Causes | September 2015
Dogs’ Best Friends
Homespun pet saving initiative the Southern Friends Animal Society
protects the neediest of pooches
Story by Casey Hilder
For dogs like Charlie, a Hernando stray born on the streets who eluded animal control for more than a year, the sheltered grounds of the Southern Friends Animal Society represents a little patch of heaven on earth.
The three-acre patch of land and animal shelter, overseen by the watchful eyes of caretakers Tara Murphy, Sherry Nicholson, Trisha Standard and Terri Esther, provides a space to rehabilitate injured, abused and abandoned animals from the Tri-State area. “After about four weeks at the shelter, I had gotten to the point where I felt like I could really handle him at home,” Murphy says. “We got him to the point where he is able to be fostered or adopted, but he basically lives with us now.”
From their cozy property in the Nesbit/Southaven area, live-in caretaker Terri Esther’s “sanctuary area” usually plays host to 13-18 dogs of all sizes in several expansive “runs,” large pens that offer much more room to run than the typical kennel of cage. “It all started when a group of us got together at the Hernando Animal Shelter as volunteers,” Murphy says. “After doing that for two years, we decided to expand our own group to help out other shelters in the area.”
These women developed a nonprofit model based on Bestfriends.org, a Utah-based no-kill sanctuary that is among the nation’s leaders in animal safe havens. “We will pull from any shelter in the tri-state area and owner surrender is considered in special circumstances” Murphy says. “We try to help all of them, but being as small as we are, you just can’t do as much as you like.”
With more than 3,000 likes on their Facebook page since the group’s inception in 2013, the Southern Friends Animal Society has developed a sizable local following. Volunteers are very needed. “Just get ahold of me, I’ll put you to work,” Nicholson says of the single-step volunteer process. “We’re getting to the point where we need as many hands working out here as possible, especially when it comes to donations, construction and expansion on the property.”
Future plans for the group include the construction of a brand-new “hissy house,” a feline safe haven for cats to lounge around in, as well as the Paws for Celebration fundraiser at Cedar Hill Farm on September 26. Tickets for this event are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and can be purchased at SouthernFriends.org.