Local organization a real ‘friend of animals’

Sally Mayes, founder of Friends of Animals Kansas, sits in her living room with two of her dogs Sammy (on her lap) and Max on Nov. 30, 2015. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

In 15 years, Sally Mayes said she has seen it all: dogs, birds and the occasional bobcat. Sooner or later, they’ve all turned up to Friends of Animals Inc., and Mayes, the founder of the organization, said she has taken it upon herself to find them a forever home.

Operating as a tax-exempt nonprofit, Friends of Animals was founded to find homes for animals at the Junction City-Geary County Animal Shelter.

Friends of Animals also provides free veterinary care to the shelter animals in need. Mayes said up to 95 percent of animals need some sort of care.

“Just this week, we’ve had two knee surgeries, some X-rays and an eye surgery so far,” Mayes said.

Mayes said animals who are healthy and in good shape find homes much easier.

Although it’s not a brick and mortar rescue, its reach extends throughout the local area. Jennifer Gfeller, director of the Junction City-Geary County Animal Shelter, said Friends of Animals is crucial to their work.

“We can’t do what we do without them,” Gfeller said.

It hasn’t always been easy, Mayes said. In addition to the heartache that comes with working with abandoned animals, Mayes said keeping the organization afloat takes all hands on deck.

Friends of Animals survives on donations, which Mayes said are coming less frequently and in smaller amounts.

“Our veterinary bills run between $40,000 and $45,000 a year,” Mayes said. “(Donations are) the only way to keep going.”

Mayes said she estimates the number of animals Friends of Animals has saved is “well past 9,000.”

She said finding the animals new homes is no easy task.

“We don’t just put them in any home,” Mayes said. “It’s a tough screening process, and that’s what we want for our animals.”

Some K-State students who are aware of the organization said they are grateful for the work it does. Hannah Condrey, senior in public relations and owner of two adopted chihuahuas, said the organization is vital for abandoned animals.

“Rescues like this are important because without them, one of my chihuahuas would still be out on the street, and the other would be scheduled to be euthanized,” Condrey said.

Gfeller said she believes Mayes is the best person for the job.

“She’s such a wonderful person,” Gfeller said. “I can’t imagine a better advocate for the animals.”

Despite the hard work, Mayes said she can’t imagine doing anything else.

“It’s a job, it makes me feel like I’m doing something important,” Mayes said. “It just makes you feel good, since this is desperately needed.”