by Selena Haynes | photos courtesy of Angela Chapman

We’ve all wanted to start over at one point in our lives. As humans, we have control over that, but for animals, they depend on us humans. In this issue, we are focusing on the Humane Association of Wilson County, Inc. (HWAC)., more popularly known as New Leash on Life (NLOL).

HAWC was established in 1978 and the shelter was built in 1980. Up until 2009, when they became NLOL, the shelter was a high kill facility.

NLOL reset priorities and processes so they could implement the no-kill policy. Angela Chapman, the executive director, says, “As much as I am proud that we are a place that doesn’t euthanize for space, it can still be a challenge to help all the animals in need because we do have limited space.”

There’s a waitlist and NLOL works with other rescues to help as many animals as possible. Large dogs and cats, however, tend to take longer to place. Dogs that weigh over 30 lbs are considered large. NLOL intakes over 700 animals yearly from Wilson County and those from outside of Wilson County as space allows. As soon as one is adopted, another one comes in from the waitlist.

Statistically, they receive more requests to adopt small dogs and puppies so those waitlists are usually shorter or at times, there is no wait.

As with all shelters and rescues, cats present another challenge. Cats can get pregnant as early as four months old and can have up to three litters a year. And their offspring can get pregnant at four months. They do not discriminate. It’s their instinct to mate no matter what. A female cat will stay in heat until she mates or is fixed.

Chapman says, “Even though we take in 350-375 cats annually and fix over 2,500 a year (including over 700 feral cats), we still hear so many stories of cats/kittens in need of assistance and have an ongoing waitlist of cats in need of shelter/ placement.”

More Than Just Adoptions

In addition to the adoption center, NLOL has two other primary programs. The JOY Clinic and the Paw Pantry. Both depend highly on outside funding and donations.

While The Joy Clinic isn’t a full-service veterinary office, they do offer low-cost spay/neuter and wellness services such as vaccinations. Currently, due to COVID-19, spay/neuter services have been suspended temporarily and the JOY Clinic is only open for essential veterinary services for those in the counties of Wilson, Davidson, Cumberland, Putnam, and Smith.

As for the Paw Pantry, they’re still open for dog and cat food and will assist with other needs on a case-by-case basis. The first time someone needs pet food assistance, it’s given no questions asked. After that, they do require that your pets be fixed and as long as your pets are fixed, you can stay on their pantry program for as long as you needed to. There are no address restrictions.

In the future, Chapman says they’d like to be able to create more safety net
programs that can help prevent animals from being surrendered. “We’d like to eventually offer wellness services at the clinic and even essential services. Maybe even figure out a way to assist with pet deposits. It’s a challenge to navigate cost, need, and resources but we’re always looking at other facilities’ models and programs to learn how to better help the animals and families we serve,” she says.

Another unique program NLOL offers is The Angel Fund. This fund is used to pay for medical needs of the animals at the adoption center such as x-rays, orthopedic surgery, prescription food, and help to cover expenses of animals in hospice care.

“When we take in a dog or cat that has a terminal illness, we have dedicated hospice foster homes that care for the animals and give them the best last days they can while they have a quality of life,” explains Chapman.

FUN-draisers Throughout the Year

Much of what NLOL offers require funds to be raised throughout the year. To do this, they host events during the year that bring in donations while offering fun for animals and their owners. One event, Bark in the Park, was to be held in May but due to COVID-19, it’s been moved to October. Chapman says, “Bark in
the Park has often been described by attendees at Trick or Treating for dogs, [and] ironically this year, it will even be in October so that comparison will be literal this year!”

At this year’s event, they have tons lined up including: free rabies vaccines for dogs and cats that are 12 weeks or older; games such as Musical Mats and a spoon relay race; a lure course where your dog can try out chasing a lure on a track and watch others dogs run the course. Team Zoom will host agility course performances, Royal Canin plans to offer dog food to give away and many sponsors offer fun games or giveaways. Because Bark in the Park will be in October they are encouraging costumes.

Two other events this year are the Spay-ghetti Dinner and Pooch Pool Party. The SPAY-ghetti Dinner is Sunday, June 14 at Painturo’s in Lebanon. Tickets are $10 each and include spaghetti, salad, bread and a drink. They also have a bake sale that will include cobbler and cheesecake as offerings. The dinner helps to fund the “Spay It Forward” fund to assist families in need with clinic services.

The Pooch Pool Party is Saturday, September 26 at Nashville Shores and it’s the one day of the year you can bring your pup to Nashville Shores. In August they’ll have a ticket link on their website. Proof of rabies vaccine is required to participate.

Hard Work Yields Great Reward

While there can be a lot of hard work and even heartache in the animal welfare business, there are good stories and happy endings. For Chapman, the senior animals or the hard to place animals are always the ones that stand out. She says, “They get passed over and take the longest to get placed but then once they find the family that takes them in and gives them a wonderful life, it’s just the best feeling to know we had a hand in making that possible.”

And of course, there are always cases that stick with you for years. Chapman’s was a senior dachshund named Chocolate. “She was my office shadow. We took her to events, we shared her pictures, we sent out emails and social media posts sharing that she was available,” recalls Chapman.

“Eventually, we took her to a local elder care center to give the seniors a visit and the activities director fell in love with Chocolate. She knew her neighbor had a heart for senior dogs and eventually the neighbor did adopt Chocolate. It was such a great match,” says Chapman.

Through all the hard work, there’s great reward to be had at the end of the day. “Working in animal welfare has its challenges but finding homes for the animals in our care makes the hard days worth it. When you see an animal connect with a family, it’s something that just fills your heart and fuels you to keep going to help the next animal in need. And seeing updates from adopters about how happy they are with the animal is pretty great too,” remarks Chapman.

NLOL’s combined programs help over 5,000 animals a year. The life-changing work they’re able to do is made possible by the community. “#ItTakesAVillage is my most used hashtag because it’s true. We couldn’t do this without the community,” says Chapman.

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