Shari Timberlake refers to herself and her sister Stephanie as “co-insane people.” Officially, they are co-founders of their Plymouth-based nonprofit, The Adopt-A-Pet-Shop, which partners with local animal rescues to act as an adoption center for cats and dogs.
It all began in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina when the sisters traveled to Tylertown, Miss., to work as volunteers in on-the-ground disaster animal rescue. “We were normal people with normal jobs,” Shari says. “We wanted to help out because, to us, giving money wasn’t enough.” Along with other volunteers, Shari and Stephanie camped outside in the heat in dirty tents, waiting for the daily arrival of a semi-truck filled to the brim with animals that had been pulled out of the streets of New Orleans. The volunteers cleaned and treated all the animals with the goal of reuniting them with their families, or at least finding them safe homes.
“It was baptism by fire,” Shari says. The experience was enough for Shari and Stephanie to realize they had a newfound passion. The sisters jumped head first into animal rescue: They received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training, worked with the animal sanctuary Best Friends of Utah and witnessed everything from an 800-cat hoarding situation in Las Vegas to animals needing rescue from floods in Fargo, N.D.
“We started at the ugly end of things, but found that rescuing animals is just the first step,” Shari says. “So we created an adoption center.” Today, Shari is president and treasurer, and Stephanie is vice president and secretary of The Adopt-A-Pet Shop. While shelters are funded by the state or city and have a relatively open admission policy, the sisters’ shop brings in animals after they have been vetted, spayed or neutered and vaccinated. They do not accept owner surrenders or take animals off the street. Instead, they partner with a number of local no-kill foster-based rescue groups to help place animals in homes. “When foster homes fill up, we take those animals and act as an agent for facilitating their adoptions.”
“The hard part is getting people to meet and appreciate these animals,” says Shari. “Often times, people think rescue animals are ‘sub-par’ or ‘tainted.’ They aren’t. There is nothing really wrong with these animals except that they’re homeless.”
Although the shop specializes in and only houses cats on-site, they also help place dogs currently living in foster homes. After regular shop hours, Shari and Stephanie host “meet-and-greets” during which the dogs come to the shop and the general public is invited to meet all the animals and apply to adopt them. “We spend a lot of time making sure we place animals in homes where they’ll be a good fit.” Shari explains that they ask potential adoptive families quite a few questions simply to ensure the family’s lifestyle and situation will be a match for the animal’s needs. “We invest so much time, energy and love into these animals that we want to be sure they find good homes.”
The sisters employ a couple of people on an hourly basis, but depend on about 30 dedicated volunteers. “This job is 365 days a year. The animals need play time and exercise daily.” Shari says it is hard work to run a business and nonprofit, constantly trying to raise money. Nonetheless, she says, “At the end of the day, we’ve had a lot of success stories—we’re approaching facilitating 600 cat adoptions since we opened.”
Shari says Adopt-A-Pet is always looking for help with fundraising, administrative work, and even help cleaning and caring for the animals. Rescues are in constant need of foster homes, and Shari notes the rescues pay for the pets’ food and vet care, stressing that the animals just need safe places to park short-term.
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