When Jessica Monroe first found the kitten she now calls “the littlest house guest,” the white patch of fur on its face was black with fleas.
The “house guest” is now Monroe’s newest addition to her household of rescued pets, and the patch is now back to its normal furry white.
Monroe began rescuing animals because she said “it’s my tug.”
“Everybody has a tug ... That’s my purpose on this earth, is animals. Since childhood that’s where my tug has been — animal welfare causes,” Monroe said.
She and her husband, Nathan, started Saved by the Heart in August 2011 as a nonprofit to offer support and resources for those involved in the Upstate animal rescue effort.
She had been rescuing animals for about 13 years when she noticed it was sometimes difficult to get answers to some rescue questions. So she decided to start her own organization to fill the information gap.
“When we started Saved by the Heart, it was essentially to just be there for folks as support,” Monroe said. Her group doesn’t provide shelter services like those provided by the Greenville Humane Society.
The organization helps pet owners or anyone trying to rescue an animal. Monroe helps find homes for animals among her network or other shelters via Facebook. She wants to offer more programs to the community and to spread awareness of existing programs.
Last year, she started a program called Let ‘em Live Upstate, partnering with other businesses and organizations to help create a no-kill Upstate effort and initiate new programs or adoption events to get animals out of the shelter and place them into loving homes.
“What we are trying to do with Let ‘em Live Upstate is not try to reinvent the wheel, but get more exposure to (existing programs),” Monroe said.
One such program is Fix-a-Pit, where a pit bull can be spayed or neutered for $25 by Speak for Animals in Greenville.
Another program she offers is the Help Desk at Greenville County Animal Care, 328 Furman Hall Road. She is searching for volunteers to work the desk. It’s part of Monroe’s PAST (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender) program as an offshoot of Let ‘em Live Upstate.
Monroe said she has created a coalition of rescuers who support the no-kill Upstate cause. Some of the agencies involved are Foster Paws in Greenville, Abby’s Animal Angels in Greer and Concerned Citizens for Animals in Simpsonville, to help pull together the community’s resources.
“We are trying to create the network so everyone is not so tapped out because they are trying to do a hundred things, where they can focus on what they are good at,” Monroe said.
Saved by the Heart will also host adoption events at the Haywood Mall, and the dates will be released at the next Let ‘em Live meeting at 7 p.m. July 29 at The Epicurean Restaurant, 1455 Woodruff Road.
A few weeks ago, Monroe and her husband were coming home from dinner when a pit bull ran across the road. She chased the dog through backyards in her skirt and heels. Monroe was close to catching her until a car came by and scared her.
“We can’t save everyone but if I’m driving down the road and I see (a stray animal), I’m going to try to chase it down,” Monroe said.
Once she catches an animal, she has the animal scanned for a microchip in case it has been missing for a long time.
Monroe houses some of the rescued animals with special needs. Her house is crowded, to say the least, with 30 animals that are either up for adoption or have found their forever home with Monroe and her husband.
“They bring a lot of joy, laughs and messes,” Monroe said.
They have rescued rabbits and birds, but currently just have dogs and cats. They have male cats with urinary tract issues and some dogs with heart disease or previously abused.
“With those with special needs and ex-fighters, we don’t adopt them out,” she said. She has three pit bulls at her home that were ex-fighters.
Monroe also owns Greer Trading Post on Trade Street and through her business helps to promote Saved by the Heart. She hopes to have adoption events at her store in the future.
Monroe hosts multiple fundraisers a year including Dog Night on Trade to raise awareness, a Bark-b-que fundraiser, a pet-friendly family fest with games and an annual yard sale.
The biggest fundraiser Monroe hosts is the Saved by the Heart Soiree. It’s a formal party with entertainment, food and silent auction. The fourth annual soiree will be Feb. 27.
Saved by the Heart is a certified 501(c)3 group. As a nonprofit, Monroe now has the opportunity to apply for grants to help fund programs.