopes to create a place where pets can live after their owners’ deaths.

“Leaving your pet to ACRF guarantees its comfort and safety. Our facilities are designed to make them feel cozy. We will care for them for life or until they are adopted,” Wintlend said.

But first, he needs to find the land he needs to make his pet estate-planning concept a reality.

He says he has about $400,000 already set aside for the project and said he needs another $100,000 to buy land and build in the ideal place: a hilly environment with lots of trees and no cages.

Despite their differing missions, the leaders of the three organizations say they share a commitment to rescuing animals in distress.

“We face a lot of challenges,” Mansour said, “but it’s worth the stress each time we save a pet.”

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