By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Ellis -- Brendon McCampbell always has loved animals. Growing up, he remembers taking care of injured or homeless animals.

Now, he is executive director of Western Plains Animal Refuge, working on a volunteer basis 40 to 60 hours each week while completing his master's degree in biology at Fort Hays State University.

"It's very hard to keep everything balanced," McCampbell said. "It's a lot of work, but I love it and wouldn't change it for anything."

McCampbell started volunteering in high school under the supervision of veterinarian Jessica Braun, who opened the shelter in 2006. In 2011, Braun closed the practice to focus on teaching and home-care services.

"I spoke up and said I was interested in continuing the organization," McCampbell said. "I was elected the new director. From there, it was just a matter of fundraising and finding a location."

A location was donated in 2012 and is staffed completely by volunteers.

"I do whatever needs to be done," McCampbell said. "I'm the primary care-giver for the animals, do kennel work, feeding, cleaning, giving them love. I also do some vaccinations, limited health care and financial work."

He owns four cats and a dog, but always is baby-sitting or taking care of young or sick animals in the shelter.

"When I started volunteering, every weekend I was taking home kittens to bottle feed them," McCampbell said. "I just really love animals. Between my personal animals and shelter animals, I'm taking care of animals all day. There are full weeks when I only get two to three hours of sleep at a time, especially when I have to wake up and bottle feed kittens every couple hours. But I love it."

McCampbell is responsible for handling emergency situations, as well as adoptions.

"I am just happy to know all the animals we have are safe, happy and healthy," he said. "One of the hardest and best parts is when we find an animal a home. I'm always very happy when we can find a forever home for one of our animals."

After completing his master'sdegree, McCampbell hopes to eventually get his PhD, but still remain involved in the organization.

"I hope, by that point, we would have enough money to have a bigger facility and paid workers so I wouldn't have to be around that much," he said. "My plan is to stay with the organization and continue to develop it."