Writer  /  Shannon Evanko

While dogs are often known to mankind as “man’s best friend”, they aren’t always treated as such. Friends of Metro Animal Services (FOMAS) seeks to remedy the often mistreated and abandoned pet population by becoming a home for homeless pets in Louisville, Ky.

FOMAS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity formed in 2009. In April 2018, it appointed its first ever executive director, Susanna M. Westerfield, to expand community outreach and create events that will raise money for Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS).

According to Westerfield, the goal of LMAS is to help families keep their pets. Statistically, many families surrender pets because they can’t afford to take care of them. LMAS is different than other rescue groups in Louisville because it’s the only open-admission shelter in Jefferson County.

“We take the sick, injured, abused, and abandoned pets of Jefferson County,” Westerfield says. “Some of the other shelters reach capacity and can close, but by law, we can’t turn away pets. We take in approximately 7,400 pets per year. We are a no-kill status, regardless of overcrowding, as of 2017. We rely heavily on our community to foster and adopt, as well as our rescue groups.”

Ironically, as the executive director, Westerfield says she wasn’t immediately on board with the idea of FOMAS. After learning it’s a no-kill shelter, she had a change of heart. Her involvement with the animals becomes even more ironic as you get to know her.

“I’m actually very allergic to cats and dogs,” Westerfield says. “I grew up taking allergy shots and having no pets in the house. After college, I had my own home and I thought I would take two kittens from a friend. After a week, I couldn’t breathe. I went to my allergy doctor, Dr. Corbett, whom I still see today. I told him I was keeping the pets and he was going to find a way for me to breathe. I still have pets today!”

LMAS is under the metro government, and they have a budget, according to Westerfield. Because budgets get reduced, taken away, etc., FOMAS has a free adoption program called Pay it Forward to raise money and provide for LMAS. When someone adopts from them, the animal will have vaccinations, microchips and be spayed or neutered.

“Once someone has their required, approved application, we ask them to pay it forward with a donation that works for them,” Westerfield says.

Similar to Westerfield’s initial assumptions about animal shelters, she says euthanization is a common misconception LMAS faces.

“We have to have community support to be a world-class animal shelter. We partner with rescue groups locally, and we are very grateful for that,” Westerfield says. “They have no choice but to shut the door, and we can’t. Another misconception is that these are ‘bad animals’. The reality is that the animals who end up in our care don’t have a choice. They are not strays, they are someone’s pet and have been abandoned.”

Naturally, for any nonprofit, there are financial needs. According to Westerfield, naming rights and monetary donations at any level are both options for donating to FOMAS.

“Twenty dollars per year will make a huge difference,” Westerfield says. “These monies will help us provide updated items in the new animal care facility being built. With an annual donation of $1,000, any company or individual can claim their naming right to either a cat or dog kennel.”

If someone is unable to give financially, there are plenty of other fun ways to be involved.

“Another big need we have is volunteering,” Westerfield says. “We have a great field trip orientation program run by Stephanie Jackson to get the pet out for the day or overnight. You attend a one-hour orientation and complete an application. It’s a significant help to that pet to be outside of the shelter.”

LMAS celebrated a ground-breaking on July 5, 2018, for their Newburg Road campus. Westerfield says the current facility on Manslick Road needs to be evacuated because it’s in a flood zone and has poor ventilation. Newburg Road will be a campus-sized location with a half-mile walking trail. This is the same location where our current Animal House Adoption Center is located.

According to Westerfield, the Newburg facility will be in the former Public Works location. It will be refurbished and house a medical treatment center, spay/neuter clinic, diagnostics and X-ray room, more dog play yards and more conducive facilities for employees.

“Some of the employees have been there a very long time and care so deeply,” Westerfield says. “We need to provide for them, as well, to care for the animals. Our updated facility will help us provide and improve upon the after-hour needs of families and pets. We contract out many animal care services, which is an enormous expense.  To help with these expenses we ask help from our community in the form of giving. Donors will get an opportunity to name a cat or dog kennel, for example, with an annual donation. We have many to select from.  Anyone interested in becoming a donor can contact me directly.”

As for the future of FOMAS and their hopes for LMAS, things seem clear.

“Empty kennels are our desire,” Westerfield says. “Any pet that comes into our kennel may need to be there because they’ve been injured, sick or abused, even. We are helping pets, but also people. Animals give steadfast love, no matter what.”

LMAS earned their no-kill status in 2017, and they need the community to help them stay that way, according to Westerfield. No-kill is a day-to-day goal, but not a guarantee.

“Come and find your pets,” Westerfield says. “We need volunteers to work events. We need funds. You bring a pet to us, they are not automatically euthanized. We’re going to do all that we can do to re-home that pet, but we need the community’s help every day.”

For more information about how to donate and get involved with FOMAS and LMAS, visit www.fomaslou.org.