The money is needed for ARF’s very survival and day-to-day operations. The economic recession and a 2008 fire dealt a near-fatal blow, but the group has been able to keep its head above water thanks to donations, bequests and fundraisers.“
For that reason it came as a welcome call when Tim Chapulis, owner of the Bristol-based auction firm Tim’s, Inc., approached Johnson with the idea of a benefit auction. “It seemed like the right thing to do, since these volunteers give so generously of their time to rescue dogs and cats that otherwise would be neglected,” Chapulis said. “I’m hoping for a successful turnout.”
Johnson echoed that sentiment. “The only thing that would make me happier than Tim’s generosity would be a large crowd of people, bidding and supporting the organization. It’s hard for me to express just how much these funds are needed – and for basic things, like vet care, which can be very expensive, medicine, dog and cat food, kitty litter, bedding and much more.”
Chapulis encouraged everyone with a heart (and an item to donate) to come forward and help make the auction a success. “This sale will only be as good as the merchandise in it,” he said. “People want to help the animals, but they also want to bid on exciting, worthwhile items. And if they don't have an item to donate, they can still show support with a generous donation.”
Johnson said the sour economy has been especially trying for ARF. “People are surrendering their pets more because they just can’t afford to keep them any longer. They're also losing their homes and letting their pets run free, and these strays often end up at our facility or the pounds, which are filled to capacity or overflowing. It's a bad situation, a very bad situation.”
A cash infusion resulting from a successful auction wouldn’t fix the economy or prevent pet owners from being relaxed about letting their animals roam, but it would help defray the cost of running ARF’s shelter, a figure Johnson pegs at about $5,900 a month. “And that is based on five months of operating since we opened our doors on April 14, 2012 after being closed for over three years,” Johnson said.
She is referring to ARF’s new shelter, at 366 Main Street in Terryville. The two-story, colonial-style structure became necessary after the 2008 fire, which destroyed the previous facility. ARF was renting that kennel and the land, whereas it owns the new building now. But it is still is paying a mortgage on the land, and that presents a whole new set of problems and costs. The 2.3-acre site, for example, needs to be maintained.
On top of the mowing in the summer and plowing in the winter, there is the 5,300 square feet of indoor space that also requires upkeep. Right now that only involves the first floor – the second floor is little more than a shell. Completion on the shelter has been stalled and progress has been stopped until the necessary money is raised to finish the second floor.
At present the shelter is home to around 18 dogs and 20 cats. ARF is a no-kill shelter, so every animal there remains at ARF until it finds a home or passes away from natural causes. The shelter has 19 dog runs, two cat colony rooms, an isolation room for cats with contagious diseases, a reception area, an office, a meet-and-greet room for prospective pet owners, rest rooms and a laundry room.
Most of the animals at ARF’s shelter have come from the local pound which, sad to say, is a kill facility, as are most pounds in the state of Connecticut. It isn’t out of contempt for the dogs and cats that they are put down, it is just that pet overbreeding, animal neglect, strays and now a rotten economy have all added up to a strain on pounds everywhere – and it isn’t easing up soon.
Animal Rescue Foundation was founded in 1971, at a time when being a homeless cat or dog was actually much worse than it is today. Strays were considered expendable, and pounds in general were viewed as a necessary burden to the community. Their unlucky occupants were dealt with harshly and swiftly. Occasionally an adoption was rung up, but that was infrequent.
At its inception, ARF was one of only a small handful of animal-friendly, no-kill shelter groups. There was no Petfinder.com, no micro-chipping, no awareness of the levels of abuse and hardship many animals were enduring. ARF came into being to fight that abuse and promote public awareness of the plight facing all homeless animals in the Terryville, Bristol, Thomaston, and Waterbury area.
The auction will have a preview, from 11 a.m. until the gavel comes down on the first item at noon. ARF will be showcasing some of its shelter residents, for the enjoyment of all the bidders and buyers. Anyone with a worthy item to donate for auction is encouraged to call Tim Chapulis at (860) 459-0964. The value of the item may be used as a tax deduction next year.
For more information about Tim’s, Inc., and the first-ever auction to benefit the Animal Rescue Foundation, please log on to www.timsauction.com. For more information about the ARF and the good work it does, please log on to www.arfct.org. To reach Kathy Johnson, ARF's President, you may call her at (860) 729-2030 or you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.