Georgia Animal Rescue and Defence, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit animal charity and a licensed 509(a)2 no-kill animal shelter that is funded entirely by private contributions, and receives no government funding. GARD was founded by, and is privately owned by, a family of animal lovers who have dedicated their lives to saving animals and educating others regarding the pet over-population problem. Joy Bohannon, her husband Phil Rutherford, and her mother JoAnne Bohannon, sold their homes in Vermont and moved to Georgia in 2005 for the sole purpose of helping to one day end the slaughter of innocent and healthy dogs and cats in shelters. In Vermont, and throughout the Northeastern U.S., the pet over-population problem is not quite as severe as it is in the South; mainly due to harsher winter weather conditions, stricter spay/neuter regulations, and access to more low cost spay/neuter clinics. They know the over-population problem is everywhere they just chose the area of the U.S. where it is the worst to place their efforts and passion into making things better. With Phil working a full time job to pay the bills, they began volunteering with a few local Animal Control shelters for a year. It soon became apparent that the best way to make a big difference and have the control that they needed was to purchase their own property and establish a no-kill animal shelter. The GARD Animal Shelter was born in 2006.
They battled the "good old boy" system for two years, surviving many attempts of spiteful people to shut down the rescue and the shelter. Some people did not appreciate outsiders telling them they were not doing things right (see news article 1 and news article 2) But saving these animals is their passion and the reason they get up in the morning and nobody was going to stop them, especially by spreading slanderous rumors or calling in bogus complaints, which is exactly what happened for a while. After it became apparent that GARD was not going away, and GARD gained more and more supporters/friends/volunteers, the detractors were finally silenced and the shelter has grown and flourished and saved many innocent lives and aided the community in many ways. GARD is now called upon by numerous Animal Control Shelters to help them with over-crowding, hoarding situations, and special needs dogs that no other rescue will take. GARD has been called upon by citizens in the local community to help find homes for dogs they can no longer keep, soldiers being deployed who have no one to take care of their dogs, elderly persons going to nursing homes that can no longer keep their dogs, local people who have found stray starving dogs abandoned on the roads (something we see far too much of here), and the list goes on and on. Using their contacts in the Northeast, GARD transports many of the shelter dogs north to find their forever homes. All applications are screened thoroughly. Just because the adoption numbers are high does not mean GARD lets animals go to just anybody who applies. All adoption fees and donations go back to the care of the dogs. GARD's vet bills run well over $40,000 per year. Factor in the cost of dog food,electricity, kennel staff, dog houses, shelter up keep, flea control, toys, beds, etc. and there is little to no money left over. Any overage that GARD may have at any time is used for shelter improvements. GARD's last three year's worth of tax returns are open to the public as required by the IRS (see Financials). To read more about what to expect at the GARD Animal Shelter when you visit, click HERE .
Some people just can't understand why ANYONE would want to do this with their life so they falsely assume that the owners of GARD must be making money. Why else would someone give up a normal life to work 14 hour days, 7 days a week, and face so many obstacles? They must be crazy if they aren't making money then, right? If living out your passion in life is crazy, then yes, they are crazy. Crazy for homeless dogs, and the dogs don't mind one bit.
Mission Statement: Vision and Philosophy
GARD's mission is to reduce the number of dogs and cats being killed in shelters by promoting spaying and neutering, educating the public, and by rescuing abandoned, abused, or neglected companion animals from high kill shelters and finding them loving permanent homes.
Here at GARD, we try to take a common sense approach to our animals and the responsibilities that they incur. We recognize that wildlife issues are entirely different from those of domestic animals and even among domestics one must differentiate between livestock and what we would call pets. The focus of our organization is directed toward this latter sector and the philosophy and standards that we apply to this group are not intended as an attempt on our part to alter the natural order of the animal kingdom. We believe that the stewardship of those animals we refer to as pets, whose long-term relationship to man and even their genetic makeup render them incapable of surviving unaided in the natural animal hierarchy and thus, reliant on us, requires a set of standards and commensurate responsibilities that are altogether different than what would be beneficial, or even prudent, for other classes. Although we tend to anthropomorphize a bit when it comes to the pets in our personal lives, we will refrain from doing so here. The fact remains that most of the animals that fall under the description of pet have needs that cannot be met by food, water and medical care alone. It is with this concept in our hearts and minds that we focus on the idea of our pets having a life worth living and we seek to make that happen. Most of us feel badly when we see an animal killed in the road, but tend to focus less on the ones that spend their lives without the benefit of human companionship and love. Therefore, we must include in our rescue not just the homeless and feral, but the neglected and abused as well.
A past GARD rescue site.
On the one hand, we are dealing with the immediate and pressing needs of the homeless pets that abound both in our neighborhoods and shelters and it is this pursuit that consumes the lion's share of our resources. Equally important are the quality of life issues that fall under the scope of our stewardship. This goes beyond the day-to-day treatment that an animal receives and encompasses our entire philosophy of how we treat the group as a whole. Thinking along these lines, one cannot look at the means by which we currently manage the size of the population of feral and homeless animals, primarily trapping and euthanasia, without getting the feeling that we are falling short of exercising our stewardship in the most beneficial manner. Fortunately, more effective, efficient and humane methods have been employed by others with great success. The state of Vermont, where we lived until recently, along with others have promoted low cost spay/neuter clinics through organizations such as ours to the effect that they have achieved a level of population control that is not dependent on killing animals. To be real here, not all animals can be saved. Aggressive, dangerous animals or those beyond practical medical intervention are still euthanized, but most can be saved and go on to lead lives worth living. We strive to introduce and promote such a model here in Bryan County to serve as a model for other Georgia (and beyond) counties and demonstrate that it not only works, but does so in a cost-effective, humane manner. Lastly, we devote some of our resources to promoting awareness of issues that relate to the quality of life of pets. This site includes material related to health, well-being and happiness. Please feel free to send us any links that you feel would be of value and we will try to include them. We also provide community outreach programs through schools and civic groups when requested.
That said, our efforts alone cannot possibly achieve all of this. Since we first began our rescue efforts, we have had numerous offers of assistance in the form of time, money and useful items. We have likewise had scores of offers for both permanent and foster care homes. Organizing and incorporating as Georgia Animal Rescue and Defence provides a mechanism by which we can create a structure that is capable of effectively utilizing these valuable resources to their full potential.
One step at a time...One life at a time...
GARD operates a no-kill shelter. Some of our dogs are in foster homes, but the majority are here at the shelter. While we understand that a shelter environment is obviously not as ideal as someone's home for a dog, we would rather see the dogs here at the shelter, safe from euthanasia, rather than in the freezer at animal control. Here they have plenty of food, clean water, shelter from the elements, excellent medical care, TLC from the GARD volunteers, and a second chance at life in a loving forever home. They are only here temporarily, and we are able to save many more dogs by having a no-kill shelter rather than using only foster homes.
The GARD shelter is located on 18 acres outside of Pembroke, GA, in north Bryan County. We have outdoor kennels, surfaced in concrete, and covered with roofing material. Each dog has it's own dog house in spite of the kennels being covered. In the summer, we have fans to circulate the air through the kennels and each kennel has a small baby pool for the dogs to cool off in. We also use soaker hoses at the end of each kennel in the summer time so the dogs have the option of cooling off. In the winter time, each dog house has a clean blanket, we put tarps up around the kennels at night, and have heaters in the buildings for puppies/pregnant mothers, and the infirmary. Of course, special consideration and care is given to puppies, elderly dogs, sick dogs, and pregnant mothers. We have a special building for puppies/mothers, and a large building for the quarantine and sick bay area.
There are kennels in a quarantine area, where new dogs are placed until cleared of any possible contagious ailments. All kennels are thoroughly cleaned with bleach daily and common areas for exercise are pooper scooped daily.
GARD is inspected by the Georgia Department of Agriculture regularly and any modifications or improvements suggested by inspectors are made promptly. Click here to see some pictures of the shelter.
I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands. When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat. For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that.
- W. Dayton Wedgefarth