EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Gayle Helms is the director of "Pets Fur People," one of the very few no-kill animal shelters in the entire country.
Gayle said when she first became director of the Humane Society of Smith County in 1998, the shelter took any animal that county animal control picked up.
Gayle had always loved animals, so after a 30-year career in radio and television, she felt the animal shelter was a real calling, and a real responsibility.
"That's where the responsibility came in: We were either to find them a home, to get them back to their owner, adopt them or humanely euthanize them," Gayle said.
With as many as 250,000 animals coming through the shelter, euthanasia was the method too often used.
"We felt that really wasn't what a humane society should be." said Gayle. "So we made the moral decision to become a no-kill shelter, so we walked away from a quarter of a million dollars in funding to take that stance, that we no longer wanted to euthanize healthy adoptable animals."
And so, "Pets Fur People" was born, a selective admission, life-sustaining animal sanctuary, providing temporary care for animals until they find their "furever home."
While most shelters have to have funding from city and county, Pets Fur People survives on personal contributions and fundraisers.
"I made a plea this past summer that if the citizens didn't help, that we would not be able to stay open."
Fortunately, area citizens responded, but Gayle admits keeping the doors open is a constant uphill battle.
"Funding for a non-profit, especially an animal non-profit, is really tough, so we have to be very careful about how we spend our money." Gayle said.
'Little Man' and 'Jasmine' are among eight dogs that call Gayle's office home. She and her husband, Terry Cachion, also have 15 dogs of their own at home.
But there are many adorable and adoptable pets at the shelter who are looking for good homes and good people to love them.
"We have about 600 animals that come through here and our adoption rate is about 98%," Gayle explained.
Janis Walker, who adopted her dog from the shelter, says it's the pets that help the people.
"He let me know when the mailman's here, when the UPS man hits the deck with a package," said Janis.
Taking care of the pets at the shelter, and educating people about neutering and spaying to cut down on the homeless pet situation, are full-time jobs for Gayle and her staff, but more than worth the effort, she says.
"You know there are not many places that people can go to work every day and be surrounded with these animals who just adore you, and it makes our job more fun, and it's just a joy to come to work every day," Gayle said.
Pets Fur People is located at 1823 CR 386 in Tyler, and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.