Byron Couple Dedicates Their Life To Saving Shelter Animals
Animals at shelters around the country have two guardian angels from Byron who now dedicate their lives to saving animals in shelters by using Facebook.
Shane and Janet Smith aren't your ordinary pet lovers who walked into the Macon-Bibb Animal Shelter to look at animals in January. They were at the facility to save animals from death row.
"You're not just trying to get them out of the shelter, Smith said. “You're trying to get them in a good situation."
The Byron couple are the founders of Paws for Hope and Faith. The national non-profit organization issues pardons to shelters to stop euthanasia for a number of days while the couple tries to find the animals a home. It's named after their current pet Faith and a former beloved rescue dog, Hope.
“(She was) with us, 19 days after she was rescued,” Janet Smith said. “She had such an impact on everybody and I think it helped bring out the abuse awareness out even more."
The couple created a Hope Facebook page to share her story about abuse and recovery. That same page now has more than 16,000 followers and connects with rescue groups around the country.
"We didn't know it was going to get this big,” Shane said. “After we lost Hope, we just went to get her (Faith) and it grew and it grew and then we started feeling a responsibility."
Faith was adopted form the Macon shelter three weeks after Hope's death. However, Shane knew he had to do something after seeing all the animals without a home.
"I was telling Jan, we just left 74 animals at that place and (I) started thinking of a way how we could go back and get them all out, so I came up with the pardon idea," he said.
It's an agreement between the shelter and group that animals won't be killed for a certain period of time. However, selling the idea took some work.
"I couldn't get no body to sign it,” Shane said. “I asked shelters everywhere, they kind of thought I was crazy."
It wasn't until Van VanDeWalker became interim director of the Macon Animal Shelter in 2011 that Smith got the first pardon. When a pardon is issued the process is the same at the shelters they visit.
Janet takes a photo of Shane and the shelter director with the pardon. Then pictures of the animals are taken that will later be uploaded onto the Hope Facebook page.
"At the end of the day, over 100-thousand people will see this dog," said Shane while crouched down with a canine at the Macon-Bibb Animal Shelter.
A social media blitz quickly comes about as followers of the Hope Facebook page share the photos with their friends around the world to find adopters. The couple than posts updates every day.
"We don't sleep much when we're under a pardon,” Smith said. “We work all the time and we have a lot of support."
When an animal is adopted, the couple has a local rescue group pull the animal from the shelter. Shane then contacts a rescue group in the city the adopter lives. The two groups talk and work logistics on bringing the animal to its new home. In the meantime, the animal is taken to a veterinarian and quarantined for 10 days. During that time Shane arranges transport for the animal which is usually using volunteers. If no one can help with transportation, the couple will drive the animal to its new home.
Before an adopter can see the animal, Shane has a volunteer visit the home to meet the person and confirm the house is suitable for the animal to live in.
"They always ask how much does it cost, it's free."
A labor of love with no monetary pay out, except the satisfaction of saving a life.
"It's tough because we've made a big sacrifice doing what we're doing," Shane Smith said.
Tough, but the couple said it’s worth it.
"Trying to save them all everywhere we go,” Smith said. “That is the purpose, that's the only purpose."
After issuing a pardon at the Macon-Bibb Animal Shelter, the couple saved more than 80 animals that otherwise might have face the inevitable in January.
Since starting Paws for Hope and Faith, Shane and Janet have worked with shelters all over the southeast and the east coast including New York. So far they've never had an animal die on their watch. They are now in talks for a reality TV show. It's still in the early stages, but if they get the green light, cameras will follow them across the country as they rescue animals.