JACKSBORO, Texas — If you drive about an hour and a half outside of Dallas, you’ll happen upon Animal Angels Sanctuary, 38 acres of fenced-in land, devoted entirely to the rescue and shelter of dogs, horses, donkeys and their resident mule. 3MillionDogs reached out to Animal Angels to learn more about their operation and fundraising goals.
The sanctuary is the lifelong dream of Carole Sanders, 76, and it became a reality after she retired from her position as a flight attendant for American Airlines in 2001. Sanders had always had an affinity for dogs. Her first dog, a Dalmatian named Pepper, solidified her destiny. In the years that followed, she would find discarded or abandoned dogs and always venture ways to save them. But Sanders quickly realized that there wasn’t always a place for them to call home. She was determined to change that.
In 1993, she obtained her American Sanctuary Association 501c3 classification becoming the first ASA accredited sanctuary for domestic animals. Animal Angels houses on average 275+ dogs. These are canines that otherwise might not have a second chance at life. They estimate they care for 1,000 animals per year (dogs, horses, donkeys, and a mule), with an average cost of $1.00 per day for each animal, for every day in the calendar year.
Sanders has a team of volunteers and two very special women who work with her daily to provide shelter and care for all the animals living on the property. Nita Burgoon is a lifelong friend of Sanders, who followed her heart and decided to become a resident volunteer, living on the property. Beth Kelley is Vice President of Operations and will eventually take the reigns as President when Sanders retires, thereby securing the legacy for many years to come.
It was a sincere pleasure speaking with these women, as their devotion and loyalty to the lives and love of these animals is honorable. They devote each day to providing care for lives that might have otherwise been overlooked. They’re kind, compassionate, caring, and committed. They say “we definitely love what we’re doing” and they hope to do this for years and years to come.
When asked if they could share one story, one special animal, it was impossible since there are so many, each coming armed with their own individual tale. Though they did decide to share with us Lou’s story.
Lou is a German Shepherd that was almost shot by the Sheriff’s Department for being too aggressive and allegedly biting a child. When Beth arrived on-scene she found that a neighbor’s child had shot him with an airsoft gun and that Lou’s aggression was entirely in response to being shot. They welcomed Lou to the sanctuary, providing him with the medical care that he desperately needed— the bullet remains in him still. Lou’s been neutered and he’s just part of the crew now. He’s a total love bug and doesn’t have one mean-spirited bone in his body. He loves spending time with Beth’s children, and has really found a safe place that he can call home.
Kelley lives on the property with her husband Matt and her three kids Mattie, Duncan and Lilly. Matt’s dogs, we’re told, don’t weigh more than 15 pounds. The little ones just love him. The children are greeted daily as they get off the school bus and have a troop of four-legged companions to walk them home.
The dogs have free reign of the fully fenced-in terrain— they decide where they’re going to go. They travel the property, exploring, chilling out under the trees or jumping in the tubs to keep cool on a hot summer’s day. Many of these dogs are working dogs by nature and will often be with Beth or Matt as they do their daily chores, “chorin'” as they call it. Some choose to live with Beth, others with Sanders, and others with Burgoon. All the dogs know who the alpha is and they live peaceful, happy, long lives on the property.
These three women are obviously doing something right. The dogs on the property have an average life expectancy of 15 years, which is considerable given that many are large breed dogs. They attribute this longer average lifetime to “wonderful care, quality foods, nutritional supplements, medical attention, and general happiness in their open campus-style setting, with independence, dignity and love.”
The sanctuary will take in animals out-of-state if they meet program requirements, if they have space in transition pens to introduce them, and transport. Though most do become permanent residents, some are transferred out to certain groups when they’re sure they’ll be adopted into a safe, forever home.
Animal Angels is entirely funded by Sanders’ Social Security Pension, resident volunteer’s donations and a small group they call their “Army of Angels” who send in funds. No other financial assistance is provided. 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to the animals.
The organization will happily accept donations of gifts cards from Walmart/Sams, Home Depot, Lowes, and Tractor Supply. They have a non-tax status allowing them to maximize their purchases and will often negotiate with these big box chains when bulk buying to get an even better deal.
This organization is completely debt-free, but meeting their monthly bills is challenging. They’re always looking for a helping hand, and someone to pay it forward so they can keep their operation alive and thriving. They have a wish list of items that they’re hoping to have one day, including a medical facility, stand-by generator, gooseneck trailer (to haul food and hay) and improved fencing for the perimeter of the property.
They’re also hopeful for new trucks, UTV’s and a skidsteer since their current ones are aging and the maintenance, repair, and batteries are quite costly. They’d undoubtedly be grateful for any donated upgrade.
Right now they’re doing “OK”, but they’re skating on thin ice. With the rise of oil prices, they have seen some donations go down. They’re in need of help, no matter how small any individual or corporation is able to provide. These funds mean so much to their future, and the lives of all that live there.
You can donate to their operation online at www.animalangelstexas.org or you can donate by mail with gift cards to P.O. Box 336, Jacksboro, TX 76458.