Paws, Claws, Flippers & Wings!

Showing Love to all Living Things!
Around the holiday season, many of us try to remember our local charities and lend a helping hand. We take names off angel trees at our churches, places of business or government agencies. We buy clothing and other necessities, food and toys. We support Toys for Tots and other groups that try to share the spirit of the season. But now that the holidays are over, we can turn our attention to another population that needs our help!
There are many unwanted dogs and cats in our area, but a few local shelters provide the love and care these animals need until they can find a home of their own. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that there are 70 million stray cats in the United States, 13,600 animal shelters nationwide and that 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters every year. Here in southeastern Brunswick County, there are four
animal shelters doing what they can to help decrease those numbers and place animals in their forever homes, and to care for and rehabilitate shorebirds. There are many ways we can help these groups with their efforts.



3376 St. Charles Place
(off Airport Road, near Oak Island)

The Southport-Oak Island Animal Rescue has been helping dogs and cats find homes since 1992. Cathy Fitzgerald bought the property last year from the shelter’s founder; she had volunteered for several years prior to purchasing the land. SOAR sits on three acres off Airport Road, and has room for up to 14 dogs and many, many cats. Fitzgerald works closely with Brunswick County in placing dogs. She also said that even though she is “pretty picky” when she places a dog with a family. Sometimes she gets dogs because they’re being returned after being adopted, such as when a family is splitting up or moving or there’s a new baby in the house. When a family is considering adopting a dog or cat, Fitzgerald said she tries to make sure they’ll be compatible. She also tried to make people understand she can only tell them what she knows of a dog, what she has seen as far as if a dog gets along well with other dogs, or cats. She can’t, for example, tell if a dog is going to be housebroken. “They have to do their own work with the dog,” she explained. Like other animal shelters, SOAR makes sure dogs are being placed in homes with fenced-in yards. Vet records are also checked, to make sure a prospective family has a good record of taking care of their animals, but how a family and the dog act together also plays a role. “I pretty much go by my gut feeling,” Fitzgerald said. “When people come I can see if there’s a connection. I’m pretty good at finding them a home.” Some of the buildings at SOAR are in need of repair, and some of the kennels need new roofing as well. “We have some repairs to do,” Fitzgerald said. “People could give us gift cards for Lowes or Home Depot.” Otherwise, SOAR’s wish list is similar to other shelters’ needs. Cat litter is always especially needed, as are leashes, and heartworm preventative medicine. SOAR benefits from donations from the Leland Walmart, which gives the shelter damaged bags of food, etc. Though Fitzgerald puts in a lot of hours working with the animals and taking them to appointments at the veterinarian, she knows the work she does is important. “I need to rescue someone. I just feel sorry for these poor pets. This is my way of nurturing someone,” she said.


1638 E. Beach Drive, Oak Island

The Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter, located on Oak Island, offers care and a place for rehabilitation for our feathered friends on the coast. The shelter staff, according to its mission statement, “cares for injured or orphaned shorebirds” and provides “minimum medical care, safety from predators, food and shelter from the elements.” Shelter founder and operator Mary Ellen Rogers has been helping shoreline birds since 2007. The shelter does not keep non-releasable animals or use heroic methods to sustain the quality of their life. However, volunteers do make every effort to rehabilitate an endangered species, and every animal brought there is treated with respect and caring, according to the website ( Every year, approximately 50 brown pelicans pass through the shelter, including fledges who don’t quite know how to catch their own fish and often get tangled in fishing nets or hooks and lines, and young Pelicans who ignore the instinct to migrate. More than 3,000 have been helped at the shelter, and just four of them call the facility home. Tim the Pelican serves as a good ambassador for the shelter and also helps show the newcomers how to behave at the shelter. Shadow the Barred Owl, Scarlet the Red-tailed hawk, and Lusby the fish crow help Rogers maintain her federal permits by participating in educational programs throughout the year. With that permit, Rogers can take in anything from hummingbirds to eagles. Birds can stay at the facility just 180 days. The goal is to rehabilitate birds and release them back into their natural habitats. Sometimes that is not possible, though, and Rogers tries to place them with zoos or other centers. The shelter relies heavily on donations, and can use items such as local unprocessed honey, tall kitchen bags, peroxide/ alcohol, freeze dried or canned crickets, floor mops or a hand vacuum, hair cutting shears with 2 or 3 inch blades (3 of each), butcher’s shears, gallon-sized freezer bags, sandwich sized plastic boxes (or smaller) and paper towels. The Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter is a non-profit organization that relies on donations from the Town of Oak Island, individuals and private businesses. To support the rehabilitation of wild birds, field studies and educational programs, or to find out more information, call (910) 278-7871 or send an email to The shelter also has a Facebook page.


3701 East Boiling Spring Road

At Paws Place, the goals are simple. Rescue as many dogs as possible, and place them in their forever homes. And they’d like to do it all out of a nice new shelter on N.C. 87. “There’s nothing like seeing a dog being rescued that maybe has been with us for a while and seeing the difference that dog has made for the family that has adopted them,” said Peggy Durso, Paws Place Director of Operations. “We treat all of the dogs as if they were our own.” Paws Place is a non-profit, no kill shelter just outside Boiling Spring Lakes. Monetary donations would be the easiest way to help Paws Place at the current time, Durso said. “It has been a very big challenge for us over the last three years to keep operating and to raise money for the building,” she said. They’re essentially relying on two different fundraising tracts, and when people donate toward building the shelter, sometimes it means less money for day-to-day operations. They began raising funds for the new building in 2014. But as Durso explained, if people donate things on their wish lists, like food, collars, linens, etc., then they can use monetary donations for medical bills and the capital campaign. Paws Place’s wish list includes many common household items, and would be much appreciated by the volunteers and the dogs they help. The list includes: dog food — Iams Proactive Senior, Purina Active Life, Purina One Smart Blend, Purina One Smart Puppy, Rachel Ray Just 6, high efficiency laundry detergent (powdered works best in winter because the liquid freezes in cold weather), bleach (not concentrated), Dawn dish detergent (original blue), Paper towels, 13 gallon tall kitchen trash bags, 33 gallon trash bags, weight circles from any Purina brand dry dog food — these help generate funds toward vet expenses and can be mailed to the shelter, 6’ leashes, collars — all sizes but no buckles, gently-used towels and sheets but no comforters or quilts, and gift cards for grocery or home improvement stores. There is also another way people can contribute. Paws Place is running a Buy a Brick campaign. Bricks cost either $100 or $200, depending on the size, and can be engraved to honor a loved one. For more information on building pathways at the new facility, please visit www.pawsplace. org/ or call (910) 845-7297. Completing the new building has been delayed by the weather not cooperating, but Durso is confident they will be in it by next winter. Most importantly, it’s about getting the animals out of the elements. With a building, though, volunteers will be able to do laundry and work with animals in a facility with heat, instead of the barn they currently use. Sometimes, Paws Place uses the assistance of foster families, such as when an animal is recovering from surgery or when the temperatures drop too low. A young litter of 11 puppies was sent to live with foster families December. Durso said Paws Place was much busier last year. On average, they have approximately 40 dogs at a time at Paws Place. As of mid-December, they had brought in 168 dogs and placed 161 – 60 percent more than last year. They also treated 25 dogs for heartworms, and it costs $500 per dog for treatment. All the dogs get all their shots and are spayed or neutered before they’re adopted. Durso said she hopes people know they can really make a difference. “There is always some way you can help, whether it’s liking our post on Facebook or volunteering,” she said. “We would love to make people Paws Place Partners, even if they commit to $10 a month. It would be helpful if people could just commit like they do for bill paying. If all of our Facebook likes would translate to $5 a month…and then we could know exactly how much we were getting.”

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