Finding ‘fur-ever’ homes

Pets / September 11, 2017

Local nonprofit fills niche

Hot Springs is filled with caring individuals who go out of their way on a daily basis to make a difference in the lives of others. For some, that may mean volunteering with children or the elderly, but others find where they’re needed most is serving friends of the four-legged variety.

Guardian Angels Cat Rescue and Adoption Shelter, 907 Hobson Ave., is a nonprofit, volunteer based, organization dedicated to providing shelter and assistance to stray, abandoned, injured, abused and otherwise homeless cats and kittens. Their ultimate goal is to find each feline a “forever home.”

“I think (we do this because) it gives us a sense of satisfaction knowing that we’re donating time to a really good organization that tries very hard. We’re
filling a niche that Hot Springs didn’t have for a very very long time,” said Nina Taylor, Public Relations Liaison for the shelter.

The no-kill shelter was first opened in 2001 by Virginia Harvey and associates. They initially started keeping the cats in their own homes, but the profound need was unforeseen, and the operation soon outgrew its humble beginnings. Since then, the shelter has relocated several times, but they have finally found somewhere they want to be their “forever home.”

“When we found out we had to move out of our building in Indiandale Shopping

Volunteer Leta Chavis

Volunteer Leta Chavis

Center, we put a notice out that we were looking for a new building; I’d say at least five businesses stepped forward and said that they would have a fundraiser for us. The community support is awesome,” said Taylor.

The building on Hobson Avenue is now rented to the shelter, but the volunteers are working tirelessly to raise enough funds to purchase the building they have already put so much hard work into. In just a little over a year, the volunteers have completed major renovations to the shelter upstairs, and are now focusing on the thrift shop on the first floor.

The shelter itself is state-of-the-art, equipped with several rooms for the cats to roam free, a cleaning station, a transition room and a medical room used to treat any sick cats that come to them. The volunteers take great pride in the impeccable condition of the shelter, making sure to change out litter boxes, food and water bowls and linens on a daily basis.

Volunteers at the shelter work to ensure that no cat is ever turned away, and gladly take responsibility for abandoned and injured animals that are brought in, to make sure they have a decent shot at a better future.

During the summer months, the shelter sees an increase in the number of kittens brought in. The volunteers put forth their best efforts to educate the community on the importance of keeping pets spayed and neutered, but there is always an excess of litters this time of year.

“All the baby kittens that come in go to foster homes. We don’t want them in the shelter because they are susceptible to catch anything,” said Patt Bonnette, manager of the thrift store.

Once the kittens reach 4 pounds, they are sent to Pet Smart for adoption. The HER PETSshelter does house young adult and adult cats on location, patiently waiting for their “fur-ever” homes. Those looking to adopt a cat should stop by the shelter on Tuesdays or Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The thrift shop is the organization’s main source of income. It depends on members of the community to donate household items as much as they de- pend on those who shop in the store. Without the support of the community none of their work would be possible, the volunteers say.

Inside the thrift shop, patrons can find everything from basic household necessities, to larger items like furniture. At this point, the shelter is not accepting clothing donations, but other items can be brought by during regular business hours of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Volunteers have taken on the renovations themselves. When the funding becomes available, they plan on upgrading one of the side entrances, installing more windows, a new cooling unit, a pump to combat flooding issues on the ground floor, a drop ceiling and opening up the backroom to expand the square footage of the thrift store.

“We’ve totally redone the area where the cats are kept,” said Taylor. To fund the renovations, and eventually purchase the building, the shelter holds various fundraising events throughout the year. From now until Aug. 29, volunteers are selling raffle tickets for a handmade quilt. Proceeds from the raffle will be used to eventually purchase the building.

The very colorful quilt was hand-stitched by two of the shelter’s volunteers, Linda Beal and Gail Zukowski. The 65-by-65-inch quilt is covered in a variety of cats. Tickets can be purchased either at the shelter, or online at, and are $1 each or 6 tickets for $5. The winner will be announced Aug. 29.

“(In the future,) I’d like to do as much community outreach as possible but it’s a matter of having more money and more volunteers. Most of us are here simply because we love animals, and I’d like to see more of that in the years to come,” said Diane Jones, who manages operations at the shelter.

Grace Brown

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September 11, 2017