ST. ALBANS — The Franklin County Animal Rescue (FCAR)’s leadership is going on tour.

Kevin Briggs, the chair of FCAR’s Board of Directors, will be touring the county in the coming months to rebuild some of the ties severed by FCAR’s 2017 shutdown and seek input into a strategic plan that, once realized, should help the animal rescue better serve its community in the coming years.

“We need the input from the community,” said Briggs. “They need to feel some ownership.”

According to Briggs, the goal is to ultimately craft a three-year action plan for release sometime this fall. That plan, Briggs said, would ideally guide FCAR’s role in Franklin County while also making the animal rescue more transparent and accountable to its constituency.

That latter piece was important according to Briggs, as FCAR’s closure in 2017 – the result of financial troubles incurred from both overextension and the aftermath of the Randall Shepard dog abuse case – had triggered some countywide animosities that the animal rescue is still trying to overcome since reopening more than a year ago.

FCAR reorganized under new leadership in the fall of 2017. Since then, the shelter, with a new staff, has gradually sought to restore FCAR’s place in the community.

According to Briggs, there was a lot of retrospection on the part of the rescue’s governing board following its reorganization, something he hoped a countywide strategic plan could turn around. “It was like we were always talking about yesterday,” Briggs told the Messenger.

The rescue prepared a presentation to accompany Briggs’s tour, listing, among other things, FCAR’s interest in “a vision that includes each of the towns of Franklin County” and a “close relationship with each town and their animal control officer(s).”

Also included in that presentation are pie charts mapping FCAR’s sources of income and expenses, included for the sake of transparency, according to Briggs.

According to those charts, more than 66 percent of FCAR’s funding is from donations. Another 23 percent comes from adoptions, with sales and special events making up for the bulk of the remainder.

FCAR spends most of its $250,000 budget – 62 percent – on salaries for its staff of ten mostly part-time employees, downsized from a staff of 14 that managed the rescue before it closed in 2017. Another 11 percent funds day-to-day operations, 10 percent funds utilities, and another 10 percent funds the animal rescue’s veterinary needs.

According to Briggs, balancing the financial needs of the animal rescue against the needs of the community continues to be FCAR’s primary challenge as it looks toward expanding its services.

Despite those challenges, Briggs said FCAR was looking to build up what Briggs saw as an epicenter in Franklin County’s animal community. “We want to be the place for people with questions about animals,” he said.

How that epicenter works could vary dramatically between the disparate ends of Franklin County.

“We serve a big community,” Briggs said. “How we support Richford is going to be different from how we support Georgia, and how we support Georgia is going to be different from how we support St. Albans City.”

A dog abandonment case in Richford showed how FCAR could potentially serve its more distant communities.

Early last December, an FCAR board member responded to a call for help from the town’s animal control officer to help relocate a trio of pit bulls abandoned in a Richford apartment. When they discovered the dogs had attacked one another, that board member and another volunteer paid out of pocket for the dog’s veterinarian bills before helping find shelters for the pit bulls.

“We went from a shelter to an actual animal rescue,” Briggs said. “That’s what it should be.”

Richford’s selectboard agreed to reimburse those volunteers for medical and travel expenses at the behest of Richford’s animal control officer.

In his touring presentation, Briggs includes other services FCAR could provide, including a barn cat program and a low cost spay and neuter clinic. He also listed a humane education program, something FCAR is already reportedly organizing with the Missisquoi Valley Union High School.

In addition, FCAR is planning to honor everyone who’s supported FCAR since its reopened, including New England Heating, which installed a new heating system at FCAR’s shelter free-of-charge, and the 326 volunteers who helped staff the rescue.

“Three hundred twenty-six volunteers,” Briggs said. “That’s almost one a day.”

Those interested in volunteering at FCAR can reach out to the shelter via their website www.franklincountyanimalrescue.org, via email at info@fcarpets.org and over the phone at (802) 524-9650.

In the meantime, Franklin County citizens can expect to see a visit from Briggs and FCAR leadership sometime in the coming months.

 

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Animal rescue bounds ahead