Michelle Neufeld Montak loves, saves and protects animals, dogs in particular have captured her heart. Having spent numerous years in the real estate business, Montak has always devoted her extra time to volunteer work, such as Meals on Wheels
and Make A Wish Foundation, however, her love and appreciation for our four-footed friends always seemed to lead her back to animals.
In 2011, Montak founded, and is Director of Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue (GSAR). Honoring her own late dog "Otis" who she shared her life with for 16 years, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is based in Sagaponack. Its mission is as simple as it is unfortunately necessary - "Rescue animals who are on death row in high kill facilities across the country." The organization also spays, neuters, vaccinates, and microchips all rescued animals - and picks up the tab for all medical costs prior to adoption.
To date, GSAR has rescued, fostered and cared for more than 2,000 animals which have been placed in forever homes. Montak says, "I feel honored to give these precious animals, who would otherwise not stand a chance, the wonderful lives that they deserve with people who cherish them."
Generating a network of foster parents, donors, volunteers and supporters has evolved over the last few years, and now occupies Montak's full-time. Generating continued interest and funds to keep these animals
safe, that too is also full-time, and along with her husband, Edward, and their four dogs, these are the barking orders Montak has graciously assumed. As their slogan states, "Saving one dog won't change the world...but surely the world will change for that one dog."
Montak answered a few questions for Hamptons.com:
How does a background in real estate evolve into saving animals?
I've always loved animals. My mother will tell you that as soon as I was old enough to walk I would chase after every dog and cat that was anywhere near me. When I lived in Toronto I was in real estate. But when I moved to New York to marry my husband Edward, I attended a fundraiser for a rescue and little did I know that day would change my life forever!
How difficult is it to constantly obtain the necessary funds to save and medically treat all these animals?
Fundraising is always a challenge for any nonprofit organization. We are very lucky to be located in an area where people truly love animals and have the means to donate to help us save lives. We believe that every dog is worth saving regardless of age, breed or medical condition. We rescue senior dogs, dogs who have been injured or have heartworm. These dogs need extensive medical care above and beyond the basic vetting we do prior to adoption and we rely heavily on donations to help these dogs.
The organization is based in a well-known affluent area, have you found the response equals more dollars than would be available elsewhere in the country?
Most likely Yes! There are so many wonderful animal lovers out here in The Hamptons who have the financial means to help. They choose to support our life saving work because they truly love animals and feel what we do is very important.
What is an average fostering time period?
Anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the dog.
What percentage, if any, of foster families have eventually become forever families?
Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue has rescued, fostered and cared for more than 2,000 animals. (Photo Courtesy of GSAR)
Oh in the rescue world we call them "Foster Failures." LOL - I can't say in terms of percentages but we definitely have fosters who fall in love and can't let the dog go. That's cool as long as they keep fostering.
How is the decision made on which kill areas you focus on?
We rescue animals who are on death row in very rural shelters in the south as well as local shelters like the ACC in New York City
and Brooklyn. We try to save dogs who will otherwise die in a gas chamber or by heart stick. Both are very cruel and barbaric kill methods.
How many animals are currently with foster parents?
We have a total of about 25-30 animals currently in foster homes between New York and South Carolina.
Do you have many families that adopt more than one animal?
Absolutely! When you love animals it's next to impossible to only have one. We get a lot of repeat adopters.
Are you involved in any legislation that might generate local or state laws to protect animals in kill zones throughout the country?
I hope to have the time to get involved on that end one day. For now running the daily rescue operations keeps me so busy I barely have time to brush my hair.
Do you remember the first animal you saved and who was eventually placed in a forever home?
One of the very first dogs I saved from a kill shelter in the south was a sweet black lab named Emma who was found wandering - a stray with two of her pups. Of course we rescued momma and her babies. Emma was lucky to get fostered and then adopted by Ellen and Chuck Scarborough
. They are amazing people and needless to say she has an incredible life now.
When someone knowingly and actively chooses to make a difference in the lives of others with such positive and life-saving efforts, we applaud them both in our hearts and in our responses, Michele Neufeld Montak has earned the appaws for not only the human lives her organization has changed, but most importantly, the lives of dogs that have been rescued, saved, loved, nurtured and cared for by this wonderful lady and this wonderful organization.
Be sure to see Hamptons.com's coverage of Gimme Shelter's recent 5th Annual Summer Event: Fur, Fun And Focus For A Fabulous Evening.
For more information go to gimmeshelteranimalrescue.org.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.