HER Mission: Christy Ayers dedicates countless hours to animal rescue
Oct 07, 2023
She's rescued cats and kittens from abandoned or hoarded houses. She's fallen through rotten floors searching for trapped animals. She's cleared entire neighborhoods of feral cat populations. She's cared for sick and injured animals. Once, she waded into a pond to save a struggling duck tangled in fishing line.
New Castle resident Christy Ayers has dedicated more than 20 years of her life to rescuing animals in need. In addition to working a full-time job, she volunteers more than 25 hours each week at Paws on My Heart, a non-profit animal rescue.
"I've always had a huge soft spot for animals, cats in particular," Ayers said. "There's such a large need in this community and so few resources. I want to be able to educate people and possibly help put a small dent in the massive overpopulation of stray cats and kittens in our community."
Over the years, Ayers estimates she's helped more than 300 animals, mostly cats and kittens. However, she's also helped dogs and puppies and the occasional opossum, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel or duck.
Sometimes animals are owner surrenders. Other times they have been dumped or abandoned. Some animals are sick or injured strays. And sometimes cats and kittens are pulled from local shelters to free up space in those facilities.
"I help people who find themselves in situations over their heads," Ayers said. "I help people who have found a cat/kitten that needs help beyond what they can provide and animals who have been failed by people."
One rescue in particular stands out.
"My most memorable rescue actually involved a dog and her 10 puppies," Ayers said. "It was a group effort with a lot of incredible women, the most important one being my oldest daughter. We worked all day at an abandoned property in Mooreland, trying to find a way to pull puppies out from underneath a very old house. We got permission to rip off the deck of the front porch and were able to pull the pups out with a catch pole, all while trying to fight off a very angry, protective momma dog."
"All of the puppies were rescued and brought back to my home, but unfortunately momma was way too frightened and skittish to come along," Ayers continued. "I was not about to bottle feed 10 puppies, so we took a break and went back out to Mooreland with just two people (my daughter and myself), a few screaming puppies and a feeble plan of action."
"Long story short, we lured momma back with her pups and my daughter cornered her underneath a neighbor's deck and was able to drag her out," Ayers said. "She was alligator death rolling and fighting tooth and nail, but we were able to safely secure her in a crate and reunite her with her babies. A lot of people will recognize them as the 'pizza pups' from Animal Rescue Fund (ARF). It was an all-around awesome and very rewarding experience. And to get to do that with my daughter made it even more special."
Based in Muncie, Paws On My Heart has network of more than 30 volunteers, some of whom live and work in Henry County. Volunteers work to get animals off the streets or removed from bad situations.
One such volunteer is New Castle resident Nikki Flowers, who met Ayers about two years ago. At the time, Flowers found a kitten and wasn't sure what to do with it. She saw Ayers' name on a pet-related Facebook group and reached out for help. Flowers agreed to foster the kitten and Ayers provided the necessary supplies.
"It just kind of snowballed from there," Flowers said, adding that since that first kitten, she's fostered several litters of momma cats and their babies.
"I have never met anyone like Christy," Flowers said. "She will drop whatever she's doing to go rescue an animal. If somebody calls, she is going to go help. She's become my best friend. I love her like a sister."
Flowers said Ayers taught her how to trap cats so they can be spayed or neutered.
"There's cats everywhere and they are constantly breeding," Flowers said. "One of the best parts of rescue for me is, even if we have to release them back to their environments, at least they will stop breeding. The other best part about rescue is knowing animals are going to get a home and get off the streets. They are such precious animals."
Another local volunteer is New Castle resident and animal-lover Lacy Garcia, who met Ayers about 1.5 years ago.
"Christy is the most amazing person," Garcia said. "I look at her as not just a friend, but as a mentor. She's shown me everything I know about rescuing. She's amazing in every aspect."
Garcia fosters animals, although she said it's hard not to get attached. She's experienced a few "foster fails," meaning she ended up adopting the animal herself. One of Garcia's most memorable moments was rescuing a mother cat and six kittens who had been living near TS Tech.
For Garcia, keeping animals safe until they can find forever homes is important. Ayers taught Garcia many medical aspects of rescue work, including how to tube feed premature kittens and administer vaccinations.
"The most rewarding thing is the love and affection you get from the cats, and knowing that you nurtured them back to health and helped them," Garcia said.
Once an animal is rescued, Ayers conducts an intake.
"I do an assessment to find out if they are heathy," Ayers said. "If they are old enough, I will start their vaccinations, deworming and flea treatment. If I don't have space to keep them in my home, I will work on finding someone who can foster and get them transported."
"Then we work on setting up a surgery appointment for their spay/neuter," Ayers continued. "If the cat/kitten is old enough, there's usually a quick, three-week turn around from intake to adoption. But a lot of our animals come in sick, injured, pregnant or just too young for vaccines and surgery, so those take a lot more time and effort to get them ready for adoption."
The ultimate goal is to get animals adopted into loving, forever homes, or relocated to a safe environment. Animals adopted from Paws On My Heart are also microchipped. Cats are tested for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).
Those wishing to adopt an animal must fill out an application and be approved before they can take a pet home. Animals available for adoption through Paws on My Heart can be viewed online at www.shelterluv.com/.
There are multiple ways local citizens can support Paws On My Heart rescue efforts.
"Monetary donations are always helpful to cover vet bills and medications, but we also always need food, litter, sanitizing wipes and/or baby wipes, paper towels, puppy pads and laundry supplies, like bleach and soap," Ayers said. "Volunteer your time! I know not everyone is in the position to donate money or supplies or to even foster. But we always need help cleaning or even transporting animals to and from surgery appointments. Just ask! I can put you to work!"
To contact Ayers, or make arrangements to donate supplies, message her on Facebook.
Anyone interested in making a monetary donation to help with veterinarian bills can do so by calling Country Acre Animal Clinic in New Castle at 765-529-1803. When calling, please specify the donation is for the Christy Ayers/Paws on My Heart account. Donations can also be made by visiting the Paws on My Heart Facebook page and clicking on the donation link.
According to Ayers, the majority of the stray pet population in the Henry County community is caused by people who do not consider the responsibilities and expenses associated with properly caring for an animal.
"To be quite frank, a lot of people just don't care," Ayers said. "They glorify pet ownership as something of a fantasy and see themselves cuddling and loving on their cute, new furry friend and have zero regard for everything that comes with it."
"They get a 'free pet' and never bother to vaccinate or spay/neuter," she said. "And then the male cats start spraying (heads-up, they stink) and the females go into heat (heads-up, they get pregnant). And guess what? Sometimes they even get sick and need to see a doctor! And this is where we step in. To rescue. We rescue these animals from the people who have failed them. It's a never-ending battle. I could go on all day long about this, but the moral of my rant is this- please be a responsible pet owner. Do not adopt unless you can afford to properly care for your animal. Please spay, neuter and vaccinate. It saves lives and prevents so much suffering. Volunteer your time to help out your local rescue or shelter. Rescues are in desperate need of volunteers and fosters."
When she does get a moment of free time, Ayers enjoys spending time with her two daughters, Devyn and Lauren, as well as her own pets, which include two dogs, Olive and Phoebe, as well as five cats: Goose, Rigby, Hazel, Pax and Maggie.
"I've always had a huge soft spot for animals, cats in particular. There's such a large need in this community and so few resources. I want to be able to educate people and possibly help put a small dent in the massive overpopulation of stray cats and kittens in our community." - Christy Ayers