The Greater Charlotte Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a small nonprofit established in 2010, already is making a big difference in the lives of dogs and cats in Mecklenburg and nearby counties.
Founder and President Alex Wilson, 42, started the all-volunteer organization in response to a need. The organization is an independent animal rescue, not affiliated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a national group Wilson says doesn't directly affiliate with other SPCAs nationwide.
Wilson's Greater Charlotte SPCA provides foster homes and arranges veterinary care for homeless animals until permanent homes can be found, educates the public on humane pet ownership and promotes spaying and neutering.
"We get our pets from just about every situation," said Wilson. Some are strays found in parking lots; others are released from high-kill shelters into the group's custody. Still others are surrendered by owners.
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As for owner surrenders, numerous situations can lead someone to give up an animal. One is a mismatch between the breed and owner expectations, which is why Wilson advocates doing research before adopting.
"They definitely want to think about the breed. Ask different people who've had the breed if that fits their type of criteria," she said.
The goal for adoptions is a good fit. "We want them to be happy, and we want the pet to be happy," said Wilson.
Adoption events are held in downtown Matthews and at the Cotswold PetSmart store and other venues, said Wilson.
All the animals are fostered by volunteers. The organization has no shelter to house animals. There are advantages to this approach, says Wilson, because it means animals are well-adjusted.
"It gets them to be more successful when they're adopted, because they know how to live in a house," she said.
Some of the animals have survived heart-rending circumstances. Louis, a black Labrador retriever/hound mixed-breed dog, was shot twice with a .22-caliber rifle. Wilson knew only that the dog had difficulty walking before x-rays revealed he had a couple bullets in a back leg and front paw. Time will tell how much surgery he requires to repair the remaining damage; for now, he's recuperating well and ready for a good home.
The group needs monetary donations and items like clean blankets, comforters and towels - used are OK - to provide animal bedding. There's a need for volunteers in various roles, from transporting animals to helping with weekend adoption events. A fundraising coordinator is especially needed: The organization has funding ideas but no one to carry them out.
Wilson says her commitment to animals sprang from adversity in her own life. She's had several bouts with cancer and other serious illness.
Though cancer is a terrible experience, she says, "It does have many blessings. It makes you understand your priorities."