Here's how it all started...
Animal Protection and Education Association, Inc. was founded in 1989 by a group of concerned individuals in Jackson County. Julie Hamer is the only founding member that is still active with our organization. Julie has dedicated her life to the well being of animals of all kinds.
My family has always taken in strays. I brought home my first stray when I was only four years old and I'll never forget him. He was a beautiful black and silver German Shepherd and I’ve been hooked on shepherds every since.
My mother and I started fostering for Julie in 1994. Our first dogs were female breeders from a puppy mill. The owner of the puppy mill would take the "used up" dogs out back and shoot them. His wife hated this, so she contacted Julie. Julie agreed to take all of the unwanted dogs from them. This is where we came in. Most of the dogs were small Chihuahua and Terrier mixes. Of course none of them were housebroken and some of them were terrified and not even used to being handled. One of the happiest moments I can remember was when Cory Bell, a little Chihuahua mix, came up and licked my hand. My mom and I fostered and rehabbed many dogs over the years. Some we adopted to good homes and some lived out their remaining years with us. Not all of the animals we take are adoptable due to age, health or other reasons.
I don’t know exactly when I became a full fledge APEA Member, but it was around 2002 or 2003. Around that time was when we started working with the Jackson County Animal Shelter as a foster home. In the past, I have had as many as eighty dogs at one time. We have worked and continue to work with many other rescue groups all across the eastern United States.
I have always been a horse lover and I didn’t realize until writing this that our first four horses were rescues. My first horse was a partially blind pony. His owner got mad at him for breeding his mare and he gelded him on site with a pocket knife. Needless to say he didn’t care for humans too much after that. Some friends of ours that lived in the country took him in.
Our most heart wrenching horse rescue was a horse we named Destiny. She was a ten year old thoroughbred bay mare. She should have weighed between 1250-1300 pounds...she only weighed 664 when we rescued her. There was a lot of controversy over her. The county agency (not Jackson County) that had received the reports of the starved horse ignored them until they found out that APEA had picked up the horse. They notified all of the local vets that we had "stolen" her, which was far from the truth, as we had the owner’s verbal permission to take the horse. We had made an appointment with a veterinarian, but what we didn’t know was that he was planning on having me arrested for stealing the horse. God was on our side that day. My cell phone wouldn’t work and we couldn’t call to say we were running late, so the vet and the Sheriff left for lunch. Oops! Later on I found out about my intended arrest, so we didn’t go back to THAT vet. Destiny only lived for one week after we rescued her.....she died in my arms and was surrounded by several volunteers that loved her and a veterinarian that understood her situation.
We have assisted Jackson County with their horses and pot belly pigs. APEA’s largest equine case was Jeannie Huston. When Hurricane Ivan entered the Gulf in 2004 we were contacted to house the twenty horses and two llamas through the storm. They stayed at our farm from September until December when then they were finally all auctioned off.
We have also helped the YMCA with six Paso Fino horses that were donated to them. They had two stallions and four mares. The person in charge of their care let one of the mares almost starve to death. Dr. Byrd told me not to be surprised if I came out one morning and found her dead. She was severely emaciated. We adopted out three of the mares (two of which have come back) and gelded the two stallions. Skinny Minnie still lives here. She is the most grateful animal I have ever rescued. I honestly believe she knows that I saved her live.
Our goal is that every animal has a happy place to live out the rest of its life and to do so with someone who loves them!