New animal rescue receives nonprofit status

Savy and Indy needed a loving home.

Savy, a gray and white cat that had a head injury, was found outside on a stormy night by young girls in Seymour.

As they went around their neighborhood trying to find the owner, a woman agreed to keep it in her home.

The cat eventually wound up at Linda Jackson’s Brownstown home, where she takes in rescued cats and finds them a good home.

A veterinarian told Jackson the cat apparently received a blow to the head at a young age that knocked its sinus cavities down, affecting its breathing.

“She’s sweet. She was just as lovable as she could be,” Jackson said.

Indy wound up at Jackson’s home after Shannon Jones showed her a picture of the black and white cat, which had to have a leg amputated after being hit by a car. It was on a list to be euthanized, but the two women didn’t want that to happen.

Jones went to get the cat from Indianapolis Animal Care Services and brought it back to Brownstown.

Savy and Indy were together in Jackson’s garage until they were put in the same cage when it got cold.

“After Indy healed and stitches came out, they just bonded,” Jackson said. “When it turned cool, they came in here in a cage together, and they were just inseparable.”

A woman who lives in Vallonia and is a nurse who helps amputees came across a picture of Indy and knew she had to have the cat.

“When she came to get Indy, Savy was in the cage with Indy, and (Savy) was just kind of sitting there, and she said, ‘What’s the story?'” Jackson said. “I told her the story. I had a picture of her. She said, ‘No way am I leaving her behind,’ and she took them both.”

Jackson said she shed tears of joy.

“It’s hard to let them go because I fall in love with them the minute I get my eyes on them, but you have to let them go because there are more that need your help,” she said.

For six years, Jackson has dedicated her time — and a lot of money — into rescuing cats and dogs and finding homes for them.

That money adds up over time, and Jackson, Jones and another animal lover and rescuer, Karen McDonald, decided it was time to start a nonprofit organization so they would be eligible for state programs that could help them with expenses and receive tax-deductible donations from the public.

Saints on Our Side Animal Rescue dates back to Oct. 15, and it officially was approved as a nonprofit organization Dec. 6.

“It took the three of us to have a place for all of the animals, and I said, ‘But we’re all paying out of our pocket,'” Jackson said. “It comes to a point where if we want to continue doing this, then we have to have help to do it or we can’t continue. It gets very expensive, so we decided to go forward, and that’s how it all started.”

Longtime love for animals

All three women have a long history with animals.

Jackson was a 24/7 caregiver for both of her parents, and when both of them died, she said she needed something to occupy her time. She began volunteering at Red Sky Rescue, a dog shelter in Medora, and brought a few of the dogs to her home. She later began taking in rescued cats.

“I love animals,” Jackson said. “I am so against the abuse and neglect and the abandonment, and I just want to make a difference.”

Jones, who lives in the Clearspring area, said she considers herself “an animal freak.”

“As a little girl, I had a bird that I tried to save,” she said. “I just like any animal. I’m a sucker for animals. I’ve always loved animals, and it seemed like strays always found me. I’ve always had strays. I’ve never, ever got to go pick a dog. They always picked me, and I usually had about five or six or however many my husband would allow.”

She began volunteering at Red Sky Rescue and also kept feral cats in a barn at her home.

She even paid to get a horse, which had to have its eyes removed because of cancer, transported to a horse sanctuary in Wisconsin.

“Some people might think we’re crazy about doing this, but I didn’t want to just have the horse put down. It has a fine life where it’s at now,” Jones said. “I just think animals deserve better treatment than what they get in the world. We’re the crazy ones that do it.”

McDonald, who lives north of Uniontown, said her interest in animals started at age 10 when she caught a feral cat in her aunt’s barn.

“She told me I could have one if I could catch it, not thinking that I would catch one. I caught one,” she said, smiling. “When I got home after catching it in my aunt’s barn, we couldn’t get it out for a long time. Then my dad said, ‘It’s yours. Get it out.’ A few scratches and bites later, I finally got it out.”

Then in 2015, helping find homes for nine Shar Peis that were dumped near her home in 2015 sparked her interest in rescue animals. She and her husband, Gary, decided to keep two of the dogs.

“You couldn’t touch them when we first got them. Now, they are up on the couch with us, so they’ve come around,” she said. “If it hadn’t been a home like ours, they would still be unadoptable and probably in a shelter and be put down because they needed one-on-one care.”

She worked with Red Sky Rescue to find homes for the other Shar Peis and got to know Jackson and Jones.

Finding a forever home

Knowing not much is done locally to help cats, the three women came together to establish the nonprofit.

Red Sky Rescue takes in dogs caught by the Jackson County animal control officer, and the Humane Society of Jackson County in Seymour is a shelter for dogs and cats caught by the city’s animal control officer. Both, however, can only house a certain amount of animals.

Jackson, Jones and McDonald have space at their homes to house cats until they are adopted.

Once she gets a cat, Jackson said she gives it medication for fleas, ticks, heartworm and ear mites. Then she checks to see if it has been spayed or neutered. If not, she takes it to a veterinarian to get fixed. While there, the cat also receives a rabies shot, a booster and other tests.

“I spend a minimum of $150 per cat if they don’t have anything wrong with them,” Jackson said. “If they have something wrong with them, $300 or $400.”

Jackson only lets someone adopt a cat if they are going to keep it inside their home, and she checks the home beforehand. If someone wants to adopt a kitten, they have to sign an agreement that when it reaches five months, it will be spayed or neutered.

A meet-and-greet with the feline also is required.

“They have to come and meet the cat, and they have to hold the cat,” Jackson said. “You have to bond with the cat, but the cat also has to bond with you. They have different personalities just like people do, and I want to fit it to the family. That’s what I do. I value that part of my program.”

They also partner with Pet Sense and Tractor Supply Co. to conduct adoption events at the Seymour stores.

“That is good exposure for the kittens as well as for people that are wanting to adopt,” McDonald said. “We’ve had great success that way.”

Jones also created the SOS — Saints on Our Side — Animal Rescue Facebook page and posts pictures of cats that are up for adoption.

Continuing to help

The organization charges a $50 adoption fee, but that’s a far cry from the amount of money Jackson, Jones or McDonald spends to get a cat to the point where it’s adoptable.

That’s why becoming a nonprofit was critical.

The status will allow them to apply for state programs to receive spay and neuter vouchers and food, transport cats and receive donations from people.

“We’re hoping now if people see what we do and what we’re trying to do that they’ll feel like they want to donate and help,” Jackson said. “Rescuing is an up-and-down world, but at the same time, we’re needed. What we all do is needed, and people have no idea how involved and how hard and how sometimes heartbreaking it is.”

Animals will continue to tug at the women’s heartstrings.

“We all want to just say, ‘To heck with it. Forget it. We want to go on vacation,’ but we just can’t,” Jones said. “The day you finally say, ‘I’m done. I’m over this business,’ well, boom! Five minutes later, you’ll get a call about another sad story.”

McDonald said it’s hard to turn down an opportunity to help a stray, abandoned or abused animal.

The same goes for Jackson.

“How do you look in a face that looks at you, and it’s pleading with its eyes, ‘I need help,'” she said. “I will never understand how anybody can abuse or abandon anything. I just can’t understand it, but of course, we know the real world is out there, and there are plenty of people that can just turn their back on it.”

Jackson won’t be one of those people.

“The passion is too strong to quit, really,” she said. “They are God’s creatures, and it’s our responsibility to look after God’s creatures. They deserve a chance at life, and I think we all three believe in that, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Saints on our Side Animal Rescue is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on taking in rescued cats and finding a good home for them.

Linda Jackson is the director, while Shannon Jones, Karen McDonald and Becky Bujwid are officers.

Donations may be mailed to SOS Animal Rescue, 2317 E. U.S. 50, Brownstown, IN 47220.

People also may stop by Brownstown Veterinary Clinic, 1328 W. Commerce St., Brownstown, or call 812-358-2947 to have money applied to Jackson’s SOS Animal Rescue account.

Donations also may be made through PayPal via the SOS — Saints on Our Side — Animal Rescue Facebook page by clicking on the “Donate” button near the top of the page.

For information or to donate money, cat food or other supplies, call Jackson at 812-358-3444.