By Emma Castleberry
In 2017, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue put its adoption center on the market and decided to focus all efforts on its sanctuary. Recognizing that this would result in a loss of important regional rescue services for homeless cats and dogs, a group of volunteers gathered that same year to found Mountain Pet Rescue Asheville (MPRA). “We unanimously agreed that there was a need for a new pet rescue to be founded in the Asheville community,” says president Joelle Warren, who co-founded the organization with Erica Paschold. “MPRA is a grassroots, community-oriented organization. We wanted to have an organization that focused on saving dogs and cats and finding them homes.”
MPRA is a foster-based organization, which means it does not operate a shelter or adoption center. Instead, the organization takes animals from shelters and places them into foster homes with temporary owners until they can be adopted. This alleviates the capacity burden on shelters. “We also take owner-surrendered pets when we can,” says Warren, “but only after we have tried to connect people to resources to try and help them keep their pets.”
The foster model allows the organization and volunteers to learn more about the animal in a home environment, increasing the likelihood that they can find a good adoption setting for the animal. “Fostering helps us in our role as matchmakers to find the right person, with the right lifestyle, to match to a dog or cat’s needs and personality,” says Warren. Foster settings also allow volunteers to work on any behavioral issues that come to light. “Whether it be stranger danger or housebreaking needs, our fosters are able to work on those while in our care and discuss these needs or issues with adopters to give them tips or management strategies to work with behaviors.”
That said, the foster model also has its drawbacks. If a foster home doesn’t work out, there is no shelter to send the animal back to. Instead, staff and volunteers are left scrambling to find a new foster home for the animal. “This is the biggest challenge—not having a facility for the pet to bounce back to if needed,” says Warren. “But we are incredibly resourceful and can usually work it out.”
It takes a unique person to be a successful foster parent for a rescued animal, and MPRA works hard to pair the right foster homes with each pet. “Anyone can foster an animal, but the challenging part is to find your niche,” says Warren. Some fosters prefer a certain breed or age of animal, depending on their household needs.
Denise Stone learned about MPRA because she was looking to work with a new rescue after Brother Wolf closed its adoption center. Stone has been a foster with three different organizations over the past six years, offering a home to more than 300 cats and kittens in that time. She says the leadership at MPRA is what makes the organization great. “I love the teamwork at MPRA,” she says. “It takes a village. Joelle and Erica are great to work with and they are appreciative of my help. That makes all the difference in the world.”
Ellen Lukens has been a foster volunteer with MPRA since the organization began. Before joining MPRA, she had some negative experiences as a rescue volunteer in the past. Lukens says that MPRA renewed her faith in the ability of rescue organizations to operate effectively. “Many rescues get bogged down by people’s egos,” she says. “The current leadership of MPRA focuses on the end goal of rescuing animals and they understand how important volunteers are to reach those goals. They show respect to the many volunteers who help every day. They listen to others and encourage open dialogue. They collaborate with other rescues and organizations which allows them to pull in and adopt out more animals.”
MPRA is funded by proceeds from its thrift store, The Thrift Hound, as well as individual donations and fundraising events. In 2018, the organization adopted out about 200 cats and dogs and in 2019, that number tripled to 601. “The rapid growth of MPRA proves that there is a need for our presence,” says Warren. “We wanted to be Mountain Pet Rescue so we could service all surrounding counties here in our beautiful mountains. We want to help them all.”
For more information on how to support MPRA, visit MountainPetRescueAVL.org.