EDGEWATER — A Chicago animal shelter known for taking on some of the city's most challenging rescues and badly injured pets is gearing up to expand its mission into uncharted territory: rural Alabama.
Felines and Canines, an Edgewater shelter specializing in dogs and cats at 6379 N. Paulina St., announced recently its plans to open a second location on more than 10 acres in Madison County, Ala. known as the Felines and Canines Rescue Center.
The property will be a fully-staffed, no-kill shelter consisting of outdoor space, plus an 8,000-square-foot warehouse that will be able to house about 80 dogs and more than 50 cats as well as a surgical suite and isolation room for pregnant animals, newborns and those who are sick.
Executive Director Abby Smith and Kelly Thompson, director of development, said in the announcement they "conservatively" estimate the shelter will save and transport about 3,000 animals in the rescue center's first year alone.
The pair said they selected Northern Alabama as the final spot after reviewing several southern states, such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma, "where the animal overpopulation issues are beyond overwhelming and the euthanasia rate of 'adoptable' animals is tragically high," Smith said.
It's not that people in those areas aren't willing to care for animals, the shelter said, but many homes and shelters lack the money, space and resources to effectively facilitate a sustainable channel for adoption — a system Felines and Canines has mastered in Chicago.
"Chicago and its surrounding areas are extremely fortunate to have an abundance of resources ranging from stringent spay/neuter laws and a plethora of low-cost clinics, to hundreds of no-kill and breed-specific rescues assisting the animal control facilities," the shelter says on its website. "We believe strongly in spreading the 'wealth' and ... view the homeless animal epidemic on a national level."
"An animal in need is an animal in need no matter where they were born."
Without the proper resources, "thousands of adoptable animals lose their lives month after month," the group said.
At the new site, workers will make weekly visits to animal control facilities in the area, especially those with high rates of euthanasia, and "Immediately" bring them to the rescue center where they'll get a physical exam.
From there, the rescue center will work with a list of other shelter providers, including Felines and Canines' Chicago location, to transfer pets across the country into forever homes.
The Alabama facility also will hopefully slow the number of pets being surrendered to animal control locations, the organization said, by taking in those animals or helping those surrendering pets find the resources needed to be able to keep the animals.
So far, neighbors of the new location have been on board with the group's goals.
"The Madison County community has welcomed with open arms and hearts," the pair said on Facebook. "They want so badly to do better for these animals but simply don’t have enough resources to do it all on their own."
To finance the project, the group will need $850,000, it said.
Felines and Canines has already raised $200,000 in order to secure the property and is working on raising the additional $650,000.
If all goes well, the shelter wants to take the idea into other states.
"If you believe in us and the work we’re doing, I’m asking you to please help in any way you can," the group said. "We will put your donation to work immediately and the results will be tangible… it is an incredible opportunity to be a part of a program that could revolutionize the way the world of animal welfare operates."