‘Graham Cracker’ is one of many animals ready for adoption at A New Leash on Life. A Great Pyrenees mix, Graham Cracker is two months old and weighs 11.6 pounds. Volunteers say Graham Cracker is playful and loves to explore the world around him. CONTRIBUTED

Animals get ‘a new leash’ for living from this organization

MADISON, HUNTSVILLE – Handsome and pretty dogs, cats and maybe a few other animals have filled the facilities for A New Leash on Life, and residents can help the homeless animals in several ways.

A New Leash on Life, a non-profit organization, accepts animals from crowded shelters, especially in rural areas, to avoid euthanasia and prepares the animals for adoption. Currently, an increase in animals has stretched the limits to effectively helping the animals.

“In the last several weeks, we’ve seen an increased influx of pets into shelters. They’re overcrowded. Lots and lots of shelters are having to euthanize pets at a greater rate,” Debbie Dodd said. Dodd is Director of A New Leash on Life.

“We’re trying to ramp up efforts to help save thousands more lives a year,” Dodd said. Dodd believes the COVID-19 constraints and the economy have convinced people that they can no longer be pet owners.

Dodd and other rescue coordinators are looking to the community for help. Heather Boirun, who manages Cove Life-Saving Center, said these centers need residents to foster animals. “(Our facilities) only can hold so many animals. Our fosters are huge. Most of our animals are in foster homes.”

“We provide spay and neuter for low-income families, food for pets when people can’t afford it . . . whatever we can do to help to keep that pet in its home,” Dodd said.

Dodd refutes the stigma about shelter pets having reasons for “being thrown away. They’re not. They’re wonderful. And they deserve to have a family.”

A New Leash on Life is helping Huntsville achieve a live release rate over 90 percent, compared to less than 50 percent in previous years.

“We’re always looking to expand our volunteer family. Visit anewleash.org to fill out an application. One of our biggest needs is volunteers for animal-care shifts in mornings and afternoons,” Dodd said.

A New Leash of Life also encourages dog walks, daytime adventures and sleepovers to give the dogs a break from the center. Furthermore, foster homes are a crucial part to lifesaving efforts.

Susan D. Elder offered her perspective as a volunteer: “I volunteer for weekly morning animal-care shifts. It’s truly the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I know my three to five hours per week make a huge difference for these fur babies.”

Animals can change as they learn someone cares about them. “My husband feared I would bring them all home. It’s tempting, but here’s the draw . . . When I learn the perfect match was made with a pet and a forever home, and it was facilitated in part by my helping them come out of their shell, or from teaching them simple commands, or increasing their confidence by loving them, or even by grooming them on adoption day, my day is made,” Elder said.

“All of us volunteers cheer wildly, and, yes, sometimes cry tears of joy, with each and every adoption,” Elder said.

A New Leash on Life operates thrift stores at 1296 Slaughter Road in Madison and at 707 Andrew Jackson Way NE in Huntsville.

Visit anewleash.org, anewleash.org/locations/tails-retails or Facebook.

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