NC groups offer help to pets suffering outside in the cold

A.J. Lawing and McKenzie Osborne work on another hand-built dog house at A J's Lawn Maintenance on East Ozark Ave in Gastonia, N.C. Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (Mike Hensdill/The Gaston Gazette via AP)

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — Gaston County pets in need of shelter against harsh wintertime weather can now get some help.

Several Gaston County groups have come together under the umbrella of “No Cold Pets-Gaston” to provide free, hand-built wooden dog and cat houses to residents.

The Gaston Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic, Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement and Gastonia’s AJ’s Lawn and Landscaping are working together to build and distribute more than a dozen dog and cat houses to local pet owners free of charge.

“We have been collaborating since the beginning of November, just trying to provide those in need with a shelter for their pet,” said Terry Kenny, a Gastonia attorney who helps lead the spay/neuter clinic.

Funding provided by Gastonia’s JDP Detailing have helped Melissa and AJ Lawing buy materials and lumber to build the pet shelters at their business on East Ozark Avenue. JDP Detailing gives $50 in funding for every shelter built.

Gaston County Police who work with the Animal Care and Enforcement Division help ensure the shelters go to the pet owners who need help most.

“We will usually get a call for service for a citizen about an animal that seems to be suffering. We go out and look at it on a cruelty perspective and try to educate them about how to properly care for their pet,” said Capt. Reid Rollins.

“Once we identify the need, we inform them of different resources they can use to properly care for their pets, including the pet houses. After that, we stay in touch and follow up with the pet owners depending on how bad the case was before,” Rollins added.

Ashly Hernandez of Gastonia has five dogs living outside, but could not provide a shelter for all of them.

“I could only afford three pet houses for them, but lost one a few months back due to a storm,” she said. “I have been jobless for three months and with four girls to take care of, I was unable to replace it.”

Hernandez made a plea for help on social media, and Kenny responded.

Now, all four of the family’s Huskies and a mixed Labrador are able to have shelter from winter weather.

“I am very thankful to them. Not only have they provided me with the pet houses but have donated some pet straw as well,” Hernandez said.

Since 2019, the Lawings have built more than 200 dog shelters. They also donate pet food and straw from their business for pet bedding.

“The need of these houses are usually during the winter, by having extra hands to help us with our mission, we hope to continue to build as many houses as we can to be able to have enough before the surge of need begins,” Kenny said.

The partnership has even brought them volunteers to help them with the building.

“We have had numerous people stop by to help build these houses such as Debby Suggs who has built 20 houses by herself and Todd Davis, who is currently looking to become an Eagle Scout.

They volunteered and even raised a bit of money to help with the cost of materials and anything else needed,” said Kenny.

Anyone interested in volunteering to build houses or donate may reach Kenny at 704-868-4673. Pet houses can be requested by calling the Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement at 704-922-8677 or by emailing Rollins at rrollins@gcps.org.