Fire Drops Financial Burden On Texas Ferret Lover’s Rescue

The Texas Ferret Lover’s Rescue shelter operator is striving to rebuild a rental property to regain the loss of income after fire at a rental property.

fire-gutted den
© Courtesy Millie Sanders
This was a den. The house suffered major damage in the fire, but fortunately no people or animals were hurt.

Many ferret shelters operate on a tight budget, and the Texas Ferret Lover’s Rescue is no exception. Millie Sanders runs the rescue out of her home, and you can imagine her shock when a fire last week destroyed a large portion of a home she rents out. The funds from that property help fund her own house, so the loss of this rental property income now threatens the existence of the ferret shelter.

The fire occurred on Valentine’s Day. The couple who lived at the home with their pets weren’t injured, but the damage to the house is considerable. Sanders, who was a claims adjuster before she retired, estimates it will take $55,000 to get the property back into shape for renting — and that’s with herself and friends doing some of the work. She had no insurance on the house, so she must raise the funds for all repairs. 

Sanders started the Texas Ferret Lover’s Rescue about 20 years ago. Although she runs it, she says there are volunteers who help with the website, screen applicants and sometimes help clean. The rescue has helped thousands of ferrets since it started. Currently, 42 ferrets call it home, with six more on the way. Sanders said she now tries to keep the population under 50 ferrets, although it has been higher in the past.

“We were involved in a couple of seizures,” Sanders said, referring to two cases that made national news a few years ago. Authorities shut down large-scale facilities that bred exotic pets and needed help relocating the animals. “At that time I had 80+ in the regular shelter.”

ferret photo collage
© Courtesy Millie Sanders 
These are just a few of the thousands of ferrets the Texas Ferret Lover’s Rescue has saved.

In addition to the ferrets who live with Sanders at the rescue, the organization also has more than 60 ferrets in foster care. She said the veterinary bill for the shelter averages $1,100 to $1,400 per month. 

Sanders considers this fire and the loss of income it caused to be the biggest challenge she has faced with the shelter. Someone who heard about the fire told her about the GoFundMe website. On February 16, Sanders set up a page at the crowdfunding site, explaining the situation and setting a fundraising goal of $55,000.

“I can’t tell you how much I hate to ask others to take care of what should be my responsibility,” Sanders said, “but I really don’t know where to turn from here, I really don’t.”

And that is the title of her GoFundMe page, “I Don’t Know Which Way To Turn!” After three days, it is just short of reaching $1,000 — so there is quite a way to go before the goal of $55,000.

What does Sanders hope to accomplish with the funds to restore the rental property in Pleasant Grove, Texas, near Dallas?

“I am looking at 100 percent of the sheetrock being torn out, complete rewiring, A/C and heating systems torn out, whole side of the back of the house to be rebuilt,” Sanders said, “and I can’t tell that much on rafters and such, but it’s a given decking was chopped into by the fire department and the whole thing would have to be reroofed. A lot of the windows are blown out or blackened to where they couldn’t be cleaned. If I can get the funds to restore it to again get the financial support we need, I would not replace the whole house, the add-on would be made into a carport to save money and, of course, a lot will depend on what the city codes will make me do. Lots of permits and inspections to be done. And the haul off of that that stuff — I think the renters will abandon much of their furniture and leave it for me to clean up.”

hole in kitchen ceiling
© Courtesy Millie Sanders 
Some repairs will require professionals to fix; others, Sanders hopes she or friends can tackle.

And, as mentioned, Sanders hopes she or friends can do tasks that don’t require professionals. 

“We might try to sheetrock ourselves but I doubt we can do that much,” she said, “but we sure can tape and bed and paint and lay down vinyl tile and clean and stuff.” 

Any action at the property is at a standstill at the moment as Sanders waits for the renters, who were there for 23 years, to vacate the premises. Meanwhile, she is taking time out from shelter duties to arrange for the upcoming demolition and repair.

“I am doing without income and having to scrape together what I can to get things started,” she said.

Insurance would have made things a bit easier, but Sanders said she had trouble getting insurance for the house because it was a rental, it was a frame house instead of brick and its location was not in the best part of town.

“After I let it go for awhile — I let a lot of personal stuff go taking care of the animals, seems their stuff is always the priority. Then they wanted it brought up to code. It’s an older house, at least from the 1940s, but it is sturdy not falling down or anything — or wasn’t.”

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