Olive Branch Is the Cat’s Meow
Located just outside of the town of Sistersville is 174 acres, all reserved for the Olive Branch Animal Rescue and Refuge (OBARR). This beautiful farmland, donated by a generous benefactor about 20 years ago, currently houses 43 dogs, 240 cats, seven pot-bellied pigs, four horses, seven rabbits, and a couple of turtles. The Olive Branch takes in any animal that has no home, has been mistreated, abused, or neglected.
Originally founded by Olive T. Barth as a private organization, the central purpose was to take in the abundance of strays in Barth’s time. While the OBARR’s foundation still stands on rescuing animals, it has branched out into various other fields over time. One mantle the Olive Branch has come to shoulder is the case of animal abuse and cruelty.
OBARR believes all animals should be protected and treated with love, and OBARR has a dedicated cause to end animal cruelty in the area.
In a quest to protect animals and their rights, the people at OBARR actively work with the county commission, the sheriff’s department, and the local municipalities’ law enforcement to help uphold laws.
OBARR personnel make appearances at schools and nursing homes to discuss animal rights and proper care, making a personal goal to educate the public on animal care.
Linda Henriksen – president of The Olive Branch and self-proclaimed “Chief Pooper-Scooper” – said, that to end animal cruelty, it is necessary to work alongside senators, delegates, and other elected officials to get West Virginia codes changed and to uphold the laws regarding animals.
Henriksen aspires to develop many programs that correlate with this matter, such as a program for those who have been convicted of animal cruelty. It is her belief that the sentence won’t change their behavior as, when they are released from prison, they return to the same environment that fosters such activity. It is Henriksen’s desire to have a mandatory program or evaluation done to correct this behavior.
Henriksen also believes that those who have been abused are more likely to inflict pain on animals, and she wishes to break the abusive cycle by getting kids involved with animals and the proper care and treatment.
“You’re not going to teach an old dog new tricks.” Henriksen said. “But if you start with the younger generation, you’re going to be able to make a little bit of difference with that child.” Because of this belief, OBARR has developed a volunteer program that invites children of all ages to participate. Although children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, the Olive Branch hosts many programs children can volunteer for such as basic interaction, dog walking, and fundraisers.
In addition to their work with children, OBARR and its president strive to continue to work with government officials to uphold West Virginia codes. Henriksen said they are working closely with the city of Sistersville, town mayor Bill Rice, and the chief of police on getting various ordinances implemented, such as a law passed in Moundsville that states a dog can only be tethered in good weather conditions and within a certain time period. It was reported that this ordinance is working well in that area, and it’s Henriksen’s goal to have it enforced locally as well.
Henriksen said the basic goal of the Olive Branch is to work with and within the community to end the abuse. She explained, “My goal as president of the Olive Branch is to make people aware that it (animal cruelty) is there.” It’s only then, she believes, that you can begin to implement change.
Henriksen said at this time, about 20 percent of the shelter’s occupants are abused or neglected animals. Seeing this, and the effects it has on the animals, provides incentive for OBARR to push its case on proper treatment and care.
Of the other animals the Olive Branch cares for, many are reportedly owner relinquished. However, because the Olive Branch strives to take in as many animals as possible, there are a wide variety of backgrounds and stories behind each one. Despite all the differences, it is OBARR’s goal to provide proper care and housing to all animals.
Henriksen described the protocol and procedure for each of the shelter’s new occupants. When an animal arrives at the Olive Branch, there is a full medical intake. Each animal is evaluated; its temperature is checked and ears are cleaned. The animal is weighed, and staff takes note of the animal’s overall body health before that animal is taken for veterinary treatment.
In the cases of abused animals, the staff has a process in which the animal is rehabilitated at a pace with which it is comfortable.
In regards of housing, great care is taken to create a safe, warm, and home-like environment at the Olive Branch for all animals. OBARR has created a heated home for the dogs, with each dog having a personal outdoor area in addition to a large communal play space. Cats on site take residence indoors with screened-in access to fresh air. The shelter also offers pens for its horses and pot-bellied pigs.
But despite the wonderful housing and care offered, OBARR’s ultimate goal is to prepare animals for adoption. Henriksen reported that prior to adoption, each animal is spayed or neutered, heartworm tested, given two sets of vaccinations, tested for rabies, micro-chipped, and put on medication if needed. As a result, the Olive Branch has an adoption fee in order to cover these costs.
Another goal OBARR has is to provide aid to members of the community in any way possible. The organization has kickstarted many programs in an effort to reach this goal. One such program is the Veterinary Assistance Program. Recently, OBARR received a grant from the Banfield Foundation – a non-profit organization with the belief that all pets deserve access to veterinary care. The Olive Branch is now able to offer this program to help struggling families with veterinary costs. The costs of these visits can be high, and those who can’t afford it may avoid the trip completely. But with this program and the funding behind it, OBARR has paved the way to make veterinary visits possible. This new program is income-based and will cover preventive, emergency, and routine care.
To those interested in the new Veterinary Assistance Program, applications can be found at The Olive Branch and Friends Shop on Wells Street in Sistersville. Because it is an income-based program, proof of income and animal ownership is required.
Linda Henriksen and the staff of OBARR can be reached at 304-652-1010 to answer any questions. For those wanting to donate to this organization and contribute to its cause, simply go to www.olivebranchwv.org. The OBARR appreciates the continued support as it continues to be a personal haven for all animals, until they are sent to loving families and forever homes.