I like calling the ”ANIMAL RESCUE FUND” story a “LOVE” story as there are no better words to describe it.

As I have always loved and rescued animals it was incomprehensible to me that every year tens of thousands of animals were euthanized or died from neglect. Most pet owners are not aware that when they drop off their once beloved pet at a pound, the chances are that this family member will face death.

Ursula Landsrath and husband Ken Rietz
Ursula Landsrath and husband Ken Rietz

This in mind and having heard yet another horror story, I approached my husband with an idea. Could I please open a shelter for animals scheduled to be euthanized by County Shelters in Virginia. I would then try to find them loving, forever homes.

My husband Ken is the kindest man I have ever met, and not being used to hearing a NO from him in our 30 years of marriage; I was taken aback at his hesitation.

He explained, “ Honey, I know you. Once there is a rescue in your care you will be unable to give it up”. Then added, “ Let’s not re-invent the wheel.

There are lots of small rescue organizations in desperate need of funds for food and vet care. They often don’t have the time or contacts to raise funds. Why don’t you start an organization that raises money to help them”.

I saw the light. Ken was right. With his encouragement, I sprang into action.

Ken came up with the name, ANIMAL RESCUE FUND (ARF). A dedicated group of ladies helped with the necessary initial requirements and Senator Jill Vogel, our wonderful attorney, did the 501c(3) application. Hard to believe this is almost ten years ago. To this day her law firm does all the ARF legal necessities pro bono.  Adding to our family is County Commissioner Mary Leigh McDaniel, PLC, whose firm generously does, pro bono, ARF’s accounting.

Val Garcia of ‘Helping Homeless Felines’ picking up donated food at Ursula’s home.
Val Garcia of ‘Helping Homeless Felines’ picking up donated food at Ursula’s home.

We have been blessed with numerous, generous locals who know that we are all volunteers. There are no wages paid, nor rents incurred.  The million dollars we have raised over the years have helped over 30 small rescues.

Our Grant Request form is online, short and uncomplicated. Our Board Members ask the identity of the applicant, the EIN and for what they need funds. The following year we ask for an accounting of the funds they received from ARF.

All organizations are located in Virginia. They include well-known rescues like ‘The Middleburg Humane Foundation’ which rescues all kinds of pet and farm animals, as well as organizations dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife. They include local ‘Wildlife Veterinary Care,’ overseen by Belinda Burwell, D.V.M. as well as the further afield, ‘Southside Virginia Wildlife Center,’ located in Danville.

A recent experience demonstrates what ARF is all about. Two ARF Board members, Sandal LaRose and Kathy Durand, joined me on a mission to rescue a German Shepherd in distress. His family had fallen on hard times. They were no longer able to look after him. When we saw him, our hearts stood still. He was such a good boy. He was underweight and scratching.  He smelled of feces and urine, and we knew an immediate trip to the vet would be followed by a visit to the groomer.

He did not have any proof of vaccination. Neither rabies nor DHPP and was never checked for Heartworm.

He settled down in Sandal’s car like a perfect boy. With the windows open we still held our breath as much as possible.

After a thorough examination, which included weighing him, a ‘wellness test,’ three blood drawings and X-rays, he was given all the vaccinations required by law.

The vet’s diagnosis was kind and to the point. He tested positive for Heartworm. This required keeping him calm for several months preventing the worms from spreading throughout his body.  The medications were numerous and the instructions overwhelming.  It was Sandal who volunteered to take on the task of caring for him. It would be challenging. Medicating several times per day, keeping him separate from her own animals plus trips to the vet.

I mention this experience as an example of what hundreds of volunteers do every day in Virginia. To save animals in need, they spend their time, energy and often their own money.

For me, it again emphasized the necessity of raising funds for the small rescue organizations that tirelessly carry out this work.

My husband and I are proud to have created The ANIMAL RESCUE FUND, but it is the ARF Board of Volunteers and the many contributors who deserve the credit and gratitude for helping ARF nurture Animal Rescue Organizations in Virginia.

For more information about ARF, please visit www.arfrescueva.org.