It all started with a plea for help.
Sarah Roehm says she has always had a dream to be part of an animal rescue. She had cats and dogs growing up, and always loved horses. Her first job was interning with the local vet in her hometown of Cumming.
“It’s just always been a part of me,” she says. “I think before I was speaking I was in love with every animal out there. My mom and dad, in first grade, my teacher had a conference with them and she said, ‘If we do another creative writing assignment and your daughter writes about a dog, I’m going to get her a dog. You guys can’t not get this child a dog.’”
Roehm came to Statesboro as a student at Georgia Southern, and quickly fell in love with the area.
“Being here in Statesboro, I don’t think I realized when I was living in the town I grew up in that this is where I was supposed to be. The pace of the town, the land that’s here, everything about the southern lifestyle, it’s all here,” she said.
So fostering animals at her home in Bulloch County was a natural progression for her. At 28, Roehm is living her dream on her small farm, with seven chickens, a pony, seven dogs and two cats. Living there has enabled her to foster several animals herself, and it led to her striking up a friendship with former neighbor Chris Sterling, one of the founding members of Fixing the Boro.
Sterling noticed her fostering animals, and he suggested that she start a nonprofit, and offered seed money.
Around that same time, a woman came to Roehm, asking for help. She had 12 pets and none were spayed or neutered, and they continued to have litters. Roehm stepped in and set up a fundraiser to help raise the $1,200 it would take. Maranatha Farms in South Carolina, another rescue, said they would match those funds. That request, coupled with Sterling’s suggestion, soon resulted in Fixing the Boro, which became official in March 2017.
Sterling, who now lives in Boston, has remained devoted to the group. While Roehm is the rescue coordinator, the third founder, Beth Jenkins, handles the spay/neuter coordination. The organization operates with a handful of devoted fosters, Roehm said, and there are many other volunteers who help with transport and more. Roehm says the group is looking to grow, but is still “small and intimate right now.”
Fixing the Boro is currently in the process of renovating a donated office space on East Inman Street to become a spay/neuter clinic, something Roehm says is desperately needed in Bulloch County. She says this area was “kind of let go” by some of the other clinics nearby because they were so overrun. The new clinic will help to fill that gap.
The most challenging part of getting the clinic up and running has been the renovations, Roehm said. Now that the building has been renovated into a workable space, the cosmetic renovations like painting and flooring are being done. After that, they will purchase equipment and stock the clinic. Charitable donations have been very helpful during this process, providing kennels, desks and medical tables. A veterinarian has already been hired, and they hope to hire vet techs and secretarial staff soon. They plan to be up and running by the end of the year.
Roehm says that rescue is important because “it gives a voice to the voiceless and a chance to the chanceless.” Spaying or neutering those pets is just as important. FTB currently works with Best Friends Animal Hospital and Gateway Animal Hospital, and utilizes a voucher program. They also work with Screven Veterinary Services in Screven County.
Pet owners seeking to spay or neuter their pets can go online and fill out an application. Currently, Roehm says, there is a waiting list. It costs $75 to have a dog spayed or neutered, and $50 for a cat in Bulloch County. The prices are similar in Screven, Roehm says, but there is always a little wiggle room.
“We think of the greater good and help out when it’s necessary and a person just can’t afford to alter their pet,” she said.
FTB applies for grants each year to do as many spay or neuter procedures as they can, and they supplement those monies with fundraisers. They have many, including partnering with Blue Phoenix Tattoo and Piercing and many of the area’s restaurants, which donate a percentage of their sales on certain days to FTB.
FTB receives anywhere from 15 to 50 calls a day about stray animals or animals in need, and multiple messages on their Facebook page.
“If we’ve got the foster space available, and if we have the funding available, then we don’t tend to discriminate, breed, size or age. We love them all. We do tend to help more of the needy, as opposed to the perfectly easy pets. If there’s a puppy at the shelter with a broken leg, and a fully vetted dog that could easily find a home, we’re usually going to pull that dog that has the broken leg,” Roehm said.
But doing things that way has a hefty price tag.
“Helping the most in need is never inexpensive, but it’s the most gratifying,” she said.
FTB works with partner rescues in other parts of Georgia, as well as other states, to help animals find homes.
“We partner with a lot of these rescue groups, and they know what their area looks for most, be it lab mixes, be it small fluffy dogs, be it hounds. Whatever they have the highest need for, we will vet a dog and send it to them, and they have huge success rates,” Roehm said.
FTB has done transports to Canada, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Florida and South Carolina.
“If they’re willing to help, it’s always great to get an animal where it’s understood the best,” she said.
Roehm has held a seat on the Bulloch County Animal Shelter Advisory Committee almost since its inception, and serves with Richard Marz, the president of the committee, who donated the building for the new clinic. The committee meets monthly to discuss how they and the community can help the local shelter do and be better.
“I think that we gave the shelter a voice that wasn’t so harsh,” she said. “A lot of people hate a shelter for simply being a shelter, for doing what the sad reality of animal overpopulation is. We have a phenomenal shelter staff, and I really love being secretary and chairing that committee.”
Roehm has specific goals in mind for the FTB clinic. They hope to spay or neuter 28 pets a day, four days a week. That will be a total of 4,700 animals altered a year. Long-term, she says she hopes the clinic will help do exactly what FTB’s name implies: Fix the Boro.
“We would love to be able to eventually have a facility or a kenneling facility for adoptions so we keep our adoptable pets coming through because that will always be a reality, even if we have less pets, there will still be pets in need,” she said.
She also wants to see programs implemented to help people keep their pets at home and happy, like a pet food pantry so that those down on their luck won’t have to surrender pets. They also plan to help with training, and the cost of spaying, neutering, vaccinations and medications.
Roehm will take the clinic manager position, once the clinic is open, and says it’s her dream job.
“It’s a dream to say that I work for my passion, to say that I do this. I will be absolutely tickled when the clinic is opened,” she said.
Roehm says FTB is always looking for volunteers, and if you can’t foster, they can certainly find other ways for you to plug in. There are spots for everything from yard work at the clinic, to painting, to crafting, to helping with fundraising.
“We truly cannot ever have enough volunteers. The more fosters we have and the more funding we have, the more animals we can help,” she said. “To successfully rehab an animal and see them in a good home after a bad situation, it brings a lot of peace and a lot of joy.”
For more information or to inquire about volunteering with Fixing the Boro, go online at www.fixingtheboro.com, or contact FTB via Facebook, @FixingtheBoro.
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