Free to Live

Whether you’re coming home for the holidays or just at the end of a long day, there’s nothing like a family pet to greet you. Edmond’s own Free to Live Animal Sanctuary can make the joy of Christmas last all year long by providing a companion for any age.

The non-profit organization works to place cats and dogs that operations manager Ron Wingler describes as “stray, abandoned, or abused.” The facility currently houses over three hundred orphaned animals, ranging from newborn puppies and kittens to aging dogs and cats.

“We try our best to get people a healthy pet,” says Wingler. Some of the services provided to every animal: testing for heartworms, deworming, screenings for feline leukemia and FIV, prevention against fleas and ticks, as well as reproductive care.

Free to Live finds homes for 500 to 600 animals every year and allows waiting pets to live out their natural lifespans at the facility. However some 40,000 to 50,000 cats and dogs are euthanized ever year in the Metro area alone, says Wingler. He stresses the importance of spaying or neutering to ultimately reduce the unwanted pet population, a procedure that each animal undergoes prior to adoption. Younger animals go home with a certificate that entitles them to return for the same free service upon reaching maturity.

Established by Oklahoma natives Bill and Pat Larson in 1984, donations have deferred all costs including maintenance and veterinary services. The shelter relies on volunteers to supplement the daily efforts of its staff, and their main goal is to simulate a safe home situation before the animal moves on to a more permanent setting. A new on-site kennel for special-needs dog will be opened in early February, although more funds are needed to continue construction.

Specific breeds can be found through the organization’s photo directory, and those interested are notified by email when a pet turns up that matches the desired specifications. Home owners who spot stray animals in their yards can also contact Free to Live to have the animal’s profile listed for help in placement.

A few Free to Live residents are showcased at the Edmond location of PetSmart on the first and third Saturdays of every month with the hope of sparking public interest in their care and adoption.

Christmas Eve visions of a delighted child receiving a furry friend may be interrupted by the raised eyebrows of concerned adults who would have preferred a less demanding gift.

“We love to have people come out and adopt at Christmastime. We do suggest, though, that they bring the person with them that the pet is intended for, or at least the parents of the child. Make sure the family really does want one,” says Wingler.

Even if you’re not ready for a pet, you can help "socialize" by walking and playing with available dogs or petting and brushing the cats during scheduled weekend visits.

Free to Live’s own Christmas list includes cat and dog food, litter boxes, rakes, shovels, office supplies, and an electronic scale for weighing animals. They accept donations year-around.

For more information about Free to Live, visit or call (405) 282-8617.

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