Online voting scores SMART Animal Rescue $3500

Progress continues on the new SMART Animal Rescue kennels near Batlow, boosted by a $3500 win this week in an online voting competition.

Covid-19 has halted most of SMART Animal Sanctuary & Rehoming Centre’s fundraising abilities, but founder Lorene Cross said she’s “too stubborn” to give up, with $60,000 more needed to finish the new kennels she’s building to house rescue dogs. This week, SMART won 3rd place in an online voting competition, banking $3500 thanks to roughly 900 voters.

Ms Cross said the money is going straight into the kennel fund.

“It’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t start something without finishing it.”

SMART already had $90,000 invested in the project to build 16 indoor kennels, which will keep dogs protected from the fierce summer sun and the winter snow which falls around the sanctuary outside of Batlow.

The online competition was run by SavourLife, a dog food company which also invests heavily in pet adoption. SavourLife distributed $50,000 amongst 30 rescue groups, dependant on how many votes each organisation received.

SMART placed third, behind Sweet Shepherd Rescue Australia Inc. (which received $5000) and Desperate for Love Dog Pound Rescue ($4000). The remaining rescue groups received grants from $2750 down to $500.

”We really hammered everybody and hassled everyone to vote for us,” said Ms Cross, who tried to get her family in New Zealand to vote also, but discovered it was only open to Australian citizens.

“We’ve got 12,000 people that follow our page. We just kept hassling every way we could think of.”

She even resorted to individually messaging every person in her friend list, asking for support.

“We really needed the money, but we didn’t just want to have a whole page full of vote for us, so we made sure to put other things up as well,” she laughed.

The funding comes at a critical time for the organisation, which hasn’t been able to do much fundraising due to social distancing and limits on gatherings. The kennels are still under construction, with the the internal runs completed and the shed going up next week, but the money has dried up.

“With corona our fundraising has just come to a massive halt,” said Ms Cross. Despite the financial strain, Ms Cross said adoptions have been continuing at a rapid rate, while people are isolating at home, and animal rescue groups are continuing to operate at full capacity.

“We can still maintain [our services]. We’re definitely not going to stop, because there are still animals out there that need rescuing.”

During a visit to a local pound Wednesday, Ms Cross picked up one dog and nine cats to bring back to SMART. Anecdotally, she said people are still continue to adopt pets at a faster rate than before Covid-19, but she does have some mounting concerns.

“It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy. My concern with that is people adopting all these animals, what’s going to happen when they go back to work?