Written by Julie Murray
Over the past two years, I have been able to share with you some of the many wonderful rescue organizations we have in our community. From basset hounds to bulldogs, we’ve learned so much about kindness, love for animals and the drive to do whatever it takes to save them. In this twelfth and final installment of the Rescue Spotlight, I’ll be talking about Pet Helpers Adoption Center and Spay Neuter Clinic. I have been a volunteer at Pet Helpers for about 7 years and they have given me the opportunity to adopt and foster the loves of my life – Martha Ann, Lincoln, Nikki, Bullet, Harry and Zelda. This year, they are celebrating their 40th Anniversary and I spoke with founder Carol Linville, a woman who embodies the very spirit of animal rescue.
Pet Helpers began its journey when Carol Linville realized that there was a crisis going on in the animal rescue community. Back in 1976, she read an article in the Post and Courier that said over 8,000 animals per year were being euthanized. Animal shelters were very different places back then. “There was no medical care, nor spay and neuter – no one knew.” She had no experience in animal rescue and had no clue where to start, but knew that she had to do something to address this issue. With the help of editor Charlie Diggle, Carol started a column called Pet of The Week in the James Island Journal where she publicized animals available for adoption at the John Ancrum SPCA. She also began her crusade to end the euthanization of all adoptable animals in the Charleston area. “Over time I involved the local media…I was the lone ranger for many years, speaking the No Kill message, and building a small shelter. I became the squeaking wheel…calling for animal welfare legislation.” She also started pursuing animal cruelty charges against people who abused animals even though there was little to no assistance from law enforcement at that time. “I successfully initiated several local animal welfare ordinances beginning in 1988, and working on statewide animal welfare.” Her tireless efforts to save animals were recognized when she was named Humanitarian of the Year by the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians (SCAV).
Starting a No Kill shelter and defying the status quo presented many obstacles. “The greatest challenge [was] never giving up and changing the mindset that euthanasia of adoptable and treatable animal was never going to change.” Carol started by rescuing a few pets here and there in her home. She was also working constantly, trying to build a local business all while fronting the costs of vet bills, food and medicine for the animals in her care. “There were some tough times, but persistence and determination prevailed!” she said. “Dr. Jerry Murray…and Dr. Johnny Ohlandt…gave 200% to helping me saving animals, getting them spayed and neutered and were a major part of Pet Helpers,” and Carol said she could not have done it without them. After all the sacrifices, late nights and constant work on behalf of homeless pets, Carol still has a positive attitude. “Obviously, the greatest joy [is] being the first successful 40-year No Kill rescue shelter organization in Charleston after many hard years of being the ‘squeaky wheel’, and being a major voice and part of a no kill Charleston community. I am equally proud of our wonderful, state of the art, 14,000 square foot Pet Helpers Adoption Center and Spay Neuter clinic…knowing we have saved over 40,000 animals and proving that one person can make a difference.”
Over the years, there have been many memorable animals in and out of Pet Helper’s doors, but Carol will never forget the first one. “My first rescue was Trouble, a little ‘Benji’ dog I saw crawling along Folly Road on my way to work in 1978. I chased him down [and] as it turned out, both back legs were broken.” (He had been hit by a car some days earlier.) “Dr. Ohlandt and I worked on that little dog for a year, finally amputating a leg; it was my first dog adoption.” There have been so many other dogs and cats who had the course of their lives altered for the better due to crossing paths with Carol. She also told me about Clementine – a little terrier she rescued off the top of a roof during Hurricane Irma. This dog first came up on Carol’s radar when she noticed that Clementine was being kept outside in a miserable housing situation. She had been trying to do something about it when the storm blew in. Carol knew of the conditions that this little girl was being kept in and became worried, so she decided to check on her. She called a neighbor and was told that Clementine’s small kennel had flooded and left her stranded on her own, during a terrifying storm. “To say I was angry is an understatement. I called Charleston County Police and said I needed them to meet me – I wasn’t leaving the dog! After a blistering discussion with the owner, I left with Clementine. After several weeks at Pet Helpers, she went from being a terrified little mess to a wonderful, happy and much loved little dog.”
Even with the tireless efforts of someone like Carol, an organization such as Pet Helpers cannot exist without help. I asked her what the public could do to aid in her mission to save animals. “Support us financially, volunteer, foster animals so we can save even more and adopt! Our monthly operating expenses now exceed $165,000 a month. We are not government supported and must raise these funds.” In the future, Pet Helpers plans to start a campaign to pay off the debt on the existing shelter and complete the work on the 3,000 square feet of unfinished space. “We need more dog and puppy kennels, cat intake and quarantine space, administrative space, etc.… There are some great naming and sponsor opportunities for the public in helping us do even more to help animals and expand on some of our programs [such as] Unchain Charleston, Dixie’s Emergency Medical Fund for injured and abused animals and our Spay Neuter Trap and Release Fund.” If you would like to learn more about these programs and find out how you can help, please visit Pet Helpers’ website at www.pethelpers.org. You can also stop by the shelter, located at 1447 Folly Road, and see all the good work being done, first hand.
As mentioned before, Pet Helpers is also celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Carol said “[We] will be planning several special fun events throughout the year, culminating in our big 14th Annual Fur Ball Gala!” For those readers who are unfamiliar with this popular and long-standing fund-raising event, you can read more about it here: https://pethelpers.org/fur-ball/. This year, the Fur Ball will be on November 10th at the Francis Marion Hotel. “It will be an amazing night filled with entertainment, food, drink, auctions, a band, dancing and some additional surprise animal visits…a true night to remember!”
My loyal readers know how much I love and support all animal rescue organizations in the Charleston area. However, Pet Helpers is a place that is very dear to me and has truly changed my life. When I began volunteering, I was extremely depressed and felt as though my life had no meaning. Things began to change when I realized that even as one person, I could make a difference in an animal’s life. It’s easy to get discouraged these days – a lot of scary and sad things are going on in the world right now and you may feel powerless. Just remember; “Saving one animal won’t change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever” and that there will always be peopl