About US:

The History of ACN

Animal Compassion Network (ACN) was founded in 1997 when a group of seven determined citizens from across Western North Carolina refused to accept that enough was being done to help homeless animals in our area. They resolved to follow a no-kill philosophy, raised a few hundred dollars for supplies, and recruited a handful of willing foster homes. But they quickly ran into road blocks when local shelters refused to release animals to these people with their “crazy” notion that euthanasia was not the only option for an unwanted pet. Unwilling to give up, the founders began a campaign to improve the relationship between shelters and ACN. Visiting the facilities every day, the founders jumped in to offer assistance whenever the opportunity arose and made it clear with their polite resolve that they were not going away. Over time, they earned the shelter managers trust and were eventually rewarded with the first transfers of animals out of these shelter and into ACN foster homes. Before long, the public – supportive of the organization’s no-kill policy – began to seek out ACN events to adopt a pet. In 1998, having gained in popularity and boasting almost 100 members, ACN incorporated into a non-profit organization.

As word spread that there was a group that would take in an animal and find them a new home, the founders’ phones started ringing off the hook with people who had heart-wrenching reasons why they had to give up their pet. Realizing that these pets were destined for shelters anyway, the founders agreed to intercede in the most desperate situations. It came as a great surprise to the founders when the public willingly agreed to keep their pets until a foster space opened, and, before long, the founders began connecting potential adopters with these wait-listed pets. ACN covered the cost of the spaying and neutering and vaccines before the transfer to the new home took place and recovered their expenses through an adoption fee. Eventually, the wait-listed families were invited to bring their animals to the ACN adoption events with much success, and the founders quickly realized they had hit on a unique way to save so many more pets. This serendipitous discovery became the precursor for ACN’s groundbreaking Public Partner Program, turning the general public into foster homes for their own pets. Using this innovative program, ACN was soon able to increase the number of foster animals from less than 20 to over 100.

By 2000, the founders realized that they were not making much headway against the overwhelming number of unwanted animals entering local shelters – especially litters of puppies and kittens. They knew the key was to help pet guardians who could not afford to spay/neuter their own pets, so they created the Betty Fund, a spay/neuter assistance program for low-income pet guardians. They also initiated a Public Education Program to teach responsible pet guardianship and a Pet Food Assistance Program to feed the areas hungry pets. Thanks to their dedicated volunteers and ever-increasing financial support from the public, ACN continued to grow steadily between 2000 and 2003. In August 2003, the organization took its next major step in development when they brought a professional executive director onboard.


ACN Public Education Program
Krista Luck with ACNs Public Education Program

Today, Animal Compassion Network is proud to be the largest, non-profit, safe-for-life animal welfare organization in Western North Carolina. We continue to augment lifesaving and life-improving programs as new areas of need arise. We have also responded to local and national emergencies, such as the closing of All Creatures Great and Small in Henderson County and Hurricane Katrina, when called upon and serve as a driving force in legislative change towards more compassionate animal laws. We currently provide more than 22.500 free pet food meals to the public through our 9 partnering agencies, including Meals on Wheels, ABCCM, Downtown Welcome Table, Loving Food Resourcs and others.

New in 2011, Animal Compassion Network initiated Paws on the Heart, a pet loss support group that has helped many find solace in their time of grief. We also introduced Appalachian Animal Rescue Coalition (AARC), a group of WNC rescue organizations that pull dogs out of shelters and transports them to other areas of the country with effective spay/neuter laws and adopters waiting in line. Animal Compassion Network focuses on helping Buncombe County pets in addition to working with Charlies Angels in Transylvania County, ARF in Jackson County and PAWS in Swain County. Lucky dogs from Henderson County, Haywood County, Polk County and Rutherford County are also invited for transport. With such little help for animals available, especially in the outermost counties, the AARC Transport Program is a lifeline to a long, happy life.

Since 1997, ACN has placed over 10,000 homeless pets into homes matched with their personalities and needs, provided more than 22,500 free pet food meals to the public, and  assisted in the spaying and neutering of over 10,000 Western North Carolina cats and dogs. The non-profit has grown to over 7300 members, volunteers and supporters.

But until Western North Carolina becomes a region that no longer relies on euthanasia to control pet overpopulation, ACN will continue to work diligently on behalf of the animals who depend on us for a better life. A huge step towards this goal has been taken already in Buncombe County with the formation of the Animal Coalition of Buncombe County, a coalition of Buncombe County rescue groups, including Animal Compassion Network, formed with the mission to increase the live release rate at the Buncombe County Shelter and lead the way for other counties to follow.

ACN also opened an adoption center and pet supply store, Pet Harmony, in 2008 with tremendous success. Pet Harmony sells pet supplies and offers professional grooming and training, all of which directly fund ACNs lifesaving work. Please make the decision to shop, groom and train where the proceeds save animal in need. We now offer delivery service to your door as well! Call (828) 274-3647 for more information.

How We Grow:

Donations: ACN spends over $300,000 annually to ease the suffering and give a better life to companion animals, but we receive no government funding. Every cent that we put into our lifesaving programs come from donations, grants, membership dues and fundraising events.  You can make a one-time donation by clicking here.

Volunteers: Volunteers are the backbone of ACN. Time is a very valuable thing to each one of us, but a small donation of your time means so much to an animal waiting for help to arrive. Volunteers donate their time in large and small increments, and all of it keeps ACN moving forward.