By NATHAN GREGORY
When Megan Bridges officially incorporated Starkville-based Grassroots Animal Rescue in December 2011, her mission was unchanged from when she started fostering animals six years before: Save the lives of abandoned cats and dogs and find them homes.
Grassroots started unofficially when Bridges, the organizationâs director, met eventual assistant director Kendra Wright walking their dogs at Moncrief Park when both were Mississippi State University students. The organization unofficially started in 2010. In the organizationâs half-year of existence, animal foster owners have successfully found permanent homes for more than 100 pets, Bridges said.
âGrassroots came about because we wanted to help specifically all the kill shelters around Mississippi. There are so many (animals) getting euthanized every year just in Mississippi,â Bridges said. âThatâs not to mention the ones that die in shelters because they donât get any medical attention.â
The group has grown into a four-foster-parent entity. MSU English lecturer Jessica Mann and Kristy Jones, both friends of Bridges, also contribute to the cause as foster parents. Jones also takes pictures of each animal the collective fosters and successfully adopts. Bridgesâ fiancĂ©, Kyle Doolittle, assists with picking up animals from dog pounds and humane societies and delivering them to future owners.
Grassroots specializes in fostering animals which require more medical attention and are in danger of being euthanized.
âA lot of times we get them, theyâre hours away from getting euthanized, not even days or weeks, but âWait just another 30 minutes and weâll be there.â Thatâs what a lot of them end up being,â Doolittle said.
âPeople like (humane societies) because they can give you a date and say, âYouâre going to foster it (for) two weeks.â At Grassroots, we pull them from the kill shelter and we do everything we can to not let them go back. All of our animals come from kill lists. Once theyâve been scheduled to be euthanized we pick them up, get them vet treatment â spayed, neutered, whatever it takes to get them healthy and then adopt them out,â Bridges said. âThere have been several that we didnât think we could adopt out and weâre perfectly happy with keeping them until they die.â
Bridges said while incorporating Grassroots has added to its success, the group needs to earn non-profit status in the future in order for it to grow and because most of the funding for animal treatment comes out of the foster parentsâ pockets.
âThe shelters we pull from, most of them wonât even look at us because weâre not 501(c)(3). I talked to lawyers and attorneys about getting that paperwork filed to become a non-profit organization, which would have helped with grant funding to get spays, neuters, vaccinations (and) awareness. Itâs going to cost us $850 just to file the paperwork with the (Internal Revenue Service), (so) we canât afford it. Thereâs a one-year wait period before theyâll even get to the application and look at it. Weâve got over $1,000 in vet bills that take precedent over filing a form that is going to take a year and a half before we know anything, (but) without getting 501(c)(3) status, we canât get the money we need to grow or help more or get bigger. With the bills we have, we donât have the money to fill out that form. Weâre pinching pennies, but at the moment weâre getting by.â
Bridges said the organization is constantly organizing fundraisers when the members have free time to help pay the veterinary expenses.
âWe put about $200 into each animal, be it a kitten or a dog âŠ and we pay for it,â Bridges said. âI always tell people weâre not in this to make money. Weâre in it to help the animals and weâll do whatever it takes to help the animals. A lot of people give their money to charities â thatâs what they choose to do with their life. We choose to save a dogâs life.â
She said through putting notices on their adoption-ready animals on website-based entities such as Petfinder and Facebook, the organization has had animals adopted in Canada, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire and Texas, along with adoptions from people in states neighboring Mississippi.
Jones said another contributing factor to the organizationâs success is the help of her three children. She said Brenden, 11, Tayler, 8, and Joshua, 5, are instrumental in helping get the word out to potential adoptees.
âI could not do it without them. They have been a major help. They hold signs. They walk dogs. They wash dogs. They help with pictures (and) make T-shirts.â
Bridges said in her seven years of rescuing animals and finding owners for them, her motivation has been ensuring that abandoned animals end up in an environment where they can live in the conditions they deserve.
âPeople always tell us itâs pointless. âWhy do you this? You canât save them all.â But you can look out here and see each dog we do save. It makes a difference for one dog. I donât care if we only find one dog a home this year (because) it makes a difference for that dog,â she said. âI donât see why we shouldnât do what we can. Weâre only a few individuals but we put our heart and soul into helping where we can, when we can and how we can. We donât have to become a big group as long as we keep doing what we can.â
Bridges said adoption fees are $50 for grown dogs and $35 for cats and puppies. For more information about Grassroots Animal Rescue, visit http://www.grassrootsanimalrescue.com.
To visit the groupâs Facebook and Petfinder pages, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grassroots-Animal-Rescue/216436971733201 or http://www.petfinder.com/pet-search?shelterid=MS155.