OAKLEAF--Cassandra the Golden Retriever sat patiently on the manicured green lawn in front of the Eagle Landing Golf Club on Feb. 24. Little did she know she would play a small role in helping educate future pet owners about one of the newest entries in the animal rescue community in Northeast Florida.
Pet lovers and other animal enthusiasts turned out for the inaugural "Walk for the Animals" sponsored by Ayla’s Acres, a no-kill animal shelter in Greenville, Fla. that uses a network of home-based foster families in Clay and other Northeast Florida counties to help carry out its mission--improve the lives of animals. Sue Brink, a resident of Eagle Landing since 2006, organized Sunday’s one-mile walk. As a fellow volunteer and pet lover, she wanted to help raise awareness about the organization.
"The goal of Ayla’s Acres is to educate people more on how to treat their animals," Brink said. "We’d eventually like to go out to the schools and reach the children."
Ayla’s Acres runs a 45-acre animal sanctuary that is home to dogs, cats, horses, goats, turkeys and donkeys that have been deemed un-adoptable due to age, health or behavioral issues.
"We even have a chinchilla that someone abandoned," said Executive Director Fran Charlson.
Some animals ended up at the sanctu- ary after being abandoned, while others were simply brought there to live out the rest of the lives. The organization’s name even pays tribute to an abandoned animal. Ayla was an abandoned Great Dane that a Jacksonville family surrended.
"We need to raise money to feed and provide veterinary services to the animals. We go through 800 pounds of dog food a week and that doesn’t include any of the expenses we have for the other animals we keep," said Charlson, who drove up from St. Augustine for the event.
The nonprofit has placed dogs into homes as far south as Cocoa Beach, Tampa and Eustis and has taken in abandoned pets from as far south as Palm Coast since its incorporation in May 2012.
Another Clay County volunteer said she hoped the first-ever Clay event for the organization helps spread the word about what the organization is trying to accomplish because the need is great.
"I’m a Clay County contributor because people bring [animals] to me when they find them running loose," said volunteer Kathi Holder of Middleburg. "I’m the one who comes home to find a horse in her yard."
Vendors set up tents on the green in front of the Eagle Landing clubhouse as residents and other attendees who traveled into the development for the event, walked by and perused their wares. Brink worked hard to pull in such groups as Coastal Golden Retriever Rescue--where Cassandra patiently waited--to Sprint, an income tax preparer and even a vendor who makes homemade dog treats and others.
"We have a lot of dog walkers and owners in the neighborhood. A lot of the vendors here today live in the Eagle Landing neighborhood," Brink said.
She said a number of her neighbors she solicited, but could not attend, donated gifts for a silent auction that was held in conjunction with the walk, which was a $25 donation per walker.
Brink said it was merely a coincidence that the event was held on National Pet Adoption Weekend. And like such national events, Brink said she really just wants to educate the public more on how to love and care properly for pets.
"We provide education on how to select a pet, how to raise them, how to pick an animal that fits into your family, educate them on proper nourishment and care because they become part of your family," Brink said, stressing the need to drive home the organization’s message.
STAFF PHOTO BY ERIC CRAVEY
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OAKLEAF--Pet lovers turned out Feb. 24 at the Eagle Landing development in Oakleaf for the "Walk for the Animals" to benefit the no-kill shelter Ayla’s Acres, which operates an animal sanctuary in Greenville, Fla.