By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Goliath was an abused eight-year-old Great Dane who was in pretty bad shape by the time he made it to Nedra Wooley’s care, where he lived only another 18 months before passing away; BeBe was a sweet kitten who never grew very big. Described as “a sort of Down’s Syndrome animal,” a rare occurrence in the animal world, BeBe weighed only two pounds when she died.
When retired veterinary technician Nedra Wooley founded her animal sanctuary, she named it after the two animals who had made their “forever home” in her heart. Goliath and BeBe’s World, a no-kill animal rescue and sanctuary, came into being in St. Augustine in 2001.
In 2004, a woman named Lydia Claddock purchased 45 acres of land in Madison County and allowed the sanctuary to move here.
At the Rotary Club’s first meeting of 2012, Fran Charlson, who has been with Goliath and BeBe’s World for about a year, told the story of Goliath and BeBe’s World to date.
About 320 animals call the Sanctuary home. Most are not adoptable, either because of physical problems, like the three-legged dog, or behavioral problems, like the dog who digs his way out of every enclosure imaginable. But at Goliath and BeBe’s World, they can live out happy and healthy lives, sharing their 45 acre living space with horses, donkeys, goats, cats, other dogs, birds, even a couple of very large tortoises.
In the seven years the Sanctuary has been located in Madison County, they have spent nearly a million dollars in local businesses, tens of thousands at Dr. Lewis’s veterinary office alone. They have also purchased a tractor from a local dealer, bought thousands of dollars worth of feed from Upholds, and fencing and roofing material from Studstill’s. They also buy supplies from Creatures Featured and several other local merchants.
The Sanctuary helps in other ways, with animal control, accepting animals from Jamie Willoughby at times. Nedra Wooley pointed out that Goliath and Bebe’s World even benefits people who don’t like animals, by taking in those animals that would otherwise become nuisances if they remained at large and bred even more unwanted animals.
At the moment, the shelter does not have a formal adoption program in Madison County, but they would like to have one here in the near future; currently, animals that are adoptable are mostly adopted out through a program in St. Augustine. The shelter does do home checks, and there is an application process for adopting an animal from Goliath and BeBe’s World, so that the animals find the right “forever home,” where they will be a good fit with their new families rather than end up coming back to the shelter. Currently, the shelter has “about a 98 percent hit rate” with adoptions, said Fran Charlson, meaning that fewer than two percent are brought back.
Along with an official adoption program here, Charlson and Wooley would also like to start an education program in the schools, aimed at teaching responsible animal care and prevention of animal abuse.
Another hopeful plan for the future is a low-cost spay and neuter program.
At the present time, the plan is for the shelter to stay here in Madison, but, as Charleson stated, “it’s complicated.”
Lydia Claddock, the woman who owns the 45 acres of land, was arrested and indicted in a fraud scheme. She is currently out on bail, but Goliath and BeBe’s World has “kind of been left hanging.”
It was mainly because of this that Charlson got involved with the shelter about a year ago. With their major source of funding gone, the shelter had to begin a public relations and fundraising campaign.
So far, there has been enough in donations to enable them to keep all the animals fed and vetted. They would like to be able to buy the 45 acres at a foreclosure sale because it would be affordable, but first, the litigation mess surrounding the current owner has to be sorted out. If they cannot buy that particular 45 acres, perhaps there might be another 45 or 50 acres elsewhere in the county they could afford, or perhaps, someone else might want to donate some land.
Although the future regarding their present location is a little unclear at the moment, Charlson says that her work with Goliath and BeBe’s World “has been a wonderful experience,” and they will carry on. They have a fundraising plan for new facilities if need be, they have a business plan, and they have a budget.
They will continue their work to get the word out about the Sanctuary, and bring the adoption programs and the lost-cost spay and neuter programs and the school programs to fruition somehow.
They will also continue to provide Sanctuary for the animals that need a place to live out their lives in peace, and find “forever homes” for the animals with lots of love to give, animals who just need to find the right families to love them back.