After transporting animals to safety in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Caron Tuttle saw a need for a greater animal rescue presence in Atascosa County, just south of San Antonio.
Already an animal foster volunteer for a now-defunct program, Tuttle was familiar with what was and wasn’t being done locally to help animals in need.
With this in mind, she launched Atascosa Animal Allies (AAA), a nonprofit organization that enhances the quality of life for stray, wild, abandoned, homeless and surrendered Atascosa County animals by providing emergency veterinary care, spay and neutering, rehabilitation and home placement.
With no other program like it in Pleasanton and the surrounding Atascosa County area, Tuttle and her team of dedicated volunteers rescued over 1,000 animals in its first two years of existence. They routinely fostered dozens at a time while spending countless hours implementing spay and neutering practices, providing vaccinations, educating the public on how to best support animals in need and creating bios for each animal in hope of getting them permanently adopted.
“We are the bridge between an animal being on the street and an animal finding a ‘forever home,’” said Tuttle, noting that AAA has even transported animals across the country to improve their chances of adoption.
As a reward and acknowledgment of the program’s extraordinary work, the San Antonio Area Foundation awarded AAA in 2019 a three-year grant for $15,000 annually to help them continue to serve their mission.
“The San Antonio Area Foundation has been our biggest supporter. I just love them,” Tuttle said. “They have been phenomenal in helping me grow as a person and helping the organization grow in the direction it needs to grow.”
With the grant, AAA has been able to better support furry ones across Atascosa County — be it during emergencies or routine daily care.
“Every year, we’ve spent approximately $110,000 to get animals adopted or to other no-kill rescues,” Tuttle noted. “The Area Foundation grant — which I have been very, very thankful for — will go toward our spay-and-neuter clinics, providing emergency vet care and feeding all of our animals.”
For its part, the Area Foundation saw in AAA a local hero for helpless animals badly in need of help. The nonprofit’s work exemplified our support for community service.
“The organizers who run Atascosa Animal Allies are smart, determined, resourceful, and unstoppable,” said Gavin Nichols, Senior Program Officer with the Area Foundation’s Community Engagement and Impact Team, which administers grantmaking. “The grant meets our donors’ wishes perfectly.”
While AAA continues to face challenges — a small pool of volunteers, no proper care facilities and an inability to pay volunteers, among others — with Area Foundation support, Tuttle and her team have positively impacted the lives of the people and animals that make up their beloved region.
“We do this because we love animals and we love our community,” said Tuttle. “When I started, it felt like I had no idea what I was doing. But the more that I’ve learned from working with the Area Foundation, the more I’ve felt like I’m actually helping make my community a better place for both the animals and the people.”
Ben Wiese is a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Storytelling Ambassador contributor network.