CARLISLE — An animal rescue with a local presence is working to make Union County a better place for abandoned animals.
In December 2008, Hilton Head native Whitney Knowlton founded Last Chance Animal Rescue — a volunteer-based non-profit based in New York — with a mission to save animals located in “kill” facilities in rural shelters. Knowlton said she started Last Chance Animal Rescue (LCAR) to get people’s attention about a shocking subject.
“It didn’t dawn on me at all that we were killing animals,” Knowlton said. “Most people honestly have no idea that we’re killing all these animals in this country.”
Knowlton said LCAR began with a couple of dogs, setting up a network of foster homes in New York. The rescue has since successfully adopted out over 5,000 cats and dogs. The rescue’s Middle Mutts program — which brings exposure to at-risk animals by networking through social media and email marketing — has saved over 8,000 cats and dogs since March 2011. This year, the rescue’s adoption program alone will facilitate around 1,300 adoptions.
“Over the past several years, it’s been unbelievably successful,” Knowlton said. “We have hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of foster homes; and we do adoption events across Long Island.”
Last summer, Knowlton and LCAR purchased a property in Carlisle which currently houses around 200 cats and dogs. Some of the animals are ready for adoption, and they are staying there while waiting for adoption. Some of the animals are receving medical care and attention in order to become “adoptable.” Each animal is also spayed or neutered. Knowlton said some of the animals that find sanctuary there are terminal, and others were sentenced to death by other rescues or adoption organizations that didn’t deem them adoptable.
“For many, this is just a quick stop along their journey to freedom,” Knowlton said, explaining that the animals receive attention and grooming in addition to medical care. “They come in looking like ragamuffins and leave looking like kings.”
The LCAR house and farm on Edwards Road, Carlisle, consists of numerous indoor and outdoor areas for resident animals. There are “hospital rooms,” a kitten nursery, and a “big cat” room. The property consists of three large yards, where dogs are let out to play in groups on constant rotation.
Knowlton walked around the property on Thursday, pointing out each of the animals by name and telling their stories. One of those animals was Chester, a dog who had been both shot and hit by a car. Chester was scheduled for euthanasia in New York until he was rescued by LCAR. Chester received surgery from Triangle Veterinary Clinic and is now living at LCAR.
A few of the other animals have never really been familiar with human touch and are unsocialized. LCAR’s Jessie Morgan said she loves the “underdogs” who have suffered severe trauma. Knowlton said Morgan is skilled at reaching those animals.
Animals are transported from Carlisle each Friday, traveling overnight to New York for a series of adoption events on Saturday morning.
Knowlton pointed out a sign on the wall which read, “Shelter closed to the public.” The sign was given to LCAR by the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter which was able to — with the help of LCAR — reduce the number of animal kills from 95 percent to less than 5 percent.
Knowlton said she brought the rescue to Union County to partner with the Union County Animal Shelter (UCAS) and create a “no-kill” community. LCAR officially partnered with the UCAS around five weeks ago. Knowlton said they have taken every kitten and social cat out of the shelter, and the shelter hasn’t euthanized in weeks. LCAR purchased a dozen cat kennels for the UCAS to better organize its cat room.
On Thursday, LCAR posted the following status on Facebook, which was echoed by the Union County Animal Shelter page, which re-posted it:
“This past year we acquired our farm in Carlisle with the intent of building an animal sanctuary here. We decided that we would focus all of our resources on creating a NO KILL Community right here where we are now land owners.
The Union County Animal Shelter is a HIGH KILL shelter, killing 7 out of 10 dogs and 99 percent of the cats. TODAY, THE SHELTER IS WAY OVER CAPACITY, FOLKS!! We have a really nice size transport leaving tomorrow which will leave plenty of room for newcomers… BUT WE NEED FUNDING!! There has to be someone out there who can help!! These animals will die without our help!! Many of them will die just because they are sitting in the shelter without getting the medical attention that they need. There are puppies that are just languishing there!! PLEASE HELP US HELP THEM!! We have a PROVEN MODEL that can take these animals from shelter to adoption!! PLEASE… I AM BEGGING YOU!!!”
Donations can be made to LCAR — which relies solely on donations — via paypal to the email address donations@LCARF.org.
Donations may also be made to the Union County Animal Shelter. LCAR is also holding a raffle with the shelter to raise money to buy vaccines for the shelter.
Knowlton said people are encouraged to visit their local shelters and adopt. She said people could also make a difference by contacting local representatives to express concern about the shelter.
“The only way the shelter will change is if people get involved,” Knowlton said.
LCAR is also in need of volunteers at all degrees. Knowlton said several volunteers just come in to brush cats and socialize with the animals. The rescue is also looking for potential foster homes for animals, which is typically a two-week commitment. Those who are interested in volunteering at LCAR should call 864-466-1020.
For more information about LCAR, visit www.LCARescue.org or facebook.com/LCARescue. The Union County Animal Shelter can be found at facebook.com/UCSCAS.