Whatever it takes: Serving the region’s homeless animals

Leah Craig Chumbley, photo courtesy of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina. 

Leah Craig Chumbley is the executive director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. The nonprofit works across county lines with the goal of saving the greatest number of animal lives possible through its programs and initiatives.

Xpress: How has the work you do at Brother Wolf changed you?

Craig Chumbley: Working at Brother Wolf has shown me the importance of building a strong foundation of core values and weaving those core values into all you do. Our core values at Brother Wolf are care, collaboration, accountability and adaptability. We strongly believe in these values, and they are woven into what we do every day at Brother Wolf to support the lives of companion animals and the people who love them.

Standing strongly in who we are and how we can best impact the world brings others who are aligned with our work and approach to our door so that together we can make a bigger impact for the animals we all love. Seeing this in action is phenomenal — people who are aligned under a common cause can accomplish so much good. It has made me spend time thinking about what my personal core values are and then making changes in my life so that I’m living in alignment with my values and therefore bringing my best self to serve the world in the ways I’m called to do so.

How much does your nonprofit depend on volunteers?

It’s thanks to the 600-plus volunteers at Brother Wolf that we’re able to forever change so many animals’ lives. In 2022, Brother Wolf made 1,579 foster home placements. Our foster program relies entirely on the dedicated volunteer foster homes that make it possible for us to care for far more animals than we would otherwise be able to. About 70% of animals at Brother Wolf spend time in a foster home. We are blessed to be in this community where there are so many kindhearted people who are ready to help in any way in order to save a homeless animal’s life.

What was the greatest challenge your nonprofit faced in 2023?

Just like the human population, we’re seeing illnesses go through the animal population in a more intense way. Brother Wolf had to care for many very sick dogs and cats in 2023. With antibiotic resistance building against the diseases we’ve seen in shelters for the past several decades, we’ve had to work with skilled veterinarians to find ways to combat these diseases. Brother Wolf specifically works to help animals that are in rural, underfunded shelters in our region that are faced with making euthanasia decisions due to time and space constraints. When you’re helping animals in these situations, you’re taking in many animals with an unknown or minimal vaccination history. We’re so grateful to our community who has stepped up in big ways to help our animals pull through these challenging illnesses.

What new initiative has you excited for 2024?

We’re all so excited to see the Brother Wolf doggie play yard get a big overhaul in early 2024. A generous donor is sponsoring this project that includes all-new turf grass for our dogs, which will be a big upgrade in addition to the shade structure that was recently added. Over the past few years, we’ve systematically worked on key facility improvements at Brother Wolf that specifically enhance the day-to-day experience for the animals we care for and enable us to help more animals. Play groups with dogs in our play yard is a time for them to experience pure joy and freedom. We’re all so excited about this facility upgrade that will bring even greater happiness to the dogs we serve.


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