"If people call and let us know that they've had a dog dumped on their property, we'll come and place that dog into a foster home," said Delories Brown, President of ICARE. "If they agree to take care of the animal for us at their home, we'll provide the vet care, the shelter, spay or neuter the dog, whatever the dog needs, as long as they give it love and take care of it until we can get a home for it."
ICARE has seen a sharp increase in the number of strays and dumped dogs in the area, mostly due to the economic downturn and people not being able to afford the upkeep on their animals. "Our vet bills for spaying and neutering have been really high - almost $1,000 a month," said Brown. "Without money coming in from donations, we would be in trouble. Folks sending in money and donating on their taxes have really helped."
Just recently, Izard County added a donation line on their annual tax forms, for local people to be able to donate $10 to ICARE, to help cover their costs. As an all-volunteer organization, every dollar really does make a difference. A donation of $100 covers the cost of spaying or neutering one dog and giving them their rabies shot.
ICARE sponsors at least four low-cost spay and neuter clinics in Izard County every year. "A mobile clinic from Little Rock comes up for three days, and we'll do from 90 to 100 dogs in those three days," said Brown. "We're there from 7 a.m. in the morning until the last dog goes home at night. We feed everybody and we need volunteers to be there with us, because these clinics cut down on the puppies we would have to help. It helps the dog owner, and it's cheaper than they could get at their vet."
ICARE uses Petfinder.com to advertise the animals it has in foster care, in hopes of finding them good homes. "With Petfinder.com, we have all of our animals on it, plus we advertise in all the papers and we pay for that," said Brown. "We have applications, we check references and do the best we can without going out and personally investigating everyone. We trust our gut feelings. We've had folks drive all the way from Amarillo, Texas, and we have flown dogs out to other states. We'll take them to Little Rock or Memphis and do whatever is needed to get them to their new home."
ICARE has monthly meetings the second Thursday of each month at the Community Building adjacent to City Hall in Melbourne with snacks and socializing at 6 p.m., and the actual beginning of the meeting at 6:30 p.m. "We always have about 16 to 20 people at each monthly meeting," said Brown. "These people come time and time again and we're starting to see younger people coming and helping, which is great." For people who don't have the ability to foster, there are other ways to lend a hand. "Even if they can't foster, just come to the meeting, stay involved, help at the fundraisers, help with the clinics, whatever they can do. You can meet so many wonderful people this way," said Brown.
Brown also encouraged people in counties without a shelter to consider starting a foster-home program like ICARE in their communities. "I would love to see another county start something like this," said Brown. "If somebody could just hold a clinic in their county, we'd help. All they would have to do is find a place and we'll bring volunteers and we'll help them through it. I would be glad to talk with anybody about how to get started."
For people interested in becoming volunteers or holding a spay and neuter clinic in their community, call the ICARE offices at 870-368-5000 and leave a voicemail with your name and number so they can get back to you, or check out their Web site at www.icare-ark.com. "I do this for the animals, for my love of the animals," said Brown. "Every time you get a picture back and you see that an animal has gone to a good home or any time that you can pick up a bunch of puppies off the road and you can save them, it fuels you, it keeps you going."