After learning that large breed dogs sitting in local shelters for extended periods of time were having a hard time being adopted out, Kimberly Lee founded WNC Large Breed K9 Rescue in January to give big dogs a second chance.
After going into shelters to rescue large breed dogs, Lee discovered that some animals were left at the shelter simply because the owners couldn't afford to feed them.
“I found that a lot of animals in the kill shelters were there simply due to families not being able to feed them with the economy being so poor right now,” she said. “I can understand this; as I am a single mom with four very large dogs myself on a very fixed budget, so I decided to branch off the rescue to form WNC Large Breed K9 Rescue Pet Food Bank.”
Operating solely on donations funded by those who have the ability to give, Lee teamed up with local agencies such as Macon County's CareNet, geared toward feeding families, to offer similar services for pets.
Running the food bank out of her home, the food bank provided close to 1,000 pounds of food for pets in Western North Carolina in the three month period since the operation began. “I usually drop enough off for a month for all the animals in house whether it is for cats, dogs, or rabbits, it doesn't matter to us,” said Lee. “I am usually dropping food after my workday at least three times a week.”
Although Lee and the other volunteers at the rescue have been independently rescuing pets in the area on their own for years, in January of this year, Lee formally created WNC Large Breed Rescue. WNC Large Breed Rescue operates through a network of pet foster homes. “Our rescue dogs are kept in home-based fosters,” said Lee. “The fosters work them into the family so we know exactly what type of homes these dogs will do best in. All the rescues have come for horrible situations and we want them to succeed in the homes.”
Lee learns about each dog to find out if they like kids, cats, other dogs and can place them accordingly. “We require a six-page contract and home and vet checks to ensure the dogs are going to the best home,” she said.
Dogs that Lee rescues are often dogs that have been used in dog fights or as attack dogs. The foster homes work to rehabilitate each animal to give them a second chance at life. Lee decided that WNC Large Breed Rescue needed to start a food outreach to further their mission of helping animals in Western North Carolina. “This program is very near and dear to my heart being a struggling parent myself,” Lee said of her reasoning behind starting the food bank. “It is one of my personal favorite things to do rescue wise. Rescue is not only about saving animals but helping your community as much as possible in any way you can. It's about giving back and if it keeps animals out of the kill shelters that is an added bonus.”
With the struggling economy and record high unemployment rates, family pets are often the first things families have to give up to make ends meet. Lee wanted to offer an alternative option. “The families are so very grateful and I feel very blessed to be able to help them keep their family pets with them while they may be losing so many other things in their life,” she said. “I firmly believe that pets are great stress reducers and great comfort when things are going wrong; that is when you need them the most, especially the children.”
Applications for those seeking food assistance for their pets can be picked up at CareNet. Fliers containing more information about the program can be picked up at the Department of Social Services, local pet stores, Macon County Humane Society, Macon County Animal Control, and Mountain Credit Union in Sylva.