Animal caregivers have big plans |

Animal caregivers have big plans

WAGS & Whiskers is a nonprofit, all-volunteer rescue group with a focus on giving abandoned and surrendered pets a second chance for a happy and healthy life.

While the primary mission is to find good homes for cats and dogs, WAGS also offers a free spay/neuter program with funding from Pet Adoption League in Grass Valley.

“If it wasn’t for PAL, we wouldn’t be here,” said WAGS founder Allie Birmingham.

“When they closed their thrift store, they gave us all their inventory,” she said.

Since its inception this year, WAGS has spayed or neutered and vaccinated more than 250 animals, distributed over 4,000 pounds of pet food, provided shelter for strays, and found homes for nearly 50 kittens.

The efforts of WAGS take pressure off western Nevada County animal shelters and helps reduce overcrowding and euthanasia rates, said Cheryl Wicks, volunteer coordinator at the Nevada County Animal Shelter.

“They’ve definitely helped us out in times when we’ve had too many cats, and we’re grateful for that,” she said.

New rescue groups are always welcome to help animals find homes and divert stray and abandoned pets from shelters, said Paul Boch, the county’s agricultural commissioner and chief of animal control.

Located behind the Lost Nugget off Highway 49, WAGS has been financed mostly by a two-month, perpetual yard sale put on by Birmingham, Sandy Phillips, Joy Cleary and volunteer Barbara Buckbee.

But with more and more cats and dogs coming in, Birmingham said the group needs community support to move forward with plans, including on-site shelters, rescue and care facilities, a spay/neuter clinic, pet behavioral training, an adoption center, an after-hours emergency clinic and a 30-acre animal sanctuary.

Birmingham said the rescue facilities WAGS wants to create are lacking and much needed in rural areas.

“We’re 70 miles from the nearest emergency vet clinic, and a lot of animals die because of that,” she said.

The group plans to open an on-site thrift store next month to help fund its rescue projects, including the 30-care sanctuary donated by Steve and Britta Sechrist.

Birmingham said animals that can’t be adopted will live out their lives in peace at the sanctuary. “We won’t put any animal down unless it’s suffering and humane to do so.”

She envisions programs to teach children how to care for pets, be kind to animals, and respect all living things.

“When children get that energy, they grow up more compassionate, loving and gentle with everything in their lives,” she said.

Studies show that children who abuse animals grow up to abuse people and are more apt to get involved in crime, Birmingham said.

“Learning to love and respect a species is an important lesson for children to learn,” she said.

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