Vienna Partnership to Save Pets

Vienna Partnership to Save Pets

Vienna Vintner and Wolf Trap Animal Rescue raising funds to build a rescue shelter and animal hospital in Merrifield.

Vienna Vintner owner and event sponsor Victor Mendes with co-founder of Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, Dr. Amber Burton, and Vienna Vintner rescue-mascot Ruff, at Thursday’s FUNdraiser on behalf of WTAR.

Vienna Vintner owner and event sponsor Victor Mendes with co-founder of Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, Dr. Amber Burton, and Vienna Vintner rescue-mascot Ruff, at Thursday’s FUNdraiser on behalf of WTAR. Photo by Donna Manz.

— Good business-neighbor and community supporter Vienna Vintner took the side of the non-humans among us on Thursday evening as the much-loved wine shop hosted a “FUNdraiser” on behalf of Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, a local vet-and-volunteer-run animal rescue team. Organized and coordinated by Jordan Rice, daughter of JDA custom home builder Dennis Rice, the fundraiser included appetizers donated by local restaurants and a diversity of high-quality wines donated by Vienna Vintner. The “J” in JDA, Rice sought out donors for food and raffle prizes. A regular client of Vienna Vintner, she did not have to go far for a venue or fundraising partner. Approximately 50 guests came to sample wine, mingle with one another, and make a wine purchase in support of WTAR. Vienna Vintner donated 20 percent of its proceeds to WTAR. Co-founders Dr. Amber Burton, Jesse Marsh, and Kimberly Pettit, welcomed guests.

“Our friends from JDA homes approached us,” said Vienna Vintner owner Victor Mendes. “A lot of Vienna Vintner customers got their dogs from there [Wolf Trap Animal Rescue], and we are happy to help them out. We have a rescue mascot in the store.”

THE CORE of WTAR is to transport pets in high-kill shelters, primarily in Mississippi, to Fairfax County homes for protection. Currently, WTAR has no intake facility. Fosters are at the ready to bring the rescues – frequently dozens – into their homes, socializing and loving the dogs until they find their forever homes. With Jordan Rice assisting Burton to find a suitable site for its center and animals hospital, WTAR found space in the Merrifield area to build an animal clinic and intake center. The build-out is estimated to cost $500,000, and businesses and other groups have contributed seed money, said WTAR veterinarian and co-founder Amber Burton. The new facility of more than 4,200 square feet will embrace an animal hospital, intake center, and WTAR headquarters’ offices. Burton has been caring for pets as house-calls since establishing WTAR.

Jordan Rice’s connection to WTAR goes back to about the time the rescue group moved from Mississippi to Fairfax County in spring of 2015. An animal-person her whole young life, Rice thought it best to foster a pet before making a lifetime commitment to one. Through Facebook, Rice learned of fostering opportunities in November 2015, and decided to take the plunge. WTAR was picking up rescues from Mississippi – where Dr. Burton taught veterinary science – Thanksgiving weekend. The Sunday after, the rescued pets were assigned to their foster-parents. Rice, hoping for a girl-dog, was given an eight-week-old “boy fluff of fur.” Disappointed but resigning herself to two weeks of foster, Rice, instead, “fell in love” with Leon and could not think of returning him. She immediately became his person, and Rice officially adopted Leon on Dec. 12. Leon’s devotion to Rice is so great, Rice brings him to work at JDA Custom Homes’ office every day. “He was the perfect Christmas pet,” Rice says.

WTAR depends on a pool of hundreds of volunteer foster-parents, most of whom learn about WTAR from social media and word-of-mouth. Adoption events are held regularly at Petsmart pet stores who give the group free space for the kennels they bring. Crowds cluster around the dogs as future pet-parents find the pets they are most simpatico with. A reporter, there to take file photos, brought one home, as well.

Rice’s involvement goes beyond fostering and adopting … she dedicates hundreds of volunteer hours to WTAR, from transports to taking over as general contractor for WTAR’s soon-to-break-ground facility in Merrifield. “I fell in love with the organization, the mission, the people,” Rice said. “It’s an extraordinary community, of supporters, of foster-parents.

“If you see what the puppies look like when they come off the van, the transformation they go through during their foster period, to the day they’re ready for adoption, it is absolutely amazing.”

TO FOSTER A PET or contribute to Wolf Trap Animal Rescue’s fundraising campaign to build a shelter in Merrifield, go to