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Meet Stephanie Phillips of Denison Animal Welfare Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Phillips.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In March of 2014, a few concerned citizens started meeting to try to figure out how to help the animals that found themselves in the Denison city pound. At that time, figures were provided to us that reflected a 90% euthanasia rate of all animals impounded there. We incorporated and attained our 501(c)(3) status, and rescued as many pets as we could that first year. We saved about 400 dogs and cats by holding bi-monthly adoption events, by carrying the animals to Walmart in crates on Saturday.

We determined that a mobile adoption unit would enable us to keep the animals safe and comfortable, and began raising funds for the $30,000 purchase. We took possession of the unit in May of 2015 and saw our adoptions increase to 800 that year. A flood of the impound facility in June of 2015 led to an agreement with the city of Denison to allow us to use of a decommissioned fire station, which still houses us today. We maintain a close and cordial partnership with the city to continue to improve animal services.

We wanted to make sure all the animals we adopted out were spayed/neutered, healthy, microchipped, and heartworm tested. We reached out for assistance and became partners with PetSmart Charities and the ASPCA, both of whom were invaluable in shelter mentorship. By the end of 2016, we had reversed the 90% euthanasia rate to a 90% live release rate. Our annual animal intake and care was in excess of 1500 animals for 2017 and is on track to grow as we refine our processes, improve our standards, and increase our quality of care. We often assist smaller nearby towns that have no animal services.

With the assistance of the ASPCA and through a partnership with rescues and humane societies in northern states, we transport 100’s of animals to places where they have more adopters than available pets. This is a crucial part of reducing the pet overpopulation in our area.

We are working with the city to write new ordinances to make spay/neuter mandatory, and our most ambitious project is the construction of a new animal shelter. We have retained Shelter Planners of America to help us achieve this goal, and are eager to see the culmination of years of hard work and determination. The most important aspect of all of these achievements is that it has all been accomplished by a group of very committed VOLUNTEERS. We have zero paid staff and no budget. We rely entirely on donations and grants.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This has been anything BUT smooth! We had many challenges and struggles, but we kept our outlook positive. Instead of focusing on setbacks, we envisioned a scenario that would be impossible to say no to. We don’t ask for anything we aren’t willing to work really hard for. We don’t get discouraged, and if we do, we limit it to one day and try again the next day. We do what is right, every time, for every animal. We don’t shy away from difficult situations, instead of meeting them head-on. Although it’s rare, when it occurs we address negative criticism openly and quickly.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that works to end the needless euthanasia of homeless and unwanted pets. We assist our community in a myriad of ways, including a dog/cat food bank, coordination of low-cost spay/neuter services, and assist with rehoming pets when we can. We act as a way-station for many transports monthly carrying animals from high-risk areas in south Texas to northern humane societies.

We employ a whole-family holistic approach to animal welfare, removing barriers to pets adoption and seeking to assist people in keeping their pets in times of difficulty. We work to develop partnerships with local vets, animal care professionals, behaviorists, boarding facilities etc to help people find the resources they need.

We work closely with the city and animal control to continue to improve standards and care of animals in our community.

What were you like growing up?
I have felt a close kinship and empathy with animals ever since I can remember. My first best friend was Tisha, a Chow-chow puppy, and my favorite book was Charlotte’s Web. I was a voracious reader all my life and always felt more comfortable with animals than people. I spent more time reading and hanging out with my pets than anything else as a child.

I spent lots of time on a working ranch and farm and learned all aspects of animal care. I developed a love and passion for animals and animal welfare through those experiences. I am an insurance agent by profession, and after my children were grown, I turned my attention to saving every animal I could.

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