Reprinted from an interview with M.A.I.N.’s very own Cathy Weigler on twentyfirstcenturywoman.com:
Cathy, please start off with telling us about M.A.I.N., how & why it came about?
Melisa, thank you so much for asking me to be part of your Twenty First Century Woman blog .I am truly honored. I always say it takes a village and rescue doesn’t happen in a vacuum or in a bubble. M.A.I.N. (Medical Animals In Need) would not exist without the people who support it…first and foremost the fosters and adopters who open their hearts and homes to these extremely needy animals. Anyone can pull an animal from the shelter but rescue doesn’t begin and end there! So I want to thank the fosters and adopters for allowing me to do what I love because without them, I couldn’t save even one!
I got involved in rescue in 2009 when I began volunteering and fostering for the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL). They’re the oldest and largest no-kill shelter in Arizona and the animals they rescue come primarily from our 2 county shelters and the Arizona Humane Society. After getting established, I began doing intake there so I got to go to East & West MCACC (Maricopa County Animal Care & Control) to evaluate dogs for their New Hope Program and bring them back to AAWL. That was the best feeling in the world, busting a dog out and bringing him/her to the safety of AAWL! Then something began to happen…the more I was at MCACC, the more I saw what a great need there was there and I began to feel guilty not working with the animals who needed me most. I felt this intense urgency to volunteer my time there so I signed up and became a volunteer and foster with MCACC. I spent my first winter there volunteering in the kennels, putting down blankets, cleaning soiled kennels, walking dogs and tending to the animals general needs.
Not too long afterwards, M.A.I.N. started with Kelly, Sue, Audrea, Trish and myself. All of us were shelter volunteers who came together on Facebook in January of 2012. I was volunteering and fostering for East MCACC and the other girls for West MCACC and Apache Junction, AZ area. We literally struck up a group private message, came up with the name Medical Animals In Need and started saving dogs that were going to be euthanized for medical issues the shelter couldn’t treat. The way it worked was that we each had a relationship with the shelter we worked with so they were willing to release animals to us under our personal names on medical foster status. We brought them to Bethany Animal Hospital, where Dr. Katie Andre was gracious enough to allow us to carry an account balance while we raised funds to treat the animals we pulled.
Don came along the following month and started documenting our rescues with those amazing videos that touch the hearts of so many. It’s been the heart of M.A.I.N. because it allows us to solicit donations and foster and adoptive homes…people want to see the dogs being rescued and driven to safety. The videos are a huge part of our rescue.
The 6 of us immediately created a Facebook page, which helped us enlist fosters, transporters and dog walkers for our boarding dogs and of course gave us a platform to showcase our rescue videos and in turn post each dog’s medical chip-in fund. While all this was going on, Don built our website, giving each dog a page that showcased their rescue video and photos, their foster home recovery photos and finally their adoption.
At one point at the beginning, we had a LOT of dogs in boarding at the hospital. We desperately needed volunteers to exercise and socialize the dogs so a video was made of several dogs playing at the dog park and subsequently the Dog Walkers Club (DWC) was formed! The dog walkers club consisted of a small handful of dedicated gals who went to the hospital several times a week, sometimes daily, to pick up the dogs, drive them to the dog park and spend their day providing them with the necessary stimulation to make them adoptable. Eventually we enlisted enough fosters to place them all in homes, which of course is the ultimate goal anytime we pull a dog from the shelter. Currently we have several people who’ve committed to moving us forward by supporting M.A.I.N. in the areas of adoption listings, website support, adoptive and foster home checks, fundraising, and applying for our 501c3….we’re so grateful for their support and couldn’t effectively run things without them!
There are many people who want to become involved but don’t know how – If you could give anyone advice on how to become involved, what would it be?
I constantly encourage people to sign up to become a foster and volunteer at MCACC. There is never enough help. I know it is not a place everyone feels comfortable helping – in that case I would encourage people to start somewhere like AAWL, just playing with the dogs in the play yards a couple hours a week. It’s very therapeutic for them AND you! There is also a huge need for foster homes so get with any reputable rescue group and apply to foster! If you can’t volunteer or foster, please donate toward the financial cost of caring for the animals – it’s expensive! Donating is a great way to help those in need and receive a tax deduction at the same time! Always spread the word about adopting, volunteering, fostering and giving to animals in need.
In your experience with animal rescue and in your opinion – what do Arizona residents need to do to help with this issue? What is your #1 suggestion/plea to the public?
Which leads me to my next soapbox…if there’s one thing the general public needs to know, it’s this: we live in a county that has the second highest shelter intake numbers in the entire country! We are second only to LA County, and that equals approximately 100,000 animals entering our shelter system each year…HALF of which don’t make it out! It is so important that everyone encourages their friends and family to spay and neuter their pets, to not breed and bring more animals into the world, when hundreds of thousands die needlessly each year. If you must have puppies and kittens around, then PLEASE foster for a rescue that just saved a litter from euthanasia instead! Responsible pet ownership also includes getting pets vaccinated and licensed so that if yours DOES end up lost, he/she can be returned to you instead of ending up as a stay in the shelter!
What local animal organizations is M.A.I.N. involved with? What type of businesses would M.A.I.N. like to build partnerships with?
In the future we would like to expand M.A.I.N. by developing partnerships with trainers and veterinary specialists, as well as provide training as a national model for how volunteers can work with their local shelters to save the lives of the animals that wouldn’t have a chance otherwise, specifically due to a medical need.
Anything else you’d like to share?
M.A.I.N. is always seeking donors and fosters. The thing that makes us unique from every other rescue out there is that we only take dogs listed for medical needs – we don’t pull adoptable animals, animals listed for fear, behavior or URI (Upper Respiratory Infection). If you’d like to get involved in helping us save more lives by fostering, donating or offering an area of specialty.