Most animal lovers cringe at the thought of an animal being neglected, abandoned or abused. Luckily, there’s an organization in Vinton County that works hard to care for those animals in need. Painted Acres Animal Rescue is located in Zaleski and is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving a second chance to countless animals that otherwise would have no one to love or care for them.
Director Barb Booth has been rescuing animals for about 35 years, operating her animal rescue as a part time effort until her retirement a few years ago. With her husband Cy, the organization takes in about 400 animals a year and adopts out approximately 250 to 300 every year.
At any time, they can have fifty or more dogs and countless cats, birds, rabbits, chickens, ducks, horses and donkeys. Rescues come from Vinton County as well as from across Ohio and beyond. Rescued animals are often severely underweight, have fleas or heartworms, need to be spayed or neutered, have trust issues or require some other form of specialized care before they are ready to adopt.
This 24/7 job is more like a way of life as the pair spend most of their days tending to the needs of their rescues, cleaning cages, feeding, walking, tending to medical needs and seeing to it that each one receives personalized attention each day.
Yet when Barb tells the story of these animals she dwells on the positives of her work rather than the negatives. In fact, her face literally lights up when she discusses the animals and it is clear that her work is a true labor of love. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to helping those who need us and who can’t help themselves. It’s a good feeling to watch them come from being severely underweight, frightened – to being a healthy weight, able to jump and run. They’re grateful. You can see it in their eyes, in the wag of a dog’s tale, that they are grateful for the help. It’s just good to know that we’re giving them a second chance at life,” she said.
When asked how she decided to do this work, Barb laughed and said it began when she was young. “Even when I was little, I was always dragging home animals that I found.” She then shared stories about how animals tend to find her. “I’m kind of a magnet for animals. I can’t go anywhere without finding someone who needs a little help or just wants to be close to me.”
Barb recounted some stranger than fiction stories about animal encounters including one where a lost hamster approached her in a parking lot and another where a bull literally showed up at her door with a small dog at his heels. Another time, an Emu that refused to be caught by anyone else approached her and rested its head on her shoulder. “They just find me. I don’t know how but they do,” she explained. “Even when I’m not looking they tend to find me.”
“I tell everything when they come in, you’re here temporarily until we get you a home and we all have to live together,” she said. “I truly believe they understand more of what we say than we give them credit for. A lot of it is tone of voice and how we behave. You have to stay calm. But I still believe they understand more of what we’re saying than we know,” she said.
A 501c3 nonprofit, Painted Acres operates on donations, adoption fees and at the personal expense of Barb and Cy. Operating expenses average $4,000 a month. That includes food, flea and heart worm medicine, vet bills, cleaning supplies and other expenses.
She said it can be hard for people to understand that they rely on adoption fees to help offset some of the costs of caring for the animal. Before any animal can be adopted, it must be spayed/neutered, have its shots, be heart worm tested and be of full weight. “Depending on the animal, that can be really expensive and our adoption fee only covers a fraction of the cost. We aren’t here to make money but we do rely on the adoption fee to keep us going,” she explained.
She has adopted animals to people all over the country and in Canada. To adopt, there is an application process that requires references. The new owner must pick up the animal at the rescue in Zaleski. “I want to meet them and they have to meet the animal before I’ll let them go,” she said.
Barb also devotes time to educating others on topics that she believes will prevent many animals from being unwanted and abandoned. She talks to 4-H clubs, Girl Scouts, Bible schools and other groups to educate about how to treat an animal and even about things to consider before getting a pet.
She believes that kids and animals are good for each other but wants all kids to know some basic things:
- Always be gentle and respectful toward animals. Never pull their hair, kick or be mean to an animal.
- Animals have to be fed, watered and groomed just like humans.
- When they’re sick they need to see a doctor and have medicine.
- Animals need love and care.
She also has tips for people who are thinking about buying or adopting a pet:
- Research the breed to learn about its personality, potential health issues, etc. Is the breed good with kids? Does it need a lot of room to run? Is it prone to allergies or other health issues?
- Can you afford the cost of health care for this pet? Spay/neutering, flea and heartworm medicine and an annual wellness check-up are vital for a healthy animal.
- If the animal has health issues, can you afford specialized food and care?
- Consider lifespan of a breed. For example, a parrot can live for 75 to 80 years. What will happen to the parrot when you die or if you can’t care for it? A puppy can live for fourteen or more years. Are you prepared to commit to this dog for the rest of its life?
- Do you have room in your home for this pet? Outside pets tend to be isolated and are at greater risk for disease and predators.
- Never give a pet to someone who isn’t expecting it and hasn’t met the animal.
“I encourage people to stop and think about it. If your home is quiet and low key, a lap dog would be a good fit. But if you have kids and like to go hiking and get outside, a Lab would be a good choice. If you’re not sure you really want to commit to an animal for their lifetime, it’s best to not commit for right now. We would have fewer animals in rescue if more people thought ahead,” she said.
If you want to help, donations of money and items are welcome. Items such as old towels and blankets, cleaning supplies, treats and toys for dogs and cats, scrub brushes, grooming supplies and Dawn dish soap are always in demand. Checks can be sent to Painted Acres Animal Rescue at P.O. Box 245, Zaleski, Ohio 45698. Electronic donations can be made via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gofundme.com. Volunteers of all ages are also welcome as there is always work to be done around Painted Acres. Contact Barb via email or call 740.596.4070.