Leah Craig Fieser, Brother Wolf’s new Executive Director who joined the organization in February when founder Denise Bitz resigned, has spent the past couple of months reviewing financial information and working closely with staff and board members to best understand the state of the organization. When Fieser began her role, she vowed to lead the organization with accountability and transparency.
“Brother Wolf was built on the basis that all animal lovers are welcome, and that we are all an integral part of the lifesaving work we’re accomplishing together. I am committed to rebuilding that partnership and trust,” said Fieser. “The community built this organization, and our community needs to know that over the past few years Brother Wolf has slipped into financial trouble. The organization took on too much too quickly, without sufficient foresight. Well intentioned programming directed at farmed animal advocacy and planning a large sanctuary location ultimately hurt the financial stability of the organization and caused us to lose many supporters. Polarizing vegan messaging also made many supporters feel as though they were no longer welcomed and valued.”
Due to this instability, the organization faces a million dollar funding gap this year. “We will be selling the sanctuary land in Leicester in order to significantly reduce our funding gap. This has been a very difficult decision to make. But in order to continue our impactful programing and increase stability, selling the land in Leicester is necessary during this critical time,” said Fieser.
Although funds raised for the sanctuary were spent on project expenses such as permitting, design, farmed animal care, and building fabrication, those who donated towards the project were understandably upset when no tangible progress was made. Brother Wolf does have the components of the sanctuary’s clinic building in storage, and Fieser is looking into creative ways to use it to best serve dogs and cats with medical and behavioral challenges.
“We have incredibly impactful programs, and a strong core of dedicated and talented staff and volunteers who operate our programs. Brother Wolf makes a huge impact on the lives of thousands of animals each year, and this lifesaving work must continue for them. Today more than ever before, we must strengthen our collaborative efforts for the animals of western North Carolina. I’m asking our community to rebuild with us because together we can and must do this for the animals who rely on all of us,” said Fieser.
Brother Wolf publicly stated in February that their Adoption Center on Glendale Avenue in Asheville had been taken off the market. “The Adoption Center is the hub of our work,” said Fieser. “All of the decisions the organization makes moving forward will be focused on our mission of building and sustaining No-Kill communities for companion animals.” The organization will no longer be involved in vegan advocacy work and is working to find homes for the farmed animals who currently live on the land in Leicester.
An alarming 66,000 adoptable animals were killed in North Carolina shelters in 2017. North Carolina has the third lowest live release rate in the country, with only 66% of animals entering the shelter system making it out alive. “Buncombe County is a No-Kill community thanks to Brother Wolf and the other incredibly hard working animal rescue organizations in our area. But there is still a lot of work to be done for the animals of western North Carolina,” said Fieser.
In order to address concerns and questions, Brother Wolf will be hosting two public community forums. The forums will take place on Monday, April 29th at 5:30pm at Highland Brewing located at 12 Old Charlotte Highway in Asheville, and on Wednesday, May 1st at 5:30pm at Urban Orchard’s downtown location at 24 Buxton Avenue in Asheville.
“I understand the feelings and concerns our community has. As a community member and past Brother Wolf staff member, I had many of the same concerns. I came back to change things,” Fieser said. “I’m asking for our community’s financial support as we focus on stability and strengthening our No-Kill mission. Brother Wolf only works when we are all in this together for the animals.” Through their various resources and programs, Brother Wolf anticipates positively impacting the lives of 10,000 animals this year.
“This is a turning point for Brother Wolf, and we cannot do this alone,” Fieser says. “It won’t be easy, but this critical work must continue because the animals desperately need us. I know Brother Wolf can and will get back to a place where we are stable and thriving, but the support of our community today is urgently needed.Together, we will save lives.”