To the (Animal) Rescue!

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Meet the tireless leaders behind four of Savannah’s largest animal rescues

Photography by ANGELA HOPPER

Sean Griffin

Executive Director, Humane Society for Greater Savannah (HSGS)

Bearded man sitting on a bench with his hand on the shoulder of a big fluffy white dog
Sean Griffin, executive director of the Humane Society of Greater Savannah

What started as consultant work in 2009 grew into something much more serious for Griffin.

“There is nothing quite like seeing the look on someone’s face when they leave our Adoption Center with their new family member,” Griffin says. “Since I started, over 30,000 animals have been adopted from here, and it never gets old.” 

Founded in 1962, HSGS is the state’s largest no-kill shelter outside of Atlanta, working with 14,000 animals a year in need of adoption and veterinary care. In addition, the nonprofit has a pet food pantry, dog training classes, Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return (TNVR) programs and a thrift shop. 

“Community impact and change happen at the intersection of resources, will and knowledge,” he says. “We have been fortunate to have such tremendous support from our community, but there is still so much work in our area that needs to be done. We have the knowledge and will to keep pushing forward, but we need resources to keep impacting progress in our region.” 

HSGS continues to support local collaborative rescue efforts like Chatham 90, Chatham County’s alliance of animal shelters, rescues, veterinarians and volunteers working to connect pets and their people with the resources they need. Recently, HSGS received a grant from Best Friends Animal Society to mentor and support 25 shelters in Georgia and South Carolina to help them reach no-kill status.

Lisa Scarbrough

Director and Founder, Coastal Pet Rescue

Blonde woman standing outside and holding a siamese kitten
Lisa Scarbrough, director and founder of Coastal Pet Rescue

Shortly after Scarborough graduated college, animals kept showing up at her house. On her 23rd birthday, the ink dried on the paperwork to start Coastal Pet Rescue. Twenty years later, she has a bachelor’s degree in humane leadership from Duquesne University and focuses on educating the next generation on animal welfare. 

“You moved in that house and there were six cats when you moved in. They were not yours,” she describes a familiar scenario for many Savannahians. “But if you work with your neighbors to get them spayed or neutered, those six cats won’t become 60.” 

Coastal Pet Rescue also frequently works with owners surrendering due to family members passing or going into assisted living. To do this work, Coastal needs monetary donations for support. 

“We spend between $1,000 to 2,000 a week, sometimes more, depending on special needs,” Scarbrough says. And we need volunteers at the shelter and foster homes because the more people we have helping, the more animals we can help.”

Karrie Bulski

Co-founder and Executive Director, One Love Animal Rescue 

Woman kneeling in the grass and hugging a black dog
Kerrie Bulski, co-founder and executive director or One Love Animal Rescue

Bulski grew up surrounded by animals and saving flies from spiders on a farm in Michigan. 

“Rescue is a calling, not a choice,” she says. “When you have the ability to help, you should.” 

One Love Animal Rescue started in 2013 as the adoption program for Chatham County Animal Services following Bulski’s experience of waiting hours to adopt a dog. An all-volunteer and all-foster network, One Love is in need of short-term and long-term fosters. Bulski acknowledges fosters get attached.

“But when we introduce our foster pets to potential adopters and realize that many families are longing to love and save an animal in need, we then feel comfortable letting them move on,” she says. “Many of the families stay in touch and life-long friendships form.” 

In 2019, One Love launched Operation Pet Solutions (OPS), an organizing effort to keep pets in their homes and reduce the number of pets surrendered by preventing unwanted litters, offering free and discounted services and supplies ranging from spays and neuters, pet food and fence repair. In addition to local partnerships, One Love’s bus transports 50 to 75 animals to rescue groups on the East Coast and to the Midwest — places where overpopulation is less — and doubles the number of lives saved. 

Jennifer Taylor

Director and Co-founder, Renegade Paws Rescue

Woman hugging a tan pit bull
Jennifer Taylor, director and co-founder of Renegade Paws Rescue

Taylor is ready to jump in to help to do what is needed. It started with her first foster puppy named Pablo.

“I was like, this feels like something that I can do, I can feel good about and feel like I am making a difference in the world,” she recalls. 

Known as the “pittie” (short for pitbull) and “big dog” rescue in Savannah, Renegade was founded in 2019 to be an inclusive space for dogs and people. Fundraising efforts like Wag-o-Ween, the popular costume party every October, support care for Renegade’s 600-plus animals waiting for adoption. 

From crawling under a house to retrieve puppies to assisting in hoarding situations, Taylor and the team are true renegades. “It’s about the animals, but it’s also about the people,” Taylor says. “It’s about the family that we’ve made up. If you can come here, feel it, see it, it will change your life. The animals led us here. They’re the glue that holds it together. But they made more of an impact on us than we’ll ever make on them.” 

RACHEL MCDERMOTT is a creative based in Savannah and holds a Master of Arts in Museum and Exhibition Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston. She is the director of social media at the Savannah College of Art and Design and volunteers at Coastal Pet Rescue.

This story and much more in the January/February issue of Savannah magazine. Get your copy today!