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This Virginia Beach no-kill shelter takes the animals no one else will and nurses them back to health. Here's how you can help.

The Hope for Life Rescue team transforms the lives of thousands of dogs and cats in tough situations. Join 13News Now in supporting their work!

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Furry faces cover every corner of the Hope for Life Rescue facility in Virginia Beach, and many of those animals have a difficult past that employees are working to change.

“Most of the time, every animal we take in has to see the vet right away,” said Assistant Director Martha Wilkins. “Because we take in such difficult cases, a lot of neglected and abused animals.”

An 8-year-old dog named Ava at the facilty now is a prime example. 

She was recently surrendered by her owner to another shelter in Hampton Roads after being hit by a car. Her injuries were so extensive -- a broken leg, dislocated hip and severe degloving of her front paws -- that the shelter would likely have euthanized her.

But Hope for Life took Ava in and is slowly nursing her back to health.

Volunteers say Ava can't walk on her front legs and needs help going to the bathroom. Her degloving injury is so severe that she has to see a veterinarian every two to three days for bandage changes. And she was also diagnosed with heartworms and tick-borne diseases, which means she will need to be treated for those once her other injuries heal. 

The cost of her medical treatment over the next few weeks or months will be very expensive, somewhere around $11,000 to $15,000. But this is what Hope for Life does.

“When we take an animal, we do whatever is necessary until they come back to health,” Wilkins said.

It's a small animal care facility with a big mission.

Credit: WVEC
Ava is an 8-year-old dog surrendered to Hope for Life Rescue in Virginia Beach after being hit by a car.

'We don't euthanize': A mission to protect the lives of animals

Over 18,000 of Virginia’s dogs and cats were euthanized in 2022, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

But Hope for Life is trying to combat that statistic. Wilkins says the team there is is committed to protecting the lives of animals.

“We don’t euthanize for space or anything like that,” she said. “That is why it is important, too, for finances, adoptions, because the more we can get adopted, the more we can take in.”

The non-profit specifically takes in abandoned, abused and neglected animals, many times coming from high-kill facilities, and has maintained a high save rate for the animals it takes in. Last year, Hope for Life was able to keep alive 98% of the animals surrendered to it.

The shelter is also cage-free. Staff put animals in tempered glass rooms instead of cages, allowing them to roam free within the facility.

“We tend to find that once they get to us and they are in a more home-like setting, they are less stressed, more comfortable and more likely to be adopted,” Wilkins said.

Donations, volunteers make saving at-risk dogs and cats possible

Throughout the year, the Hope for Life team transforms the lives of dogs and cats in tough situations. 

“A lot of shelters around the country right now are struggling, so being able to help them with the blessings that we have and having the wonderful supporters that we have, it does give us hope that now this animal is in good hands,” Wilkins said.

Last year alone, the organization rescued 1,268 animals from across Hampton Roads and beyond -- and their vet bills totaled over $350,000.

A group of dedicated volunteers and donations from the community are what keep the doors open.

“Different volunteers do different things,” said volunteer Suzie Shipley. “Some take the dogs home overnight, some are fosters. Everyone does what they can, we do dishes, we do anything.”

That's why 13News Now and Priority Automotive are partnering this month to “Paws for Charity” and raise donations for Hope for Life Rescue. Our goal is to raise $20,000 between March 13 and 22 – here’s where you can donate!

You can also donate by visiting the shelter during operating hours.

But there are other ways to help Hope for Life, too: you can volunteer at the shelter, foster animals or host a puppy sleepover, help transport animals, adopt a pet, or you can buy items off their Chewy wish list.

To see how Ava is doing, follow Hope for Life on Instagram for regular updates on her journey back to health.

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