Avery County Support Group brings pets to the frontlines – The Appalachian

Just as every region has its fair share of abused and neglected animals, Avery County is no different; however, two women decided to make an impression with the start of a simple Facebook page, Avery County Animal Support.

About 6.3 million animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide each year, according to estimates by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That’s pretty much the entire population of Missouri.

Avery County has a population of approximately 17,000, according to the 2020 United States Census Bureau. Turbofill.

Leka, 25, started a Facebook group to serve as a support and rescue option for abused, neglected, lost and abandoned animals in Avery County.

With no animal control, no animal rescue centers and a humane society with limited space and a strict acceptance policy, Leka and Turbyfill decided to help.

Avery County Animal Support was established in February 2021 after Leka returned to the area from her residence in Florida.

Turbyfill messaged Leka offering to help. Without Leka knowing her before the message, she accepted the offer and said that Turbyfill seemed to “fall from the sky”.

Turbyfill began working at the Avery Humane Society right out of high school, having grown up in Avery County, and embraced previous experience with stray and struggling pets.

“Almost my whole life I’ve helped animals in every way I can,” Turbyfill said. “I tried to help the animals as much as possible, but nothing on this scale.”

Leka had experience helping stray and helpless animals while attending the University of Tennessee and living in Florida before returning to her hometown in Avery County.

Ellie Leka places hot chicken in the trap, as well as Vienna sausage later to attract the pests, making the smell irresistible. (Evan Bates)

Leka said her mother used to take her and her sister to the animal shelter when she was young to play with the animals.

“Really, my earliest memory is of being at the animal shelter playing with animals,” Leka said. “Eventually we were going so much that we brought home to welcome them.”

The most defining moment of her rescue experiences was when her mother asked her to help save a litter of kittens stuck in the isolation of their neighbor’s house, Leka said.

The area was about 1 foot by 1 foot and at 6 years old Leka was the only one who could fit in that crawl space. Her mother sent her off with scissors to cut the kittens out of the insulation, saying she “remembers it so well”.

Leka and Turbyfill both work outside of their animal support organization; Turbyfill works third shift as a 911 operator at the Avery County Communications Center and Leka works virtually for a Florida-based wealth management firm.

There was a dog that had been roaming the county for months with sarcoptic mange; a contagious scabies caused by mites that burrow into the skin, especially of the head and face. Leka said her inspiration came from this dog.

Since there is no animal control in the county, everyone who tried to take the dog said she was too scared and the Avery Humane Society does not take in any animals that are sick, injured or too young to eat. hard food, Leka said.

As written on the Humane Society website, it is a “limited admission” facility. For insurance and liability reasons, they are limited to the distance they can travel to pick up an animal.

“There were a few really sad situations that made me and Ellie crazier and more angered,” Turbyfill said. “We had several that died and it always drives you so crazy.”

Avery County Animal Support provides dog kennels, bedding, cat and dog food for people in financial difficulty and assistance with neutering and neutering, Leka said.

“People, including us, are against dogs living outdoors, especially in our mountainous region, however, it is not illegal for a dog to live outdoors,” Leka said. “So if they want to keep their dog, we’ll provide them with a good doghouse and bedding.”

The group raises funds in particular to neuter and neuter the pets of people who cannot afford it.

“The only way to get us out of animal overpopulation and stop this is to neuter and neuter,” Leka said. “You can’t save your way out of it.”

Over the past year, they’ve helped about 300 pets, Leka said. Pets live in the homes of Leka and Turbyfill.

The couple got their 501(c)(3) at the end of September, which is a tax exemption for any money collected. He says no money is given to individuals or companies, but rather invested in the cause.

“The more awareness we have, the more animals we can help,” Leka said. “If we get a terribly neglected dog and post its photo, for example, five people message us about neglected animals that they know need help.”

With no rescue center or large-capacity humane society, the group transports animals throughout North Carolina and into northern states as well via “transport trains,” as Leka describes it. Across the states, people volunteer to drive animals a certain number of miles until the animal arrives where it is destined.

Group partners with Avery County NC Lost And Found Pets Facebook group. The group was created for people to post pets they’ve lost or found in Avery County, said Amy Fox, one of the group’s administrators.

“It’s kind of what we do, reach out and try to find someone who is a 501(c)(3), non-profit rescue that will take in a dog or a cat,” Fox said. . “It’s, you know, a daily passion. Ellie is the driving force.

Virginia S. Braud