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Animal rescue's best year may be its last year

The North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue is having its best year – more dog rescues, adult dog adoptions and volunteer support than ever.

Its best year could also be its last.

The rescue, which moved from Charlotte to Harrisburg in 2004, has lost its major source of funding, which contributed about $2,000 monthly.

“We can't afford the property,” said the nonprofit's founder, Beth Phillips. “The property will be going up for sale this fall.”

Phillips has never earned a salary at the rescue. It's a labor of compassion, staffed mostly by volunteers.

She started the rescue in 1998 at her 3-acre property near Freedom Drive. She took in abandoned animals and arranged adoptions.

Phillips was leaving her driveway one afternoon and spotted a dog wandering in traffic on a busy thoroughfare. Another motorist stopped, too.

Phillips and the other driver, Terry Fillow, developed a friendship because of the mixed-breed chow. Fillow and her husband, Steve, have been major contributors for about eight years.

“Over the years, we've seen things that would just make you bawl like a baby,” Fillow said. “We've pulled them out of those situations and found them homes.”

That will change when Steve Fillow's job ends in February.

His paycheck helps pay the mortgage on the 7.5-acre Harrisburg property where the three have had residences and run an expanded rescue operation since 2003.

There are also other monthly expenses, including utilities, dog food bills, and spaying and neutering bills.

The rescue arranged 354 adoptions of puppies and dogs of various breeds in 2007, about 10 percent of them adult dogs.

So far this year, the rescue has arranged about 130 adoptions, including about 20 percent to 25 percent adult dogs.

Phillips also found a home for a pit bull named Gunny who was abandoned after an injury that required amputation of a leg. Phillips and others say the injury likely occurred in a dog-fighting operation.

About 36 dogs are awaiting adoption now.

The team often invests $100 for a healthy puppy to $400 or more for an adult dog, while adoptions cost $175, Fillow said.

Donations have never come close to meeting expenses.

“We're not marketers,” Phillips said. “I'm sure there's much more we could have raised. We're always in the red by several thousand by the end of the year. That's basic. It doesn't incorporate mortgage or utilities.”

The organization will continue arranging adoptions as long as possible. Phillips and the Fillows plan to keep any dogs that haven't been adopted when they go separate ways.

“We're both very sad,” Phillips said, frustrated that independent local rescue operations get less support than national and municipal ones. “I'm happy they get money. (Donors) just don't know there are private rescues that need money as well.”