Hi! My name is Chris, I am a volunteer for NWI Chinchilla Rescue. I met Ashley 3.5 years ago when I offered to volunteer at a rescue expo, to help her out. This was the start of an amazing friendship, as our love for animals really brought us together! I still volunteer, to this day, for the rescue in various ways. I continue to help run the booth at different expos, setting it all up and teaching clients all about chinchillas! (Maybe you’ve seen me, I’m the girl with purple hair!). When I’m not helping teach your kiddo how to properly hold a chinchilla, I also help Ashley by designing shirts / table runners with our logos, posting animals on the website / various places, contacting people on the waiting list, updating the waiting list, and helping Ashley just keep her head on straight! You might say I’m indispensable to the rescue! At least, Ashley thinks so! As we all know, there’s never enough hours in the day to do everything yourself… Everyone needs a little help now and then!
Ashley sometimes has a hard time asking for help, and I think we can all understand that. This time though, I think we need to reach out to the larger community for help with something.
In case you haven’t followed her story since the beginning, Ashley started out rescuing chinchillas (and other small animals) way back in 2003. In the 18 years since then, this has blossomed into also showing / breeding chinchillas and having a thriving supply / accessory business for chinchillas and other small animals. The supplies and accessories that she sells tend to be what pay for the rescue to continue to operate, as rescues are not profitable in and of themselves.
Ashley’s first home of her own was located in Hammond, Indiana, where she lived until 2020. Despite living there since 2013, in 2020, the city decided that chinchillas were to be classified as “wild animals” and could not be owned within city limits. Of course, this restriction would prohibit Ashley from continuing her rescue and chinchilla business out of her home, so she packed up and moved to the country in Chesterton.
Unfortunately, Chesterton did not turn out to be the haven it should have been. Right after spending over $70,000 to revamp the outbuilding on the property, an adopter went to the wrong address when coming to adopt. This started a downhill spiral. Within a month or so, neighbors were complaining about “strangers” in the area, despite the fact that Ashley has very few people at her place.
In the effort of trying to do things the “right way,” Ashley applied for a zoning variance, which (if granted) would have allowed her to have her business and customers at her house. This was unfortunately not cost-free – just the application was $425, and she had to send out certified return receipt letters to all of her neighbors with 500 feet – all 35 of them (a cost of almost $300). These costs would have been justified, had things gone well. However, at the zoning board meeting, 11 neighbors showed up, and even more had written in letters, all speaking against having the chinchilla rescue in their community. They cited reasons like “too much traffic” and “too many strangers,” and despite the fact that Ashley had people speaking on her side to completely counteract and neutralize these concerns, the zoning variance was denied. Further, she was told that without it, she was only allowed four animals on her property. With the rescue animals, of course, she would be way above this limit. So, it was time to move again.
This time, she moved to Wolcott, Indiana. She is now on a piece of farmland with 11.5 acres. The closest neighbor is over 1/3 mile away and is another farm. The land there is zoned agricultural, and there will never be any issue there for having chinchillas or the rescue on this property. Finally!!! The rescue has found its save haven!
At the new place, there is an outbuilding (a.k.a barn) that would be perfect for the chinchillas and other animals. This building is pictured in the main photo. However, it does not currently have air conditioning and a furnace (jointly, HVAC). If you’re familiar with the care of chinchillas, HVAC is a must-have!! As so much money was spent at Chesterton, there’s not currently enough money to purchase the HVAC needed for this property. Also, this property runs off propane, whereas Chesterton ran off of natural gas, so taking the current system to the new place is not an option.
The cost for this HVAC would be roughly $20,000+ from a HVAC company. Thankfully, Ashley’s boyfriend Mike has a friend who is a licensed HVAC technician. He would be able to do this job on the side for $13,000. While this is a lower number, it is still considerably more money than Ashley or the rescue has at this point in time. Over time, the money from adoption fees and supply sales will slowly accumulate to pay for this, though of course, in trying to help out Ashley, I’ve been brainstorming ways that the money can be raised in a more timely fashion.
That’s where you come in! Ever said you want to help out at the rescue? Now’s your chance! We need to raise $13,000, or whatever amount we can get, to offset the costs for getting HVAC put in that barn. Doing this will allow the rescue to resume taking in chinchillas and serving the community!
I know money is tight and precious for everyone, but I also know that the small animal community needs rescues. Especially during these pandemic times, when it seems everyone and their brother are surrendering animals, it has come to light that there are not nearly enough small animal rescue out there to meet the need. The last thing anyone needs is for another rescue to not be able to operate (even for a long period of time). We have an extensive waiting list of people wanting to bring in their chinchillas and small animals, and we’d love to actually be able to call them up and tell them that they can bring in their pets. Many have been waiting so long. I know I, and Ashley, and everyone on the waiting list, are hanging on for that day we can re-open, would be eternally grateful if you would donate what you can to help us! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Don't have spare cash you can donate, but want to help? Please contact us! You can donate old animal supplies that we can sell to raise money (even if it's not chinchilla related). You can even donate household goods and items for us to sell online. Have more time than items? Help us out by sewing fleece hammocks for us to sell, sanding toy parts, making toys… everyone can do something that can be useful! Not overly local to us? That’s ok! SHARE this post on your timeline!