Animal welfare is in Heather Prescott-McKay’s genes.
The Maple Shade resident credits her mother Kate Prescott for teaching her the importance of helping out their furry, four-legged and feathered friends in need.
“I have been involved with critters since I was young,” said Prescott. “Heather carried on this love as she grew and spent her college years volunteering at a shelter, which reignited my and my husband’s desire to do more to help those in shelters.”
What began as a few years dedicated to donating items, volunteering their time and giving money to animal shelters, orphanages and rescues throughout South and Central Jersey eventually convinced mother and daughter that they needed to do more. And so in 2014, the Moorestown-based Angels Helping Animals was born, which is now run by the two women and their husbands, Rob Prescott and Jamie McKay.
The organization’s name, according to Prescott-McKay, is a tribute to her mother’s irresistible magnetism.
“My mom has a unique personality where everybody gravitates toward her,” she explained. “A couple months before we decided to take the plunge and start our own rescue, an older woman placed a hand on my mom’s shoulder and said, ‘You really are an angel’ — which has happened two or three times before!”
Adapting their visions and efforts to best help animals in need is a hallmark of Angels Helping Animal’s history. Their initial efforts focused on donating and volunteering but eventually gave way to cultivating a foster program as well as establishing a trap-neuter-release (more commonly referred to as “TNR”) initiative to keep the area’s feral cat colonies under control and properly vaccinated — as well as scan them for microchips to ensure that a wayward family pet safely finds its way home.
“We started getting calls about different colonies that no one was taking care of, so we started doing a lot of TNR,” said Prescott-McKay, who added that Angels Helping Animals currently feeds and monitors 10 local cat colonies. “The idea behind TNR is that if you go in and remove a whole colony of cats from wherever they are, another population will come in. With TNR, you neuter or spay all the cats so they can’t reproduce and then they prevent more from coming into that neighborhood.”
Part of the rescue’s outreach includes helping others learn more about TNR so they can spearhead their own efforts safely and knowledgably.
“When we get phone calls from people who need assistance with TNR, we’ll walk them through the process: We lend them a trap and teach them how it works,” Prescott-McKay explained. “Then we take the cat to the clinic, we hold the cat while it recovers and when we’re sure that it’s fully recovered, we release it back to where it came from. “
Both women are especially proud of the foster-to-adoption program that Angels Helping Animals has established over the years, too.
“When we take in animals, we keep them for a couple of days of evaluation to make sure that there’s no health issues, assess their personality, see if they get along with other animals or kids,” Prescott-McKay said. “Then we take them to the vet, get them all checked out, and get their rabies shots.”
Prescott emphasized how carefully foster families are selected for each creature in Angels for Animals’ care, and how the rescue’s support doesn’t end with finding each animal a home.
“We screen each applicant and personally place those in our care in their fur-ever homes,” she said. “We always leave our furbaby in their new home with the understanding that, if for any reason the placement doesn’t work, we will take our baby back, no matter how long it has been. This ensures that they will always be safe and will not end up in a shelter.”
Both mother and daughter attested to how Angels Helping Animals aims to support each foster family in its network by covering an array of expenses that include food, litter, vet bills, toys and more until the foster pet is permanently placed. They also both sing the praises of their dedicated, communicative foster families — especially because their own firsthand experiences taught them how emotionally difficult it is to be a temporary parent to an animal they’ll always love.
“One of our fosters said it best: It’s one of the most heartbreaking, rewarding experiences you’ll ever have,” said Prescott-McKay, recalling how both she and her mother have openly cried while giving their foster pets to a new family. “When they’re in our homes, they’re ours. There’s no differentiation between my ‘real’ baby and a foster one. They’re all ours.”
In the end, knowing that they helped animals with uncertain futures find the second chance they deserve easily eclipses the difficulty of saying goodbye, the early-morning clinic runs before work and other challenges of running an animal rescue.
“My mom’s favorite expression is ‘Keep calm and rescue on,’” Prescott-McKay laughs. “It definitely gets kind of trying but there are plenty of things that keep us going. One is that we’re doing it as a family. It’s something that we’re all passionate about, doing what’s best for furbabies in need. Another is knowing that we have helped animals that, if we hadn’t stepped in, we don’t know what would have happened to them — and we just can’t let that happen.”
Of course, when it comes to Angels Helping Animals, “family” goes well beyond blood to include the “Angels Family” of devoted fosters (which the organization always needs more of), volunteers, supporters and pet-parents who not only support the rescue’s mission but also make “goodbye” a lot easier.
“Our adopters are all amazing,” Prescott gushed. “Most keep in touch with updates, even years later, which we pass onto our foster families so they can see the result of their love and dedication. Fostering is not easy, but the love and happiness it brings makes it all worth it!”