By Jason A. Smith
Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children's Care Home, in Locust Grove, has issued a call to the public to encourage donations of animal feed and money.
Diane Smith, the assistant to Noah's Ark director, Jama Hedgecoth, said this time of year, it is particularly important for area residents to display their support for the animal shelter, which houses farm animals, dogs and several wild beasts.
"Especially in the winter, we go through a lot of hay, and the grazing is not as good," said Smith. "We can't really say how much [hay] we keep in store. It depends on what we get donated."
The ark also accepts donations of dog food, and oats and corn to feed other animals at the non-profit animal-rescue and-rehabilitation center.
Noah's Ark opened its doors in 1978, at its former location in Ellenwood. The current facility, at 712 L.G. Griffin Road, has been in operation since 1990.
Smith said ark staff members do not purchase animals on their own to keep at the facility, but rather act as a safe haven for animals.
"They have either been surrendered to us because no one could take care of them, or they have been taken because of abuse or neglect," Smith said.
She added that the largest category of animals at the ark is "pasture stock," including bison, llamas and other breeds. Smith added that a "conservative estimate" of the cost for feeding the 1,200 animals at the ark is approximately $10,000 a month.
She acknowledged that economic pressures have had a negative effect on the ark's ability to care for the animals it shelters. Still, she said, the ark is not in immediate danger of having to close.
"You can never say never, but as of right now, I don't see that happening," said Smith. She said the ark obtained 450 rolls of hay over the summer of 2009, at a cost of $50 a roll.
"We'll need to order again in the spring," she said. We go through about 10 rolls a week, [and] 880 bags of sweet feed every 5 weeks or so."
Charlie Hedgecoth, 35, Jama Hedgecoth's son who works with the animals at the shelter, said feeding the animals requires months of planning each year.
"We have to buy hay in the summertime and fall," he said. "We usually feed the animals about 800 rolls of hay a year."
According to him, the feed amount the ark has in stock is approximately 400 rolls of hay. He said the ark has had to turn away animals in greater numbers in recent years, due to a lack of feed or space.
Hedgecoth said if donations of hay ceased completely, the ark "wouldn't last past January."
"We're probably set on hay for right this moment, but the more animals that we try to help, the quicker the feed goes," he said.
Donations of feed and money can be made at the ark's welcome center each Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m. For more details, call (770) 957-0888, or visit the shelter's web site at www.noahs-ark.org.