Jonean Crowle’s most wished-for holiday gift could never fit under a tree.
The animal rescuer needs enough land to move more than 300 dogs, cats, goats, birds, turtles and a pony that are part of her South Mississippi Animal Rescue Team and Refuge family.
And she needs it by Christmas.
Crowle, who has run the no-kill refuge started by her father for more than 26 years, has been operating on a half-acre of a privately-owned gravel pit in Lyman, off Wolf River Road, but the owner, W.C. Fore, needs the land back.
“He’s extended us and extended us. He just can’t extend it any more,” Crowle said.
Fore donated temporary use of his land two years ago, when Crowle needed a place to move her herd. “He has been a guardian angel as far as we’re concerned,” she said.
Crowle has her eye on two prime spots in Forrest County and business plans to offer anyone who can co-sign with her to buy them. One is a 100-acre property with almost half of the land available for organic blueberries, while the other is 200 acres on the Leaf River with opportunities for blueberry farming, tilapia and koi production and cabin and canoe rental.
The refuge would take up a few acres at either location.
Another option would be to move temporarily to a no-kill refuge in Jackson, but that would take at least four days “of working day and night and no sleep” to dismantle pens and haul the animals, she said.
“It’s a big, big job, which is why we would like to stay somewhere close,” she said.
The quickest and easiest option right now is to find a patch of land in a rural area of South Mississippi where she can move her animals until she can lease or purchase a permanent location.
“We don’t want to leave the Coast because people are begging us to stay,” she said, explaining she gets calls every day with requests to either adopt animals or rescue them.
Crowle put a hold on any new residents at her refuge until she can find a new spot, she said.
Adoptions, however, are continuing, though most inquiries come through Web sites. Crowle requires a home-visit and a two-week waiting period, plus a $75 fee which includes shots, heartworm-free guarantee and spaying or neutering.
She operates SMARTR through adoption fees, private donations and family labor. She is helped by her son J Billingsly and his fiance’ Roxanne Smith, her son Colt Billingsly and his girlfriend Courtney Glas and her daughter Nikki Billingsly. Two people stay at the refuge with a tent for shelter, she said.
They truck in water and food, using 250 pounds of dog food and 40 pounds of cat food each day and 50 pounds of goat food every other day, she said.
Before moving to Lyman, Crowle kept the animals in Picayune for nine years, Texas for six years and Pass Christian for 10 years. Most of the animals currently under her care are Katrina rescues that were never claimed, she said.
Anyone with suitable acreage for a temporary fix is asked to call Crowle at 254-6063.