By Emily Topper | firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking care of animals has never been an easy task — especially not for Fran Charlson, the director of Ayla’s Acres. The animal sanctuary that Charlson runs is located on 45 grassy acres in Greenville, FL. Currently, the sanctuary harbors over 300 animals: from dogs and cats to horses, goats and even a donkey.
“We spend about $7,000 to $10,000 a month on the needs of the sanctuary animals alone,” Charlson stated.
But those aren’t the only animals the sanctuary cares for. Ayla’s Acres (which received its non-profit status last February) also rescues pets from all over the St. Augustine area.
“The dogs and cats we find need to be spayed and neutered in addition to the sanctuary animals,” said Charlson. “But we don’t have enough funds for all of them.”
Since the opening of the sanctuary in April, the number of homes needed for these animals has been on the rise.
“Since last April, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of animals that need homes,” Charlson said.
She’s right. Every year, over 30,000 animals are put down in Central and North Florida that have been taking up room in other shelters too long. “The economy is still bad, and people can’t care for their animals anymore. We need people to step up and become foster parents, as well as adopt.”
Yet, despite the need for homes that Charlson and her team face, they do not simply let anyone adopt animals.
“We go to the houses of potential ‘parents’ after they fill out an adoption form on our website,” explained Lisa Lesik, a volunteer. She and the rest of the volunteer team want to make sure that the animals are in the best hands possible, just as they are at the sanctuary where dedicated animal lovers tend to them constantly.
Despite the multiple challenges that volunteers of the sanctuary face in finding homes, there is still a huge reward when a suitable match becomes available for these animals.
“I end up getting attached to the animals, but finding new homes for them is rewarding. I know that we’ve found better places for them to live out their lives,” said Lesik.
Although Ayla’s Acres is filled with dedicated volunteers like Lesik, the organization is always looking for more help — whether through funds, food donations or volunteers.
“We go through about 800 pounds of dry dog food a week,” said Charlson, “and we are always in need of more, as well as kitty litter and hay for horses.”
Donations are greatly appreciated, and the team even has a bin set up for food donations by the entrance of Publix at Cobblestone Village in St. Augustine. The brand Pedigree is recommended for dry dog food donations, but cat food is also a constant need.
Interested volunteers can go to www.aylasacres.org and fill out an application form. There are also forms on the website for interested foster parents.