Royal Animal Refuge set to save lives, promote positive change

It’s time to put up or shut up. That’s the message driving the creation of Royal Animal Refuge, a non-profit, no-kill facility coming to the county for homeless, neglected, and mistreated animals.

Started by resident and local business owner Rebecca Royal Tate in connection with the Fayette County No Kill Coalition, the Refuge will be a safe haven for animals and a resource for the community and those that stand with the animals. Together, animal advocates will promote animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, provide humane care for animals at their facility, educate the community, and find homes for unwanted pets.

“We’re trying to make a place where people can come meet dogs and cats in a relaxed setting,” said Tate. “And we want it to be a place where kids and families can get involved.”

The final pieces are being put into place for the building located in Tyrone designed to help the animals be the best they can be. With experience running a doggie daycare program, Tate will apply that expertise on the dog side.

“Our goal is give them a lot of play time and human time so that their crate time is only sleeping time. It’s not used as their house,” said Tate. “What will make us different is we can spend the extra time to get to know them and their qualities.”

She’s already connected with a number of great local rescue groups and will continue to network. She will reach out to cat experts to help make the feline side the best it can possibly be.

“This isn’t about me, this is about the community. We have to get together,” she said. “This is about what we can do for the animals.”

Casper, with animal shelter volunteer Shannon O’Hara, was loved by many at the shelter, but was put down with an “aggressive” label by animal control. Royal Animal Refuge aims to promote positive change to educate the community and save lives.

There are animals that they can step in and save, just like Casper. Casper was a dog made available for adoption at the shelter and described by the shelter as shy, “but once he gets to know you he wants to be attached to your hip.” He worked his way into the hearts of several volunteers at the shelter. He was put down by the shelter in March with the “aggressive” label.

Tilly, an un-spayed dog adopted out of the county facility this year, was allowed to be adopted into a home with an intact male dog. Fayette Humane Society was able to step in and assist with the cost of fixing both animals, but it is a situation that should never happen with proper training and care.

With a focus on the number of pit bull and pit-mix dogs available for adoption, the Refuge will take a different and proven tactic. To help dispel preconceived notions about the personality of a breed, they will be a breed-free home. Dogs will be presented just on their disposition and fit with a family.

“We don’t want to label the breeds,” she said. “It’s just ‘I have a great dog. Meet them.'”

Because they will not also be responsible for animal control aspects like the county shelter, staff and volunteers at the Refuge will have more time to really get to know the animals and their personalities, helping to prevent mislabeling animals that can give them a death sentence. They can get to better know potential families and what would be the best fit.

While the idea has been fermenting for well over a year, the decision had to be made to kick the project into high gear. With the implementation of new policies at the county animal shelter, Royal Animal Refuge will be another outlet to save adoptable animals running out of time.

“We can’t spin our wheels waiting for it to get better,” she said. “We’re trying to put it together in three weeks. We have to pump everything out and get everything done. It’s not going to be perfect. In the beginning nothing is, but our goal is to make a temporary and quick fix, and then we can build on the rest of it.”

The Refuge won’t just be about the animals, it will also be a resource for their human friends.

“Hopefully we can make some change and really get the community involved and be a great place for kids to come and volunteer and get their community service hours and learn about healthy pet ownership, but we can’t do it without the community.”

Local rescue groups do not have their own buildings, so when they have more animals than fosters, there has been nowhere to turn. Royal Animal Refuge can be there. Well-meaning pet owners who might be in a rough patch can turn to them for help, whether they’re short on food or need help fixing a fence when a dog keeps getting out.

“We want to be big on community outreach,” she said. “There needs to be somewhere people can go for help.”

Awareness for all ages will be key. Starting with the children, a focus will be placed on education about the problems of unwanted, neglected, and abused animals and how the community can turn the tide.

“It’s about educating the public that we’re behind the times,” she said. “Our vision is to be able to have kids come on field trips and teach them about animals, teach them about spay and neuter and responsible pet ownership.”

Spay and neuter education will be a major point of emphasis to battle overpopulation.

“I realize we’re putting a bandaid on the problem, so we’re not just stopping with the building,” she said. “We’re going to work with the No Kill Coalition on target spay and neuter. We’re going to try to fix what’s broken.

“If we don’t change our county, then we’re just fighting an uphill battle.”

Community involvement will be an absolutely integral component. Man hours will be vital in getting the building ready in time, and there will be calls made online for volunteers soon and down the road. And funds will always be needed. A fundraising effort is ongoing at YouCaring, a crowdfunding website, with a goal of $10,000.

“It takes money. That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “People can donate their time, spread the word, and come in and be part of it. We can’t do it without volunteers, and we can’t run a good rescue without paying the bills.”

Longterm, the goal is a much more expansive setup. The dream is for the current building to transition into an adoption center with a large plot of land in the country for the animals, and not just cats and dogs, to roam and be safe, but they will need help.

“Eventually, we hope someone will be able to donate some land,” she said, noting that a proposed Peachtree City location fell through after complaints from neighbors. “We want acreage so we can build what we truly want and not have anyone complaining. We don’t want to be a burden to anybody, and that’s why it’s going to take probably 50-100 acres to not be a bother to somebody.”

There is optimism and there is passion beating at the heart of Royal Animal Refuge.

“I think it can be better, and we can be the change.”

For more information or to learn how to get involved, follow Royal Animal Refuge on Facebook or email royalanimalrefuge@gmail.com. For more information on the Fayette County No Kill Coalition, follow them on Facebook.

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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