Local animal lovers working with shelters around the area are worried the recent tragic discovery of animal remains at Loonie Farms in Long County may negatively affect other facilities’ ability to draw support and raise funds.
A few weeks ago, representatives from several animal-rescue operations arrived at Loonie Farms Animal Rescue to pick up animals after operator Christiane Judd said she was closing up shop. Instead, the volunteers found piles of bones and animal carcasses that supposedly were being cared for through donations from locals.
“We’ve all been asking the public to please realize there’s always a bad apple in the basket, but it doesn’t mean you throw the whole basket out. There are really truly caring people in the backwoods here,” said Jean Ann Lingle, transport coordinator for Animal Haven of Hope Society Inc.
Lingle and others removed some animals from the Loonie Farms site and currently are trying to nurse them back to health.
“To me, it’s disgusting. I know a lot of the people who chipped in,” Lingle said of the funding that was supposed to be used to operate the shelter. “That’s disgusting. On top of all of that, it gives us a bad name.”
Although Lingle’s group does not have a facility to keep animals, she sets up stray animals with foster homes to live in until permanent residences can be found. The animal needs are taken care of through donations and fundraisers, a breakdown shown on a 2008 990-EZ form on the group’s website.
“We’re here to be honest and open. We like to say that we’re a transparent organization,” Lingle said. “Not everybody shoots dogs, kills cats and leaves them all over the property. We do everything we can. Just give us a chance.”
The 2-year-old Long County-based organization also has foster homes for animals in Liberty, Wayne and Bryan counties.
The Liberty County Animal Control Shelter, which is not a no-kill shelter, works with Meike Wilder, who is the CEO of Carpathia Paws, to get animals out of the center and into homes. Wilder purchased her own million-dollar insurance policy to have access to the county-run building that very few people are allowed to go into, including members of the public.
Wilder also works with a few volunteers and brings the animals out of the shelter to get the pets out of Liberty County where she says they are not wanted. Volunteers generally work with a caravan that comes down from New Jersey to pick up animals and adopt them out on the way back up along the east coast. Her inspections and research of the organizations also must be thorough to prevent a repeat of the Loonie Farms catastrophe, she said.
“There was a few local adoptions and then you find the animals back at animal control,” Wilder said. “Why adopt it back into the same community where it’s not wanted? What we’re trying to do is get them out of this area. The mentality is just very different up there.”
Wilder said she suspected something was going on at Loonie Farms when a local resident gave the shelter 35 dogs and some expensive equipment in which to house animals and the dogs disappeared with no proof of adoption papers. An inspection from the Department of Agriculture was conducted and nothing was done, she said.
“It was overwhelming. I didn’t expect that many bones or carcasses. We knew something was going on a year ago, and no one listened to us,” she said of the Department of Agriculture’s inspection. “I think a lot of it could have been prevented if someone had listened.”
Liberty Humane Shelter Director Sandra Frye said she had no idea what was going on at Loonie Farms. She said the shelter had dropped off several animals, all of which were placed in good homes.
As for those who want to adopt a pet or make sure their donations are being put to good use, Frye encourages people to drop by her shelter any time.
“I don’t have time to be the rescue police. That’s the Department of Agriculture’s job, not mine,” she said. “I didn’t feel anything (was wrong). I hope they do a really good investigation.”