Lincolnton resident LaDonna Mabe has been rescuing dogs her entire life, but it wasn’t until a year ago this spring, she started her own official rescue group, Happy Tails Rescue, Inc., which she operates out of her home on West Amber Drive, she said.
LaDonna spoke to the Times-News Tuesday about her growing nonprofit while working her full-time job at Piedmont Express Services, a trucking company, in Maiden.
She’s currently waiting for the state to grant Happy Tails an official “501-c” status.
She officially established the rescue in April 2012 after taking in a neglected Yorkshire Terrier named “Skeeter,” who had severe medical issues and required immediate emergency vet care.
Weeks later, LaDonna had to put Skeeter down due to the dog’s chronic pancreatitis and diabetes.
“It’s hard to know what their (dogs’) histories hold,” she said. “We just take care of them the best we can.”
Until Happy Tails becomes a certified nonprofit, LaDonna has been forced to use personal finances to cover the cost of animal care. Occasionally, she receives donations and proceeds from the organization’s event fundraisers, including nearly $400 from a recent yard sale.
The local dog-lover typically brings at least one of her rescues to work each day. However, two dogs were on-hand Tuesday, including Pitt bull-Great Dane mix “Domino,” nearly two years old, and one-year-old “Champs,” a Red Heeler mix.
LaDonna said she found Champs in early April eating eggs from a frying pan on the side of Poarch Road in Lincolnton. She rescued Domino in January on the day he was supposed to be gassed at the Cleveland County Animal Shelter. Domino later battled through a contagious and usually-deadly disease called Canine Parvovirus (aka Parvo).
“Dogs with it typically die within three days, but once you survive it, you can never catch it again,” she said.
While LaDonna personally houses a majority of Happy Tails’ current 13 rescue dogs, her sister and additional volunteers house the others, whom she typically finds from leads on Facebook, visiting area animal shelters or neglected on road sides. Her daughter Brittany also helps with the rescue, serving as the group’s creative marketing rep.
The rescue never has less than 10 dogs at a time.
After taking in a dog, Happy Tails pays a $100 fee, which covers the cost of spay/neuter, microchipping and any necessary vaccinations. However, if a dog is rescued in bad health, a common theme for LaDonna’s dogs, additional expenses are required.
She said she typically spends about $300 a month on each dog.
LaDonna worked with David Workman, manager of Lincoln County Animal Services, to secure homes last year for Happy Tails’ first two rescues, two female German Shepherds, “Bosco” and “Cookie,” located chained up and without food and water at an area home where she said residents had just moved.
Current rescues available for adoption include Pitt-mix “Hutch,” Boston Terrier-Chihuahua mix “Little Man,” Rottweiler-Husky mix “Bear,” Pitt bulls “Ebony,” “Luna” and “Harley,” among others.
Before the rescue group releases a dog to its future family, Happy Tails requires each potential owner fill out an adoption form. LaDonna also verifies vet references and has the dog do a meet-and-greet with the individual to see how the two relate.
If necessary, rescue officials will even video record how a dog interacts around small children, food and other pets, and post the footage to the group’s Facebook site for a person to better determine whether or not he wants to adopt the animal.
LaDonna said often times a dog, like her rescue “Chaos,” is outgoing and friendly but has extreme food aggression and would most likely be a danger around children.
The smaller-sized dogs usually get adopted quickly while larger breeds wait longer periods to find a forever home.
Over the last year, Happy Tails has taken in a number of dogs who’ve seen their share of medical troubles, but despite the expense, LaDonna knows it’s worth it.
“It’s heart-breaking the things you see,” she said, “but in the end, it’s rewarding.”
While adopting her rescues out is sometimes a sad farewell, she always reminds herself of an important truth.
“You get attached to them, especially when you help them survive, but when you keep them, you know that’s one less you can save (and take in),” LaDonna said, noting her home’s lack of space.
Happy Tails offers a low-cost adoption fee of $75 and holds monthly adoption clinics in the parking lot of Lincolnton’s Tractor Supply Company on North Generals Boulevard.
The group is headed to Asheville on Saturday as part of PetSmart Charities’ annual adoption event, which hosts 25 different rescues from across the state.
For more information on the local rescue, call (704) 507-5307 or visit the group on Facebook at Happy Tails Rescue, Inc.