HOWLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – This week’s Hometown Hero is a non-profit organization that has been rehabilitating sick and injured wild animals for nearly three decades.
“We take care of animals that nobody else does,” said Heather Merritt.
That’s the mission statement of Birds in Flight Sanctuary.
For 29 years, director Merritt has been taking in all kinds of wild animals and bringing them back to health.
It all started when she decided to take care of a wild owl and was told something unsettling.
“I made a couple phone calls, they didn’t have anybody in the area and they were going to euthanize it. I said, ‘We don’t do that,'” Merritt explained.
The operation has grown over the years, starting with 25 animals the first year to over 2,700 last year.
Birds in Flight is expanding its operations to a larger compound in Vienna Township. But, the sanctuary receives far fewer donations than most other animal charities.
“It’s very, very expensive, you know, if you don’t get donations to pay for food this month then it’s coming out of your own pocket,” Merritt said.
By taking care of so many wild animals, Birds in Flight has become an invaluable source of information for state and federal agencies when an animal needs help or when diseases strike.
“We’re on the front line of animal issues, you know, sicknesses or anything that’s going wrong with them,” Merritt said.
Birds in Flight is only one of nine sanctuaries doing this type of work in the state of Ohio.
Merritt knows that no one else can do what they do best.
“If we’re not here, who’s going to do it?” Merritt asked.
Birds in Flight looks to move into its new location later this year but still needs help to make it happen.
For more information about Birds in Flight and how you can make a donation, visit the sanctuary’s website.