Community: An Informal ARF History

Community: An Informal ARF History

by Veronica Nicholas and Mary Adams

When Sara Hatton and Jeannette Newsome called my house in the late 1970’s, Sara greeted me by saying “ARF!”, and thus the name for our group was born. Sara, Jeannette, and I were part of the Humane Society, and had been fostering animals in our homes for several years. Sara was working for the Sylva Herald, so she offered to do a weekly picture and column of the animals in our care. Jeanette offered the library as a meeting place for our adoption shows, which were then monthly.

The Humane Society bought us puppy pens and cat cages and pet carriers. Dr. Homolka, then the only veterinarian in Jackson County, volunteered to teach a number of us to vaccinate cats and dogs and to offer the other “well-baby” preventive care for the animals we were housing.

Later, also, with Dr. Homolka’s support, we developed a monthly reduced cost spay/neuter clinic at his animal hospital, with ARF foster parents doing the scheduling, record-keeping, anesthesia (for cats only), prepping animals for surgery and hospital care, and cleaning while the animals were there.

While the animals were in our care, Dr. Homolka and his staff offered reduced-cost routine care and also emergency care. During the 1980s, I worked at his practice as a veterinary technician.

As Dr. Homolka’s practice grew, Drs. Harriet Shields and Mike Smith joined his practice; they took turns staffing his Sylva office and his new office in Bryson City. By then, they were spread too thin to offer emergency care to ARF animals; the number of pets in our care was also growing. We were responsible then until the early 2000s for after-hours emergency calls when the shelter was closed in the evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Eventually, Dr. Paul Kern in Hazlewood took over all the ARF care; Dr. Robert Zemel, then doing relief work for Dr. Kern, started a practice in Sylva in 1990. Like Dr. Kern, he saw the animals at reduced cost but treating them like our own pets, not second-class patients.

Eventually, Drs. Wall, Black, and Bragg purchased Dr. Zemel’s Sylva practice, and they offer greatly reduced services to ARF to this day.  In a way, ARF and Sylva Animal Hospital grew up together. Around 2006-7, their spay/neuter efforts were supplemented by the newly built Asheville Humane Alliance, which offered low-cost spay/neuter to Sylva residents. Grants from PetSmart Charities, Two Mauds, The Hennessy foundation, and Jackson county commissioners supplemented these efforts.

Around the same time, ARF began sending a few puppies and kittens to Long Island as part of a transfer program. That program has had many partners, and has grown until now it comprises the biggest part of ARF’s adoptions. ARF’s partnership with Catman2 and the Animal Shelter, their transport program, and their free and low-cost spay/neuter services have meant that no dog has been euthanized for space at our shelter for almost two years.

Over the years, ARF has offered care for animals whose families have been jailed, hospitalized, or homeless; provided animal rescue services, pet-sitting, pet therapy (visits to rest homes, etc.); provided humane education materials and taught classes to elementary, high school, and college students, and nursed thousands of foundlings over the years. The next generation of care-givers promises to carry on ARF’s mission and honor the commitment of its founders and volunteers over the years, including Veronica Nicholas, Sara Hatton, Susan Clements, Trish Morgan, Jeanette Newsom, Karen Martar, Joanne Stehling, Annie Harlow, Betsy Ashby, Paul Novak, and so many others.

One day, perhaps, ARF will no longer be needed. Many of you turned out to advocate for a badly needed new animal shelter. Until then, ARF will work to Thanks for helping us continue to serve the Jackson County’s animals and their owners.

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