Friday, October 27, 2023

Maine Lab Rescue closing its doors after 11-plus years of helping dogs and cats

By Masha Yurkevich

Seeing a need and taking it into your own hands is not something everyone can do, but it was something that Erlene LeBorgne of Windham, the founder, owner, and director of Maine Lab Rescue has devoted herself to. But because of many difficulties encountered in the last year, the shelter has decided to close its doors after 11 years of helping dogs and cats.

After 11-plus years of helping dogs and cats, Maine Lab
Rescue is closing, but the organization encourages the
community to continue to support animal rescues, shelters,
and animals in need and to consider fostering, volunteering,
donating and supporting them any way they can.
Maine Lab Rescue was a foster based rescue organization based in Windham and dedicated to helping prevent euthanasia of dogs and cats in kill shelters in the south. It was licensed as a shelter in both Maine and in Georgia, with fosters in both locations. It served as an all-breed dog and cat rescue, with a focus on labs and lab mixes.

“We would rescue dogs and cats from the kill shelters in Georgia and place them in foster care there,” said LeBorgne. “We then would see to any medical needs, provide core vaccination and heartworm and other testing if old enough, spay and neuter them and then transport them here to Maine. The animals would then be available for adoption once their import quarantine was completed. At times we would have more foster availability in Maine than in Georgia; when that happened, we would partner with other rescues in Georgia, as well as Mississippi and Puerto Rico to bring their pets to Maine for adoption.”

From the beginning MLR has been a private rescue, not governed by a formal board of directors, rather it’s always being run collaboratively with LeBorgne, its assistant director, Deb Cote and Stacey Nestor, who oversaw their Georgia operations. Their fosters and volunteers also had great input into the organization and operations.

It all started in November 2011 when LeBorgne adopted a kitten from a shelter in Georgia, and once fully vetted, the kitten was transported to Maine.

“In doing so, I learned about the plight of animals in kill shelters in the south and elsewhere. It naturally made me want to help,” she said.

Prior to starting her own organization, LeBorgne helped start another animal rescue.

“In May 2012, I formally started Maine Lab Rescue after deciding to branch out on my own. My goal was to help two or three dogs every two to four weeks. Although I knew it wouldn’t make a big impact, I knew that any lives saved would help,” LeBorgne said. “I never imagined that it would grow to be such a large organization or that I would leave my position with Maine Cancer Foundation to run the rescue full time.” .

In the 11-plus years that MLR was actively rescuing, more than 5,500 dogs and cats were placed in adoptive homes in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. At one time, MLR was one of the state’s largest rescue groups, placing more animals than many smaller shelters.

“At any given time, we used to have about 100 folks actively involved in fostering and providing care for the animals, volunteering, transporting, providing administrative support and the like,” LeBorgne said. “Our fosters and volunteers are the backbone of rescue organization, and were especially important to ours.”

The pandemic and the ensuing economic conditions brought many challenges to the rescuing and sheltering world, both in Maine and across the entire country.

“After much consideration of those and other factors over the last several months, we concluded ceasing operations was the best course of action for our organization,” said LeBorgne. “While this was not an easy decision, we felt it was necessary. We are not alone in making this difficult choice, many rescue groups across the country have ceased operations or are currently grappling with the decision.”

Deciding to cease rescue operations for Maine Lab Rescue was among the most difficult decisions LeBorgne says that she’s ever had to make, particularly where it meant that she would no longer be helping medically needy animals. Helping dogs and cats in crisis was one of the most personally fulfilling aspects of rescue work for her and she’s not planning on leaving her gift of helping animals.

“I realized I needed to continue with this kind of one-on-one care for both me, and for the animals that need it. Providing crisis care is something I excel at and is a gift that should not go to waste,” she said.

After a lot of consideration, and speaking with Maine Department of Agriculture about continuing as a licensed entity, she has decided to continue caring for medically needy/in crisis animals.

“It’s going to be very small,” LeBorgne said, “Just myself providing crisis care, with perhaps a small handful of fosters who take over care when the animal is healthy. Intake will be a one on one, case by case basis. Once healthy and fully vetted, they will be placed for adoption, which is where the license from Department of Agriculture becomes necessary.”

The new project will be called MLR Crisis Care. While MLR Crisis Care may only be able to help 20 to 25 animals a year, it will help those who may never have otherwise had a chance.

“While the news of our closing will bring sadness to many hearts, please know that your stories, photos of adventures and the love that we have all shared as MLR family are a strong testimony to our shared love of animals and the desire to rescue and adopt those in need,” said LeBorgne. “The need to rescue, rehome and repeat does not end when we close our doors. It is our fervent hope that you continue to support animal rescues, shelters, and animals in need. We encourage you to consider fostering, volunteering, donating, and supporting them any way you can. They and the animals need you more now than ever. They are counting on you.” <

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.