Our Greatest Challenge

By Erin Guilshan, Executive Director, Pets Alive Westchester

1975269_620144908055668_1266341788_nOn March 14th we faced what would begin our greatest challenge in the history of Pets Alive Westchester. What started off as small cracks in our building grew to be so large that you could see through them to the outside of the building. The floors were beginning to sink in some areas, new cracks were rapidly forming, and the first floor door frames began to buckle as the second floor started to show signs of a possible collapse. We worked with a group of engineers to evaluate the issues and they determined that we had no other choice but to evacuate immediately.

The magnitude of this hit each one of us – staff, volunteers and supporters – like ton of bricks. This is our “other” home. This is a place that has a heartbeat – a love that never ends. This is what makes up the Pets Alive family and it is the bond that has been created that will not be broken. We had nearly 200 animals that we had to find placement for that day, whether it was homes, other rescues or boarding facilities, we had to get them out as soon as possible. Our needs were great and time was of the essence to get our animals out of the building safely.

By 9am our lobby was flooded with adopters, fosters, media, volunteers and concerned members of the community. We reached out to our foster network, set up teams of people to help with adoptions and to get our equipment and supplies out of the building. There had to be hundreds of people there that day that were all there to lend a hand, work together and help us in any way possible. We were grateful to have had so many caring people by our side during our darkest hours. Pets Alive is supported by many people that would do anything for the animals. This same passion we share, for helping animals, is what generated the resilient force that was needed not just on that day but in the days and weeks to follow.

There are nearly 40 Legacy dogs who were from the Elmsford Animal Shelter that became part of the PAW family and still live with us, to move them somewhere else was rascal and rosieheartbreaking. We knew it would cause them confusion and stress. We feared they would not feel the security of the only place they ever knew to be their home. As the day progressed though, we were able to find boarding for our dogs at Northwind Kennels where they are able to be walked and loved by the same staff and volunteers who have taken care of them for years.

Our cats were also of great concern as were our bunnies. Both are easily stressed which we feared could have an impact on their immune systems and their health. They need a life that is peaceful and to be uprooted like this could be very difficult on them. In a matter of a couple of hours all of our bunnies were fostered and we had many of our cats placed in rescues. Mid-Hudson Animal Aid rushed to pick up 30 cats that they brought back to their rescue. Our sister location, Pets Alive Middletown committed to 13 cats and Pibbles and Kits committed to 4 cats. There are twelve cats that are still waiting for forever homes at both Mid-Hudson Animal Aid and Pets Alive Middletown. Pibbles & Kits has 3 remaining of the 4 they took; those 3 are doing well but do have special medical needs.

Half of our animals went to homes that day. Many people came to adopt and foster giving them the best gift ever, a home. We are so grateful for all of the support our fellow rescuers, the community and volunteers have given to us. We could not have faced this without all of you.

Here is what our love looks like

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So where do we go from here?

The answer is simply that we do not have all the answers yet. The team of engineers drilled two weeks ago. They are waiting on lab results of the soil tests which are expected soon.

Our insurance is covering the drilling and testing but they have not committed to help cover the costs we are enduring at this time to continue operations including 3 storagevania units, 2 office trailers, winterizing the facility, the cost of a generator and the cost to board our dogs. Northwind Kennels kindly gave us a discount on boarding fees, but with 40 dogs living at the facility the cost has been huge at $11,000 per month ($10 per dog, per day) which at this time is an expense that we certainly are not prepared for in our already tight budgets.

We aren’t sure which direction this path is leading us quite yet but we know one thing for certain – this will not stop us from saving animals and assuring they are given the best lives possible. We will continue to save lives as we try to expand our foster network. We have wonderful volunteers and supporters who will follow our animals to the ends of the earth to make sure they are safe and loved. Our staff has shown great strength during this time while creatively thinking of new ways to handle our situation ensuring the animals are given the greatest opportunity for happiness. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing team and to be a part of the Pets Alive organization!

While we work on determining what the future of Pets Alive Westchester building will be, we really need your continued love and support. You have heard us say before that “we cannot do this alone” and that is the truth. We are incredibly grateful for the amazing outpouring of love you continue to show us and the animals.

Although we are amidst the greatest challenge in our history, together we are going to get through this and come out of it stronger and prouder than ever. We won’t give up.




Filed in Animal Rescue, Uncategorized, Updates, Why we do this by Erin Guilshan on May 07, 2014.  There are No Comments

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