Community Spotlight: Danielle's Animal Safe Haven
Danielle Tourtellot has been rescuing animals for as long as she can remember.
She was that child who dragged home frogs and stray dogs in need and worried about the ones she couldn’t save. That’s why it’s no surprise that she runs Danielle’s Animal Safe Haven (DASH), a nonprofit organization that rescues nearly any kind of companion animal.
DASH offers refuge for animals that have been abused, neglected or are about to be unjustly euthanized. In doing so, they are reducing the burden on area shelters and humane societies. They also frequently save the lives of animals that have been sent to area vets to be euthanized because owners find them inconvenient, feisty or too expensive to keep.
They have scores of dogs and cats that are mostly in foster care at this time. This amounts to over fifty cats and kittens and more than 130 dogs and puppies. They even have some chinchillas in foster care. “We will rescue anything that needs us. Rabbits, horses, pet rodents, you name it. I’m even feeding a pregnant possum right now!” she quipped.
That includes Eliza Jane and Clover, horses that will likely live out their days in a pasture behind Danielle’s Ashville area home. Eliza Jane is a recent rescue that was on her way to the meat market when Danielle stepped in earlier this year. Both are playful and friendly, excited for visitors and eager to meet anyone who might be carrying treats.
We caught up with Danielle and some DASH volunteers while they were hosting the RASCAL Unit for a spay and neuter clinic. Pet parents can pay reduced rates through this mobile veterinary hospital six times each year.
On this day, about three dozen cats and dogs were lined up in carriers and cages awaiting their turn for surgery. Some of the animals, though, are in the care of DASH – including several young beagles that had been abandoned in a ditch along a Pike County roadway. These spay and neuter clinics are an important tool in controlling overpopulation.
Danielle said DASH has a small army of donors and foster parents who care for the animals like their own. Every animal that comes through DASH receives needed medical attention plus vaccinations, spay or neutering, and microchips before finding their forever homes.
Some dogs are actually placed in a training program that engages inmates at Chillicothe Correctional Institute and Ross Correctional Institute. DASH provides the food, leads and dogs while the prisons provide program accepted inmates who give care and training for every animal. “It’s a big help to us and it’s good for the prisoners too. It gives them someone to be responsible for and to love and care for. I laugh sometimes because you’ll see some enormous, tattooed man with the tiniest little dog and he’ll be loving on it and talking baby talk. It’s a win-win for us all, I think,” Danielle explained.
Lisa Tomlinson is a DASH volunteer who fosters and who helps organize the RASCAL days. She’s been doing this for about fifteen years and says that the people and pets involved in the organization have become like a second family to her. “I love the people that adopt and keep in touch with their fosters. They bring them to events and send Christmas cards. When you’re that dog’s first mom, you never forget them and it means a lot to know they don’t forget you either,” she said.
Christina Hampton has been volunteering for about two years. The high school teacher started out as a foster and was lending a hand on RASCAL day. “We see the best of people and the very worst of people,” Christina said, gesturing to those young beagles that were rescued from a ditch. “If you hang around very long, you’ll be knee deep into helping out because you see the need is so great and you can really see the results.”
Danielle said she started the organization small, gradually taking on more rescues as she built relationships with animal shelters, vets and funders throughout the region. “It’s hard to believe I started out so small, saving just a few here and there. Now, we’ve saved thousands over the years. It’s just unbelievable how many lives we have saved. Most of them would be dead if not for us,” Danielle recalled with a tear in her eye.
All three ladies can easily recall heartbreaking cases they’ve seen over the years. Danielle said that it is common for surviving loved ones to euthanize a pet when the owner dies. She said that animals are often mislabeled as aggressive when they really just have a health issue causing them pain. They have removed countless animals from dangerous situations including 23 Chihuahuas from one hoarder’s home. Seven of those are still awaiting adoption. And, of course, there are the shelters where overcrowding leads to higher rates of euthanasia.
She credits her husband Mike for not only embracing her work but for being willing to put in their own money when DASH funds are tight and there’s an expensive vet bill coming due. Danielle said that all money raised goes to the animals but that it gets expensive keeping up with food, medicine, harnesses, flea treatment and other miscellaneous needs for hundreds of animals every month.
They periodically have fundraisers and always welcome donations both large and small. They are fortunate to receive bulk feed donations but it still costs time and gas money to go pick it up.
Danielle is a fast talker who appears to be in perpetual motion, always on the lookout for someone to rescue, for someone to foster animals, and for donations to keep them afloat for another day. “I do tend to go 24/7. I just don’t get much sleep but that’s ok,” she said. “I know I can’t save them all but I can try. I don’t do well when we lose one and I cry when they leave because I just love them all.”
Want to get involved? There are many ways. If you are capable, you may wish to adopt or foster an animal. Cash donations are always welcome as well. Right now, the organization badly needs a reliable SUV for efficient and safe transport of animals. Donations are tax deductible as the organization is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit.
Find some available pets, learn more about the organization, fill out a foster application and even make a donation by clicking here to visit their website. https://dashrescue.rescuegroups.org/
Follow DASH on Facebook to keep up with their most recent news and to see animals looking for forever homes! https://www.facebook.com/DASHAnimalRescue/
They host Rascal clinics every other month. If you wish to register an animal for their next Rascal day in September, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and arrange to pay in advance.