By Kelley Lane-Sivley, Redstone Rocket StaffFebruary 5, 2009
An organization is trying to ensure that all pets have the love and care they deserve, especially when left behind by their owners.
A New Leash on Life is a nonprofit animal rescue organization in the Huntsville area. The all-volunteer group includes veterinarians, foster homes and others who give their time and services to help animals who have been abandoned by their owners for whatever reason.
Jodi Rutenberg, A New Leash on Life volunteer and foster mother, said a large number of the animals they help come from Redstone. Some wander into office areas. Some are found trying to raise litters wherever they could. Others are simply left in housing areas when their owners relocate without them.
"Sometimes people just move and leave them in the backyard," Rutenberg said. "The neighbors try to feed them for a while, but it's just more than they can handle so they call the MPs or the vet."
That's when A New Leash volunteers get the call from workers, neighbors or police. Springing into action, the volunteers take the animal to a veterinary partner, such as Redstone's vet clinic, for a health assessment. All animals are given shots, tested for disease and spayed or neutered. If they are healthy, they will be taken by a foster home for love and care until a new family is found for them.
"Some I'll have for just a few days," Rutenberg said. "Some you may have for a few months. In special cases, you may have them for years."
Sometimes though they are not healthy and making them so is costly. Although area veterinarians reduce costs to a minimum, bills can run into thousands of dollars for an animal who needs elaborate or multiple procedures. Named after the feisty dachshund who was the first beneficiary, the Marigold Fund was established to help pay the surgical bills. Jewel, a 10-month-old Great Dane puppy, will be the next beneficiary of the fund.
Jewel had one of her front legs broken in three places as a small puppy, the cause of which is somewhat of a mystery. The injury wasn't treated properly and has healed at a bizarre angle. Although she has learned to walk on it, an orthopedic specialist has assured Rutenberg, Jewel's foster mom, that it can be repaired.
"After several hours of assessment, Dr. (Michael) Newman determined that it could be repaired," Rutenberg said. "She will live a long and healthy life with a corrected leg."
Even with their huge discount, costs for the surgery will be about $2,500. The Marigold fund will provide the bulk of the funds. They are hoping donations will cover the rest, and hopefully replenish the fund for the next animal needing extensive care.
"We take donations all the time for animals like Jewel and Marigold who have these excessive injuries," Rutenberg said. "Those funds are set aside just for that. We will never put an animal down because the funds are not available to treat them."
The goal of the organization is to find permanent homes for the pets that it takes in. Every Saturday, A New Leash on Life holds adoption events at the PetSmart location on Carl T. Jones Drive from noon until 5 p.m. They also accept donations and applications to be a foster home there.
As much as they wish otherwise, Rutenberg acknowledges that not all animals are adoptable.
"Sometimes it's their age," she said. "Sometimes they are ill. We've also had animals that are aggressive. If you have a foster home that is experienced with that, the animal can still live a long and happy life. We don't turn away an animal because they are sick, injured, old or unadoptable."
Adoptions fees vary slightly from animal to animal and are tax deductible. While they might seem high, they are in line with what a new pet owner can reasonably expect to spend on shots, spay or neuter, and routine medical care for a new pet. The fees accomplish two things. They help replenish the funds spent on an animal so that the next can receive care. They also make sure that the adoptive family understands the care a pet needs and the cost that entails.
"We need to have funds coming in to continue the program," Rutenberg said. "We also want to know that the people who adopt can afford an animal. That's why a lot of animals end up in shelters. People don't understand the cost of adequate medical care, food and shelter."
For owners who are unable to take care of their animals or keep them in a move, the organization takes pets directly from their home. In the case of an upcoming move, they can assist owners in finding a home while they still have the animal with them, a comforting thing for many owners.
"You can be involved in the process and keep them with you until a home is found," Rutenberg said. "If you know you have orders to leave, contact us immediately. Don't just abandon your pet."
For more information, a list of pets available or to make a donation, visit their website anewleash.org. Their mailing address is A New Leash on Life Inc., P.O. Box 221, Brownsboro, AL 35741. E-mail is their preferred method of contact, Rutenberg said, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"There is nothing more gratifying that taking an animal and delivering it to its forever home," she said. "You see the bonds and attachments forming. Sometimes it breaks your heart a little bit (to let them go) but the joy is amazing."