To the rescue: Pet transport program receives blessing, generous donation

Published 12:17 am Tuesday, October 1, 2019


NATCHEZ — Approximately 75 people gathered Sunday afternoon at HoofBeats and PawPrints Rescue on the grounds of Woodland Plantation just off the Natchez Trace in rural Natchez to bless the animal rescue and transportation program.

The ceremony included hymns such as “Doxology” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful” accompanied on guitar and led by Darrell Day, music director for First Presbyterian Church Natchez, and scripture readings by the Rev. Joan Gandy, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Natchez.

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Kathy Fitch and her husband, Jay, founded HoofBeats and PawPrints Rescue in 2017 with the primary mission to host the Natchez Transport Program and provide horse rescue and rehabilitation, Kathy said.

The non-profit organization helps spay, neuter and transport pets that cannot find homes locally to other parts of the nation where they are more likely to find adoptive homes.

“Our goals are to help pets to find homes and to help local shelters clear space so that they can help more local animals,” Kathy said. “The HPR transport program’s work virtually eliminates the need for local animal shelters to euthanize healthy adoptable pets for lack of space.”
Kathy said that in the past seven years, the transport team has worked to save approximately 7,000 dogs, puppies, cats and kittens.

“Organizations that we help on a regular basis include Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, Concordia PAWS, Vidalia Dog Pound, Patrick’s Pals and Delhi K-9 Rescue in Delhi, Louisiana,” Kathy said. “In addition, the program works closely with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to rescue large animals and so far has rehabilitated and found homes for over 25 horses.”

During Sunday’s blessing ceremony, Kathy acknowledged businesses that contribute to the program and several volunteers, including people who drive the transport vehicles and people who help bathe, feed and care for the animals housed on the Woodland property.

The highlight of Sunday’s blessing ceremony, however, was the chartering of a cargo van previously own by the late Steve and Mary Jo McNerney.

“The van was donated by Mary Jo’s siblings,” Kathy said, “Joan Gandy and Chandler Warren, and will be used as a back-up transport unit.”

The van is the third vehicle in the fleet, Kathy said. Other vehicles include a large primary transport provided by an ASPCA grant and NACHS.

“A smaller van with a ramp was donated by an ambulance service in Peoria, Illinois, and is used to visit local shelters and to take animals to the veterinarian when necessary,” Kathy said.

The latest van has been dubbed the “Mary Jo” and has HoofBeats and PawPrints Rescue logo painted on the sides along with the words “In loving memory of Steve and Mary Jo McNerney.”

“They were big supporters of the transport and animal rescue,” Kathy said of the McNerneys. “We are very appreciative to the family for the donation of the van. We will use it to save as many animals as we can.”