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A gem among Haywood County’s compassionate animal rescue groups — Duke’s Animal Haven Inc.

By Paul Viau | Jun 15, 2016
Photo by: Donated QUIETLY SAVING DOGS AND CATS — Duke's Animal Haven has been rescuing dogs and cats in the WNC mountains since 2012.

My wife and I are proud to live in a community that — day after day and night after night — works tirelessly to find loving homes for otherwise-displaced dogs and cats.

This week, I visited a small animal rescue group that isn’t always in the spotlight, but deserves to have a light shined upon it for long hours, dedication and its heartfelt mission — to find ‘forever homes’ for dogs and cats in Western North Carolina.

In many ways, Duke’s Animal Haven works in the shadows of Haywood County’s animal rescue groups — You don’t hear much about them — But at the risk of summoning the Legend of the Boojum, I consider Duke’s ‘a hidden gem.’

Duke’s Animal Haven Inc. was founded as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization in 2012 by a small group of friends and animal lovers who saw the need for a place for homeless dogs and cats to be housed temporarily, until they could be placed in an adoptive home or sent to a no-kill animal rescue

Duke’s state-of-the-art facility, built in 2013, is neatly tucked away in the quiet countryside of Haywood County. You could drive beautifully curvy Stamey Cove Road for miles and never know it was there. You’d never see the large building with 14 indoor/outdoor dog runs, two cage-free cat rooms and two cat-isolation rooms for expecting and/or nursing cat mothers. (Or as I saw them — teaming with newborn kittens.)

Seeing Duke’s for the first time, I was impressed with how well-planned and functional the facility is. It’s the result of direct input from the late Gary Stamey, long-time boarding kennel and shelter inspector for the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture.

“He gave us great ideas,” said Duke’s founder, Helen McLeod. “For example, we have just three dog runs per room, with independent ventilation systems to help protect against respiratory problems.”

Duke’s houses adult dogs in four rooms — each with three dog runs. Puppies have their own room with two runs.

Each run has a closeable door giving dogs access to the outside. Also, Duke’s employees and volunteers take dogs outside daily to play in a spacious, fenced Astroturf area.

It’s all very well thought out.

Duke’s Animal Haven rescues animals from Haywood, Jackson and Macon County shelters. Duke’s also accepts limited call-ins from families needing to ‘re-home’ their animal. Each situation is carefully assessed.

As for placing animals in ‘forever homes,’ Duke’s Animal Haven Inc has partnered with the Petsmart store in Waynesville since 2014, holding adoption events two Saturdays per month.

In 2015, Duke’s added cats to its Petsmart adoption events.

Dukes has also partnered with the Atlanta Humane Society and Common Sense for Animals (CSA) in New Jersey, transporting animals on a monthly basis.

Finally, you can always ‘meet’ Duke’s animals available for adoption at www.petfinder.com.

With a small staff of three employees and five volunteers, Duke’s transported 62 dogs and 35 cats to other rescue groups in 2015, and placed 29 dogs and 39 cats with local families.

All-told, Duke’s rescued and placed 165 homeless animals in 2015, and 2016 promises to be an even better year.

If you are an animal lover, Duke’s Animal Haven has an opportunity for you — Join their group of caring volunteers. You can help at adoption events, giving homeless animals ‘forever homes.’ You can help foster dogs and cats or socialize animals by just ‘hanging out and playing with them.’

You can help make a difference in the world, one dog or cat at a time, and it’s a lasting difference.

Duke’s makes a ‘Safe for Life’ contract with every animal adopted.

Of course, can also help Duke’s with your donations. Look for an upcoming poker run and wine tastings at Bosu’s. You’ll also find Duke’s donation boxes at many local retailers.

Also, Duke’s will soon be launching a ‘$20 for 12’ fundraising program, where donors can painlessly pledge $20 for 12 months.

Finally, Duke’s is always in need of food (preferably Purina 1), litter, bedding, towels and throw pillows. Any and all of your donations are greatly appreciated.

For more information, follow Duke’s Animal Haven Inc. on Facebook, call 828-235-1345 or visit www.dukesanimalhaven.org.