Brother Wolf defends decisions to euthanize at shelter

Elizabeth Ritch
News Writer 
[email protected]
Brother Wolf Animal Rescue’s reputation suffered abuse at the hands of locals due to the euthinasia of two dogs, Rhubarb and Ferguson, according to the shelter.
“Brother Wolf is not transparent with the public,” said Joelle Warren, founder of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. “When you cut corners financially, you cut corners from life saving programs.”
Warren, an Asheville area resident with more than 20 years of experience rescuing animals, helped co-found Brother Wolf with Denise Bitz. Warren said she and Bitz met at a pet adoption event. Bitz’s rescue, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, and Warren’s grooming and boarding business, Pet Soup, worked together and merged into one establishment. The grooming and boarding business helped fund Brother Wolf’s rescue efforts, according to Warren.
“Animal rescues don’t come with money flowing in,” Warren said. 
Eventually, the two businesses had to split up due to the impracticality of having both operations in the same building.
Warren said she worked with Brother Wolf for eight years. She said she left the company when a new executive director decided to develop the rescue in a way that diverged from Warren’s original vision. The executive director, Leah Craig Fieser could not be reached for comment.
New programs moved away from helping cats and dogs and toward outreach programs. Meanwhile, funds were being taken away from saving the lives of the animals. Employees of the rescue were also neglected, only being paid $8 an hour, according to Warren.
Warren now operates her own foster-based rescue facility called Thrift Hound on Leicester Highway. Warren said she remains in regular contact with volunteers and employees at Brother Wolf.
The betrayal felt by the community began a conversation about what it actually means to be a no-kill shelter. According to a press release from Brother Wolf following the public outcry, a no-kill shelter is one that releases at least 90% of its animals alive.
Leah Craig Fieser, executive director of BWAR, reported its live release rate is about 95 percent to date. In that same press release, she said less than one percent of euthanasias are behavioral in nature. 
Many people who have met them said the dogs in question were never aggressive toward them, despite what Brother Wolf has said. 
“Rhubarb and Ferguson had volunteers that handled them regularly. There were no incidents of them biting another animal,” Warren said. 
According to Warren, the questionable euthanasias don’t stop with Ferguson and Rhubarb. 
BWARe B Their Voice is a Facebook group dedicated to recording the stories of every dog BWAR euthanizes. According to volunteers and ex-employees, many of the dogs were killed unnecessarily. Warren, who is an advocate for the group, said she heard many stories from her colleagues about dogs that could not cope with the stress of shelter life. According to her, the mental strain of living in close quarters is very taxing on some dogs, leading to many stress and anxiety issues.  
Brother Wolf is not an aggressive dog rehabilitation center and does not have the resources to have specialists work with every dog individually. In the town of Weaverville, 10 miles north of Asheville, the ASPCA opened a state-of-the-art behavioral research facility for aggressive dogs in 2018. Employing a team of specialists, the ASPCA facility states that dogs will be reconditioned to become more comfortable with people and high-stress situations. 
“The BRC accepts homeless dogs of all ages and backgrounds into the program, but they must meet our behavioral inclusion criteria. Unfortunately, the dogs would not have been candidates for our program,” ASPCA public spokesperson, Alyssa Fleck said.
Samantha Henry, a 54-year-old from Mars Hill, has rescued eight dogs in her lifetime and strongly advocates for spaying, neutering and educating people on the responsibilities of pet ownership
“Every effort should be made to retrain a dog, but there are plenty of dogs that aren’t aggressive that need homes. More of an effort needs to be made towards education,” Henry said.