Story and photos by BEN GRAFTON
On Saturday, Dec. 11, Alaqua Animal Refuge held a Holiday Open House and Shopping Fair at its home on Whitfield Road just west of Freeport. Attendance was all that could be asked for with several hundred people in family groups on hand to shop the outdoor craft kiosks and visit the homeless animals in need of permanent loving families and, it is hoped, some good buys were made and some needy animals were adopted.
Alaqua Animal Refuge is the Emerald Coast’s premier, 501(C)3 non-profit, no-kill, abused and homeless animal shelter and adoption center which is constructed on 10 acres of picturesque farm land featuring ponds and the shade of live oak trees. It relies entirely on donations and grants to cover its $38,000 monthly outlay for operating expenses. Founded four years ago by Laurie Hood who says, “Mother’s instinct probably led me to start the center,” the Refuge is a safe haven for more than 250 domestic animals, mostly dogs and cats, but including horses, pigs, and even some emus.
The Refuge is staffed by nine paid employees and it is supported by more than twice that number of volunteers who contribute to the 45 man-hours required daily to feed the animals and clean the holding areas. A veterinarian visits the Refuge three days a week to deal with animal health issues.
Animals coming into the Refuge are quarantined until they are proved free of disease. The animals are spayed or neutered in a surgical center on site before being offered for adoption.
Since its inception the Refuge has placed more than 5,000 animals in permanent homes. Hood says the phone rings all day long with callers searching for a place to take care of needy animals. Of course, the generosity of responsible animal lovers is needed to provide homes for these unfortunate creatures.
To help with adoption or other volunteer work that will save the lives of needy animals, call (850) 880-6399 or go to www.AARFlorida.com.