BISSELL Pet Foundation, Kent County Animal Shelter Team Up To Offer Free Adoptions

Did you happen to catch Good Morning America today? The popular morning program featured pets from the North Shore Animal League in New York to help promote pet adoption.

This family got a new addition during last year's free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

This family got a new addition during last year’s free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

By reaching oh, a few million viewers, it’s likely many animals at North Shore will find a home for the holidays.

A couple of weeks ago, a story aired in Chicago about an animal shelter in Akron, Ohio, that apparently adopted out all its animals – 93 dogs and cats in total – within the first 90 minutes of the shelter’s sixth annual adoptathon. More homes for the holidays for animals in need.

Now, thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation, pets in the West Michigan area can find their forever homes in time for the holidays, too. BPF has partnered with the Kent Count Animal Shelter for its second “Home for the Holidays” campaign.

To help the animals get home, 100 percent of adoption fees for pets at KCAS are covered. The only cost is $12 for a dog license. The pets come spayed and neutered, microchipped and up-to-date on vaccines.

Talk about paying it forward. The BISSELL Pet Foundation and KCAS are giving you a beloved family member. All you have to do is show up (well, OK, you have to fill out an application) and open your heart.

Animal shelter supervisor Carly Luttmann said 22 pets found new homes on Monday, the first day of the event. Last year, 270 pets were adopted through “Home for the Holidays.” That helped KCAS reach a record 1,028 adoptions for 2014. The animal shelter is zeroing in on that record, with 931 adoptions through the end of business Monday.

“We are looking forward to the second year of the adoption program because last year was so successful,” Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “Last year, twice as many cats than the average per month were adopted. With the free adoption program, we’re helping to save two lives – your pet and the pet who gets that open spot in the shelter, out of the cold and elements. We hope our community will rally around this important cause by visiting the KCAS and help a lucky pet find a forever home.”

The free adoption campaign runs through the end of 2015, so if you don’t find the pet of your dreams on your first visit, check back. KCAS is available to take in a limited amount of transfers from other shelters in the area, but many of those shelters also are holding adoption specials.

“If every shelter around running adoption specials finds homes for all their animals and it gets to a point where we don’t have any transfers to take, I’m fine with that,” Luttmann said. “If we all adopt out all our animals, that’s a good thing.”

To expedite the adoption process, be sure to fill out a dog or cat adoption application and get pre-approved. KCAS requires a pre-adoption counsel and application. In lieu of the regular adoption fee, potential adopters are encouraged to donate canned pet food or new blankets.

The animal shelter is located at 740 Fuller Ave NE, Grand Rapids and can be reached at (616) 632-7300. Shelter hours are Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2-6:30 p.m. Adoptions are processed from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2-5:30 p.m. KCAS will be closed for Thanksgiving through Sunday this week.

 

BISSELL Blocktail Party smashes previous fundraising record

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year's BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photo by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photos by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Just approaching the beautiful grounds of Mangiamo! restaurant in East Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, there was a sense the night would be special. The weather was perfect … 80ish degrees and blue sky, and the outdoor area of the restaurant, as well as the check-in area in the parking lot, already were abuzz.

To say the 10th anniversary of the BISSELL Blocktail Party was a success is a gross understatement. This year’s event for the BISSELL Pet Foundation that provides grants to West Michigan animal advocacy organizations not only broke last year’s fundraising mark of $250,000, it obliterated it.

When the early numbers were crunched on Wednesday, the day after the party, Blocktail had raised an amazing $500,000. An estimated 900 people and 300 to 400 dogs attended the event, with a private sponsors party the previous evening raising additional funds.

“The stars aligned for us this year,” said Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation and creator of the BISSELL Blocktail Party. “We had the perfect storm without the storm. We knew we wanted to raise more money, but never imagined we would double funds raised from last year.  We could not have done it without the amazing support from our volunteers and most importantly our community.”

it was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

It was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

Bissell said when online ticket sales stopped, 290 had been purchased. The event drew 100 walk-up ticket sales, and the rest were included in the sponsorship packets. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event next year, and attending the private sponsorship event, check out the Blocktail website for information.

Because it was the 10th anniversary of the event, Bissell opted to take a risk and add a private sponsorship event, including a concert by Kenny Loggins and his new band, Blue Sky Riders, the night before Blocktail. That event was a huge success as well, and something Bissell plans to incorporate into future Blocktails.

“We thought we might lose money on that part but we knew we had to so something special for the 10th anniversary, and we ended up making money,” Bissell said.

A live auction at the private event generated $60,000, and Loggins and his band played well beyond the hour and 15 minutes required in the contract. Bissell said she spent a year trying to find the right sound for the event, and fell in love with the band’s CD (the only one currently available). The name of the CD — “Finally Home” — was a sure sign Bissell had found the right band to play the event. The BISSELL Pet Foundation’s motto is “Until every pet has a home.”

“I worked all year to find the right sound, and Kenny Loggins loves animals,” Bissell said. “His new band has an amazing female vocalist, Georgia Middleman, and she and her husband, Gary Burr, are songwriters. … I started listening to their sound and I loved it. By the time I finished listening to the disk I was waking up and singing their songs and saying to myself, ‘They’re good. They’re really good.’ We decided to book them, and they were fantastic.

“When I talked to Shannon Reincke and Heather Garbaty, (committee co-chairs for Blocktail), they listened to the CD and came back with the same thought. And they loved the fact it was ‘Finally Home,’ because that’s our mission.”

Bissell said the band played for two hours, something Loggins himself said was unprecedented.

“They were just having fun watching people dance and kept playing,” Bissell said.

The lead-up to the Blocktail Party was a hit and the main event itself was spectacular. In addition to the cocktails for people and “yappitzers” for the four-legged guests, several local food vendors were on hand, offering guests a variety (yes, including vegan) of selections, all included in the price of a ticket. Bissell said by the time it was said and done, the vendors ran out of food — and that’s a good thing.

“It’s great for them because they don’t want to have to pack up leftover food, and it just shows the people loved their food,” Bissell said.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to draw caricatures of guests' dogs.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to sketch caricatures of party-goers’ canine family members.

Also on hand for the event was ArtPrize winning artist Chris LaPorte, he of the famed “Cavalry, American Officers, 1921” mural that won the grand prize at the 2010 event. LaPorte offered himself for a different type of work … he drew caricatures of guests’ dogs on site.

“For him to come and do caricatures, how cool is that?” Bissell asked. “It was his suggestion. And he offered a ‘Cavalry’ print that we auctioned off the night before at the live auction.”

As Blocktail continues to grow in popularity, the atmosphere at Mangiamo! remains fun and relaxed for people and their pets. With so many dogs on hand, that’s not easy to pull off.

“I think people are pretty careful,” Bissell said. “If their dogs aren’t going to mingle in a crowd, they don’t bring them. If they know if they have a dog that likes people, that’s how they play it out. Why stress out your dog?

“We haven’t had any issues, and you never know, because dogs on leashes can be more aggressive in that situation. But if you see a dog and yours doesn’t like it, you go to a different area. Thank god Mangiamo! is so big and beautiful.”

The best part of Blocktail is what it does for West Michigan pets in need. Grants from the event help organizations like C-SNIP, a low-cost spay and neuter services for low-income families, to animal rescue organizations large and small.

“This event has been part of our community for 10 years and we hope we can show a significant reduction in the number of pets in need of homes in the next 10 years,” said Blocktail co-chair Garbaty. “Everyone who attended the party or supported our cause came through to make a difference for pets. That’s why this party is so special.”

 

 

BISSELL Pet Foundation sponsoring free adoptions at West Michigan’s two largest shelters Saturday

Polar is one of the pets available for free adoption this Saturday. Polar is at the Kent County Animal Shelter, while many other dogs and cats also are available free at Humane Society of West Michigan.

Polar is one of the pets available for free adoption this Saturday. Polar is at the Kent County Animal Shelter, while many other dogs and cats also are available free at Humane Society of West Michigan.

It was purely coincidence last winter when the Kent County Animal Shelter and Humane Society of West Michigan both hosted adoption specials on the same Saturday, Dec. 6.

As it turned out, each facility ended up with a flurry of activity, combining to adopt out 100-plus animals that day.

Because of that success, the two organizations decided to purposefully hold events simultaneously. And thanks to the BISSELL Pet Foundation, adoptions at both will be free for one day, this Saturday. BPF is sponsoring 100 percent of the adoption fees at both facilities. In addition, BISSELL Homecare, Inc., will give a cleaning product to every family that adopts a new pet during “Adoption Day Grand Rapids.”

The Kent County Animal Shelter will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, while the Humane Society of West Michigan’s event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In place of adoption fees, families are asked to bring in donations of canned pet food or new blankets. Those adopting dogs will be required to purchase a Kent County dog license, which costs $12.

“We work to fund programs that will make the biggest difference for the millions of homeless pets available for adoption,” Cathy Bissell, Founder of BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “Research has shown that free adoptions greatly reduce euthanasia rates by raising awareness for pets available in shelters.”

KCAS and HSWM are west Michigan’s two largest shelters and frequently collaborate, often via social media promotion, to help find homes for shelter animals here.

“They are all our animals” said Trudy Ender, executive director of the Humane Society of West Michigan, said in the release.  “By working harmoniously with our county shelter, we can make a significant difference for pets in the community.”

Carly Luttmann, program supervisor at KCAS, said she’s working to bring in dogs from other area rescues  to help fill the need she anticipates Saturday. Luttmann said the shelter currently has about 20 dogs available, and she hopes to have 30 to 35 on hand this weekend.

“I’d like to do 50 (animal adoptions),” Luttmann said. “We have about 20 to 30 cats right now but we under 20 dogs so I’ll be concentrating on transferring in dogs from some municipal agencies.”

Luttmann said while the goal is to adopt out as many animals as possible on Saturday, the bigger picture goal is to make potential adopters aware of the two facilities and the animals available.

“Our biggest goal is to raise awareness of pet adoption in our community,” Luttmann said. “Between us and Humane Society of West Michigan, we have lots of the animals available in our community. We want to get people out and into our facilities so they can see they’re good places to view animals. We have clean, well-taken care of facilities with nice animals in need of homes.”

Those planning to head to either KCAS or HSWM (or both) should plan ahead by filling out and sending in an application ahead of time. The administrative work to process applications is best done on weekdays, ahead of Saturday’s event. Renters hoping to adopt will have to have approval from their landlord, and calls to veterinarian offices for previous pets’ records are necessary.

“We want people to be prepared so when they come in, everything is ready to be approved and we won’t have to go to the next person (for a potential adopted animal),” Luttmann said.

Applications for the Kent County Animal Shelter can be found here. To fill out an application for the Humane Society of West Michigan, click here.

 

BISSELL Pet Foundation, Humane Society of West Michigan team up to expand cattery

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

The cats and kittens in the care of Humane Society of West Michigan are about to get a huge upgrade on their digs.

If you’ve been to HSWM, you know the cattery there is filled with felines awaiting adoption into their forever home. Unfortunately, the cat population there has outgrown the current space (spay and neuter, people!) and cats are being housed in areas of the facility, not an ideal situation for the cats or the staff at HSWM.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Tuesday, HSWM held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the BISSELL Cattery Expansion Project. Cathy Bissell, director of corporate affairs at BISSELL Inc. and founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, was on hand to celebrate the event.

She even dug out the first shovel of dirt where the expansion will take place, heels and all.

“If I can vacuum in these, I can dig dirt in these,” Bissell said, laughing, as she dug in her heels to break ground on the cattery.

Mark and Cathy Bissell created a matching gift challenge for the cattery expansion, calling for $25,000 to be raised by HSWM donations. So far, HSWM has raised $20,500, less than $5,000 away from the goal set by the Bissells.

When complete in the fall of 2014, the cattery expansion will create spacious and low-stress environments for the kittens and cats in HSWM’s care.

In addition to the BISSELL Cattery Expansion, funds raised through the campaign will:

  • Create a window in the cat holding area to provide natural light
  • Construct cat meet and greet rooms (currently, these rooms are right next to the dog kennels, where barking dogs can put stress on the cats meeting their potential adopters)
  • ·Purchase Crijo climbing structures for cat enrichment
  • Expand cat housing in the medical room
(left to right) HSWM's Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation's Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction's Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

(left to right) Architect Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction’s Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

The campaign’s completion will provide cats and kittens with more space, which reduces stress and enriches their lives until they are adopted, HSWM said in a press release. The expansion also allows adopters to better interact with the cats and kittens in a more natural state as they will have room to climb, jump and play.

Also on hand for Tuesday’s groundbreaking were representatives from Vander Kodde Construction, which is providing the work on the expansion, Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga and board members, volunteers and staff from HSWM.

Several naming and donations opportunities are still available if you’d like to contribute to the fund and help match the Bissell’s generous offer. If you’re interested in helping out, get in touch with Tammy Hagedorn, HSWM Director of Development, at (616) 791-8138 or thagedorn@hswestmi.org.

Congratulations to HSWM Executive Director Trudy Ender and her staff on this wonderful news, and a big thank you, once again, to Cathy Bissell and the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

 

BISSELL Blocktail Party continues to set records

Among the activities at this year's Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Among the activities at this year’s Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

The numbers are in, and the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party once again has broken its previous fundraising records.

The annual event celebrated its ninth anniversary on June 11 on the lawn at Mangiamo! restaurant in Grand Rapids. Despite rainy weather much of the day, the party drew nearly 700 guests, many of whom were accompanied by their dogs.

Armed with a new silent auction app in which guests – and even those who couldn’t make it to the party – could wander about the event and make bids on items via their mobile device, this year’s BISSELL Blocktail party raised more than $250,000 to help West Michigan animal advocacy organizations.

Bidders were able to make and track their bids via their devices without having to circle back to crowded auction tables. The convenient app also meant non-party goers could get in on the bidding for great auction items or simply make a donation for the event.

While we weren’t able to attend this year – our Jack Russell terrier, who is deathly afraid of thunderstorms, kept us at home – we were able to make a donation to Blocktail from home thanks to the new system. Since we usually come home from Blocktail armed with artwork, local services or other goodies we “won” in the silent auction (including the computer on which this blog is written), we figured we would at least donate an amount we’d normally spend at Blocktail. It was our way of contributing to such a wonderful event from 25 miles away!

And we know our contribution will be well spent. Monday, the event’s committee announced the recipients of Blocktail grants through the BISSELL Pet Foundation. The organizations help West Michigan pets in a variety of ways, from spay/neuter programs to microchipping, adoption and rescue, care for senior pets and medical care of victims of cruelty and neglect.

“The BISSELL Pet Foundation exists to provide support to shelters and rescues so that they can ultimately find a loving family for the millions of homeless pets in our country,” Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “We are very proud to support these 14 local organizations with funds from this year’s party and have been thrilled to see how collaboration between many of these groups is changing the face of animal welfare in our community. I am so thankful that through the BISSELL Blocktail Party our community can show their support for these progressive and compassionate groups. Together, we are working to save lives!”

We’ll be back for next year’s Blocktail Party – we missed seeing all the dogs and people and, of course, the food. And we can take comfort in knowing we were able to contribute to this year’s event and help those who help animals in our community.

A list of the BISSELL Blocktail grant recipients from this year’s event (“Blocktail Buddies” each received an additional $1,000 gift earlier in 2014 to recognize their dedication to animal welfare):

• Community Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP): $45,000
• Humane Society of West Michigan: $40,000
• Vicky’s Pet Connection: $27,000
• Pound Buddies (Volunteers for Muskegon County Animal Control): $19,500
• Kent County Animal Shelter: $18,845
• West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic: $18,000
• Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary: $12,500
• Safe Haven Humane Society: $10,000
• Lake Haven Rescue: $10,000
• Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue: $6,750
• Carol’s Ferals: $5,000
• Kelley’s Heart to Heart: $5,000
• Focus on Ferals: $5,000

DaVinci Foundation food drive nets two tons for Detroit-area pets in need

"Big D" DaVinci, spokesdog of the DaVinci Foundation for Animals. (Candilynn and Michael Lockhart photo)

“Big D” DaVinci, spokesdog of the DaVinci Foundation for Animals. (Candilynn and Michael Lockhart photo)

By Mary Ullmer

I’ve never met Candilynn and Michael Lockhart, yet we’ve formed a bond. That bond is based in our love of pets, and in efforts to help pets in need.

The Lockharts, who write and shoot photos for the “Doggy Destination” stories in Dogs Unleashed magazine (a product of U.S. Retail Inc.’s Pet Supplies Plus franchises), are co-founders of the non-profit DaVinci Foundation for Animals.

Together with their dog, Big D DaVinci, they’ve raised funds for pets in need in the Detroit area. Their latest effort, a food drive that ran through the month of April, resulted in two tons of pet food being donated to Detroit area rescues, shelters and low-income families to ensure pets do not go hungry.

The foundation teamed up with DogTipper.com, BringFido.com and Pedigree for the DaVinci’s Detroit Initiative Food Drive.

Through the AAAR Paws for Life program, the food will be distributed throughout Detroit to any family or person with pets in need of assistance as well as to several rescues, shelters and food banks. Because of the success of  the food drive, Paws for Life, Detroit’s second largest food bank, will have food available to assist families and help feed homeless dogs in Detroit throughout the summer.

“We believe that no dog should to go hungry, all we need to do is band together,”  Candilynn and Michael said in a press release.

If you live in Michigan, you’ve no doubt been made aware of the stray pet population in Detroit, and the organizations working to do something about it. Candilynn and Michael are just getting started, and they’ve already done a world of good for pets in need in the Detroit area. Their organization’s motto is “Creating a better world for animals one city at a time.” I encourage you to learn more about the DaVinci Foundation for Animals by checking out their website, TheDavinciFoundation.org.

The organization’s official mascot, DaVinci (aka Big D) also has a Facebook page to keep supporters up to date on their many activities aimed toward helping pets in the Detroit area.

Mary Ullmer is editor and creator of Dogs Unleashed magazine. To subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, go to getdogsunleashed.com or visit the website, dogsunleashedmag.com. Be sure to “like” the magazine’s Facebook page!

Zeus, world’s tallest dog, and other Supersize Pets featured tonight on Nat Geo Wild

The world's tallest dog, Zeus, is among the Supersized Pets featured on a NatGeo Wild special tonight. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

The world’s tallest dog, Zeus, is among the Supersized Pets featured on a NatGeo Wild special tonight. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

Tune in tonight (Friday, April 11), or set your DVR, to Nat Geo Wild’s special, “Supersize Pets.” Featured in the show is Zeus, the world’s tallest dog.

Our January/February 2013 issue featured Zeus.

Our January/February 2013 issue featured Zeus.

We featured Zeus in Dogs Unleashed magazine, a product of Pet Supplies Plus, in our January 2013 issue. Zeus, a Great Dane from Plainwell, Mich., was declared the world’s tallest dog back in November 2012 by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Shortly after our Dogs Unleashed issue came out, we were contacted by National Geographic asking about using photos from Jennifer Waters, owner of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, for their special. Jennifer photographed Zeus for our story and had plenty of shots for National Geographic to use. She certainly wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to collaborate with Nat Geo!!

Producers also asked if they could use a shot of the cover of our issue, and we of course obliged.

Be sure to catch the special and learn about pets livin’ large! It is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Nat Geo Wild channel. (Check your local listings).

 

 

 

 

These fancy abodes have gone to the dogs

 

Are dog houses a thing of the past? For most of us, our furry family members spend their days in our house, not in a structure sitting in our back yards.

But for those whose dogs do spend a good deal of time outdoors, secured in their fenced-in yard, a dog house is great protection from the elements. It’s a place to cool off on a hot summer day, or seek shelter on a cold rainy (or snowy) one.

And more and more, dog houses are becoming sophisticated domiciles for our best friends. That was evident at the recent Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Mich. The annual event included Bark Prize, a contest voted on by the public to select the best themed dog house.

West Michigan companies submitted entries that were on display at the show. The event, in its second year, raised $4,000 for the BISSELL Pet Foundation as people bid to purchase the houses.

More than 7,300 people cast a vote for their favorite, with “Ye Old Paw Mill,” a replica of an old style saw mill built by Out On A Limb Playhouses, taking Best In Show.

Here’s a look at each of the five entrants for Bark Prize, now an annual event at the Home & Garden Show. The photos are courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, on hand for the event.

For the second year in a row, Out On A Limb Playhouses won Best In Show. This year's entry was Ye Old Paw-Mill, themed after an old-fashioned saw mill, complete with a working water wheel.

For the second year in a row, Out On A Limb Playhouses won Best In Show. This year’s entry was Ye Old Paw-Mill, themed after an old-fashioned saw mill, complete with a working water wheel.

Gratitude, from Montell Construction.

Gratitude, from Montell Construction.

Canine Cabin, from Pioneer Construction.

Canine Cabin, from Pioneer Construction.

The Mutt Hutt, from J. Visser Design/Scott Christopher Homes.

The Mutt Hutt, from J. Visser Design/Scott Christopher Homes.

New Hounding Brew House, from New Holland Brewing Co.

New Hounding Brew House, from New Holland Brewing Co.

 

 

 

 

Raise the Woof! Bark Prize doghouse design contest returns to Home & Garden Show

Headed to the  West Michigan Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend? If you’re going (the show runs March 6-9), a MUST-SEE at the annual event is Bark Prize, a designer dog house competition.

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a "poop deck."

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a “poop deck.”

Five custom dog houses, designed and built by west Michigan companies, will be available to the public via silent auction. If you checked out the houses last year, you know your dog would be the envy of the neighborhood if you were to score one of these fabulous abodes.

And the best part is, 100 percent of the proceeds from the silent auction benefit the BISSELL Pet Foundation. Last year, $2,000 was raised for BPF, a non-profit started right here in west Michigan by Cathy Bissell.

The organization’s mission is to help reduce the number of animals in shelters, and to support organizations dedicated to the humane care and treatment of animals through pet adoption, spay and neuter programs, micro-chipping and foster care. BPF has given nearly $1.2 million to support homeless pets across the country in less than two years of existence.

Last year’s Bark Prize winner (the public can vote for “Best in Show”) was “Scally’wag,” a dog house designed like a pirate ship. It even included a “poop deck.” It was built by Mike Fraser of Out On A Limb Playhouses. Fraser will back this year with “Ye Olde Paw Mill,” a dog house resembling a saw mill, complete with a fully functioning water wheel.

“Last year’s Bark Prize custom dog houses were so unique and so fun and raised $2,000 for homeless pets, so we knew we had to make this an annual event,” Cathy Bissell said in a news release about this year’s event.  “The idea behind Bark Prize came from Mike Fraser, who owns Out on a Limb Playhouses. We are so thankful for that idea, and to the Home & Garden Show for welcoming the fundraiser and to all the builders giving time and materials to create the custom dog houses. The West Michigan community is very supportive and giving toward our animal welfare organizations, and this is a great opportunity to raise even more awareness.”

 The featured dog houses range in value from $250 to $4,000, so there’s something for everyone. They’ll be on display in the Grand Foyer at DeVos Place, outside the Expo Halls.

Whether you bid on a custom dog house or not, you need to stop by the exhibit and appreciate the creativity of these designers and builders. And don’t forget to add your vote to “Best in Show.”

 

 

New west Michigan animal welfare alliance debuts Saturday at Grand Rapids event

A terrific event is happening on Saturday that will benefit animals in need all over west Michigan.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

The Subaru of America “Share the Love” event takes place at Delta Subaru, 6025 28th Street in Grand Rapids, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Subaru of America has joined with several charities, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to donate $250 from the purchase or lease of every new Subaru. The buyer can designate which of the participating charities, including ASPCA, gets the donation.

But Saturday’s event is about more than just getting a slick new Subaru. It also marks the “coming out party,” if you will, of the West Michigan Network of Animal Protection. The WMNAP is a collaboration of six area animal welfare organizations working to increase pet adoptions and put an end to pet overpopulation and euthanasia through education, advocacy and spaying/neutering of animals. The six organizations forming WMNAP currently represent care for 95 percent of west Michigan’s homeless pet population.

Many in west Michigan already are familiar with the organizations that make up WMNAP: Kent County Animal Shelter, Humane Society of West Michigan, Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP), Vicky’s Pet Connection, Carol’s Ferals and Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue. The groups began meeting in late 2011 and WMNAP has been busy planning throughout 2013. It was awarded a $5,000 capacity building grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation in May.

As part of Saturday’s festivities, WMNAP and Delta Subaru have created an off-site adoption event at the Grand Rapids dealership. If you’ve been thinking of getting a new dog or cat for the holidays, come by and meet some of the shelter animals available.  There also will be free pet ID tagging, dog licensing and appointments for low-cost spay and neuter.

Attendees also can help “Stuff the Subaru Outback” with donated pet food and supplies for homeless pets under the care of WMNAP partners.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

If you’ve had interaction with any of the organizations involved in WMNAP, you no doubt are aware of the struggles they face every day. By joining forces, the groups can brainstorm new ideas, share resources and simply help one another out. West Michigan is fortunate to have such a dynamic and dedicated group working on behalf of the homeless animals in our area.

“Nearly 10,000 pets are still entering the two largest shelters servicing our community each year,” Jennifer Self-Aulgur of HSWM said in a news release. “The bleak reality for these animals is that there simply are not resources to find all of them a home. In 2012, positive outcomes were achieved for 43 percent of the animals entering the shelters.  Working together and sharing new and innovative ideas is the only way we will be able to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation and homeless pets in our community.”

I urge you to take the time to stop by the event Saturday. You can meet the folks behind the WMNAP, discuss how you can be a part of their efforts and help the homeless animals of west Michigan. Don’t forget to bring some dog or cat food to “Stuff the Subaru Outback,” which has a direct impact on our homeless cats and dogs.