From a young age, Sara Shirley has always had a passion for helping animals.
“I was one of those kids that carried stray dogs up our very long driveway and would tell my mom it followed me,” said Shirley. “I don’t know where it came from, I was just born with a passion for animals.”
After years of volunteering in various animal shelters around the area, Sara Shirley had the inspiration to form one of her own.
Animal Assistance and Rescue Foundation (AARF) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing services and support to pets in need. Since its formation in 2015, they have helped hundreds of animals.
Shirley said she did not form the organization to compete with other shelters, but to complement what services are already out there.
“We focus on pulling animals that require more care than open intake shelters can manage,” Shirley said.” We’ve pulled neonates, sometimes nursing with moms. We’ve had two dogs with gunshot wounds.”
AARF is made up of a group of volunteer individuals with one mission: to assist pets and the people who care for them. The volunteers have decades of animal welfare experience and are there to do what is right and what is best for each individual situation. AARF does not have a dedicated facility for housing, and all pets are cared for in foster homes.
Through donations and volunteers, they are able to supply medical assistance and foster homes for the animals to free up space and resources in shelters. Getting animals into their programs takes time, and they need a minimum of a week to prepare for intake.
Many animals are surrendered to AARF for placement, where they provide the basic medical care and food. Once the litter is 8 weeks old, AARF will have them spayed/neutered then place them for adoption. The one stipulation is that the owner must agree to get mom spayed. Adoption fees for dogs are $125 and cats are $75. A list of adoptable animals on their website.
“We try to help the public when they reach out or if we see information about free puppies and kittens, and we want to stop that, because most free puppies and kittens are never going to get fixed. We want to get those puppies and kittens fixed and then adopt them out, including spaying the mom, making sure we are stopping the cycle where we can.”
In order for 100% of proceeds to go to helping animals, everyone who works there is a volunteer, including Shirley.
“The more volunteers we have, the more we can do,” Shirley said. “We are so small and of course everyone needs a break now and again, especially if they are fostering,” she said. We need volunteers to help set up events, to represent us, to foster, and adoption counselors.”
AARF has no set geographical guideline and helps animals all over the area. For more information about the program, to become a volunteer or foster or to donate, visit aarfalabama.com.