By Dawn Wolfe
Out in "the boonies" between Flint and Lansing, a new animal rights and shelter organization headed by a gay mid-Michigan man is attracting international attention.
"Our first donation, $150, came from Belgium," explained Executive Director L. David Farr of Advocates for Animal Rights (AFAR), which is currently providing a range of services from fostering animals to grief services for owners who have lost their beloved pets.
AFAR http://advocatesforanimalrights.org, which recently formally incorporated as a non-profit, continues to see support from across the pond thanks to a grant of $10,000 in digital services provided by the U.S.-based Grassroots.org http://www.grassroots.org. The gift has made it possible for AFAR to work with a web site designer in France and to have an Italian logo designer.
Why the buzz? For one thing, AFAR is the only organization of it's kind operating in the middle of the state. The other reason, though, is the obvious enthusiasm and dedication of Farr and his team of all-volunteer board members and volunteer animal foster homes. Farr is so committed to helping animals, in fact, that he is currently taking care of eleven special needs dogs and a number of birds in his own home.
Unsurprisingly, cats that are rescued by AFAR find homes with other volunteers.
While AFAR started officially in 2007, Farr said that his family has always taken in animals in need. After a forced retirement brought on by a disability, making animal rescue his full-time volunteer job just seemed like the natural thing to do.
Farr and his volunteer crew want AFAR to go well beyond fostering and rehabilitating rescued animals. In addition to their fostering work, the organization offers a "Disaster Response Team" for caregivers and beloved pets in crises as well as the grief counseling services for newly-bereft pet owners. While providing these services, AFAR is raising money for two eventual animal sanctuaries – one for domesticated animals including farm animals, and one for wild animals – and wants to provide services and advocacy on a number of fronts. Helping "animal hoarders" become informed, responsible animal caretakers and operating a long-term care facility for the pets of US military personnel and veterans are among AFAR's ambitions.
Right now, Farr said, "One hundred percent of the funds we receive are going into rescue services. We are also taking from our own pockets," to make sure the animals in their care receive the help they need.
Farr, who is also an LGBT advocate, said that he is concentrating his post-career career on working with and for animals because, "…[W]e share our world with many other beings. I believe that we need to have compassion and offer assistance for all who are disadvantaged, because we know how how it feels."