Animals for Awareness is the name I attached to my concept back in 1993. In 1997 Animals for Awareness was finally incorporated, and in July of 1999 we received news that we were now a 501(c)(3) organization! I’m Kim Schilling, Director of a very special place for very special animals. I’ve always loved animals, from the tiniest critters to the largest beasts, from the domestic to the wild and exotic. Like many people out there, I have a simple dream. To make a positive difference in the lives of a few unfortunate and misunderstood animals. Animals for Awareness accomplishes this through two things: Sheltering and Education.
This concept actually started to blossom in my head during the several years I volunteered at another animal shelter. There I saw many horrible things happen to even the healthy dogs and cats. The wildlife and exotic critters that entered that shelter faced an even more uncertain future. The staff was often ill equipped to deal with unusual animals. This sometimes led to starvation, illness and death. Some of the animals never even had a chance! They met with the “better off dead than in captivity” philosophy possessed by the leaders of that shelter. I had to get out and get out fast! I wanted to provide a safe alternative to this shelter. And it’s working!
Why a NO-KILL policy? First of all, we want to acknowledge to the rest of the shelters and community that the no-kill policy is not always recognized as humane, economical or logistically feasible. AFA chooses its no-kill status currently because WE CAN. A no-kill status does not mean “better” in all situations. Many shelters out there have no choice due to the countless numbers of animals being brought to them on a daily basis. There just aren’t enough homes and room must be made for new arrivals. Because we are a small, private organization we must turn away many animals because we just don’t have the room or the funds to care for all of them. Others believe that death is better than a life in a cage with no family to share it with. While AFA also believes this to be the case in some circumstances, our caged critters receive a great deal of attention and affection from volunteers and visitors. Every animal is viewed as part of the family.
We take in exotic and wild animals that most dog and cat shelters aren’t equipped for or knowledgeable enough to deal with. With 4 exotic animal vets in our corner and hundreds of other resources, we educate ourselves and our volunteers thoroughly on every animal that enters our facility. We are not experts on any animal, and many times we learn as we go! If we can’t house the critter safely and permanently, we find a good facility that can.
Animals for Awareness is run by only a handful of phenomenal volunteers! Approximately 75% of our income is derived from educational programs. The rest comes from generous donations. Because of our size and our no-kill policy, we can’t take in everything that comes our way. For now, we often have to refer some of the animals to other facilities that share policies similar to our own. But we have BIG, BIG dreams of moving out and expanding to accommodate the needs of every animal as best we can! That means making more room for the animals and turning fewer of them away!
So where do these animals come from? They come from all over the United States! Many come via referrals or directly from zoos, animal controls and other shelters. Others arrive by word of mouth.
So, what happens once an animal is taken in by Animals for Awareness?
All animals are immediately given a thorough exam by one of our veterinarians. In fact, most intakes are done right at the clinic so that the shelter animals aren’t exposed to anything the newcomer might be harboring. If applicable, blood tests are done to rule out deadly or contagious diseases, and healthy animals are vaccinated appropriately. Some animals can’t be vaccinated because there isn’t an approved vaccine for them.
Sick or injured animals are assessed carefully to determine the seriousness of the illness or injury. ALL animals are treated fully unless the animal’s suffering far outweighs the chance of recovery. Cost of treatment does not currently influence this decision.
Injured wildlife is further assessed to determine if treatment will yield a releasable animal. If not, a decision is made to either euthanize the animal or proceed with treatment. Treatment is always chosen if a suitable facility can house the non-releasable animal AND the animal’s quality of life can be reasonably maintained.
Healthy, rehabbed wildlife is legally released in a safe, uninhabited environment as soon as possible.
Most healthy non-releasable wildlife and exotic animals are neutered or spayed right away. The youngsters are done at an appropriate age.
Releasable wildlife goes directly to one of our Directors who is a federally and state licensed wildlife rehabilitator with 25+ years of experience. Our rehabber Vicki is also licensed to care for raptors and deer.
Critters staying with Animals for Awareness are housed for the remainder of their natural lives. Occasionally an animal will be placed into another USDA facility better suited to meet that animal’s needs. Less exotic critters are often placed up for adoption. Animals with good temperaments or those that can be easily and safely displayed are used in our educational programs.