Supporting ARF, Wimberley's Angel for Dogs, Cats, Puppies, Kittens and All Who Love Animals

Animal Referral Friends (ARF) began with a single individual making a large difference.

In 1997, Sonja Heryford rescued 15 stray and abandoned cats who were trying to survive behind Wimberley's local grocery store, then Country Boy's (now Brookshire Brothers). After bringing the starving animals home, feeding them and treating them for fleas and parasites that had victimized them in their abandoned state, Sonja soon discovered that the next step was a big one.
Sonja and Priscilla, a beautiful calico waiting for a home.

There was no place of refuge in the Wimberley area for abandoned cats and dogs. Wimberley, Texas did not, and still does not, have an animal shelter and had no private or public-funded organization to assist abandoned pets.

When you are Sonja Heryford, there is only one thing to do. She stepped in alone to address the need for care of neglected and abandoned animals, and founded Animal Referral Friends. At her own expense, she had a telephone installed in her home for ARF and began answering calls about lost and found pets, creating a central networking point. She also began locating foster homes and finding loving, adoptive permanent homes for the adoptable animals. In the meantime, she fed and fostered as many animals as she could afford...sometimes more.

Friends and like-minded volunteers were soon drawn to Sonja's mission. A year or two later, Jolynn Archer joined Sonja to help ARF apply for nonprofit status. They were successful; ARF is now a 501(C)3 organization.

Other than irresponsible previous pet owners who move and leave pets behind, or some who even drive around to find a likely spot to dump a living animal, the primary reason Wimberley's stray animal population exists is the lack of an accessible, affordable spay and neuter program. Understanding that many families might not be able to afford proper veterinary care, ARF began a low-cost spay and neuter program through Emancipet.
ARF helped to find a home for Yasha, abandoned on a lonely road when only few weeks old. He's now grown, gorgeous and happy in a wonderful home in Austin.

Emancipet now comes to Wimberley once a month offering low-cost pet health care, including spaying and neutering. Veterinarians in Wimberley have pitched in, too. Cypress Creek Animal Hospital and Wimberley Veterinary Clinic pitched in to become donation points for ARF.

For people who can't afford to feed their pets, ARF has been providing assistance through Meals on Wheels and Crisis Breadbasket.

In 2005 Sonja and her husband, Al, donated their own property as a facility, now used primarily as a cat sanctuary with limited space for dogs. ARF placed about 75 kittens last summer in good homes, working with Judy Bowman at the Blue Willow and Pennye Graves at Home Sweet Home. Both Judy and Pennye are on the ARF board of directors, as are Cathy Lappin, Beverley Allen, Karen Bartell, Johanna Smith, Trisha McWaters, Pat Davis, Shelley Upchurch, and Charlotte Bibbert.

The ARF line receives an average of 15 calls a day and last year alone spent in excess of $3,700. to have animals spayed and neutered. Donations are always needed and ARF is actively seeking grants.

In 2004, a shelter task force was formed, with Sonja and Katherine Danie as director and co-director. Although, no progress has been made toward that goal to date, Sonja is still hoping a shelter will be obtained or built to provide a place for pets before adoption. Most of the cats and kittens are at the small facility donated by the Heryfords, but lack of space at the already crowded, makeshift facility makes it necessary to find foster homes for dogs and puppies.

The most difficult task so far is finding good foster homes and permanent homes for larger dogs.

ARF now allocates funds to specifically assist with spay-neuter program for pets and strays, encouraging a Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) program for feral cats. Spaying and neutering can be fully subsidized for low-income pet owners or those who are sheltering strays, and pet food assistance is available.

Many pet owners have good reason to be grateful to ARF; through ARF's lost and found pet program, ARF works with Hays County Animal Control and all three local veterinarians. Additionally, the Wimberley View publishes a list of lost and found animals, along with animals available for adoption twice a week.

2007 marked the 10-year anniversary of ARF, whose longterm goal remains a privately-funded and/or grant-supported shelter for Wimberley area animals.

ARF's telephone number is 512-847-2878.

--  Article 2007, --