Bissell Pet Foundation, Animal Rescue Corps team up to help Gary, Indiana’s homeless pets

Thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation and the Animal Rescue Corps, this dog was transferred from a run-down facility in Gary, Ind., to the Humane Society Calumet Area, where he has a chance for adoption.

Thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation and the Animal Rescue Corps, this dog was transferred from a run-down facility in Gary, Ind., to the Humane Society Calumet Area, where he has a chance for adoption.

Anyone immersed in the animal rescue business has run across horror stories. Whether it involves hoarders, puppy mills or deplorable conditions in which animals are housed, the stories have come across our Facebook feeds, emails or word of mouth.

Many times, such stories have a happy ending. Such is the case with the City of Gary (Ind.) Animal Control Department. Thanks to the support of the Bissell Pet Foundation and Animal Rescue Corps, the animal control department in Gary recently partnered with the Humane Society Calumet Area to give the homeless animals in their city a second chance.

“The story really starts about a year ago, when we started receiving information about the shelter [in Gary] from different contacts in the area,” Veronica Dainelis, Bissell Pet Foundation coordinator, said. “We had heard the animals coming out of there weren’t in the best health and were really struggling. We investigated ourselves to see what was going on. The dogs were being kept outdoors … there was not much indoor protection, and they were in an old dilapidated building.”

The outdated record-keeping system in Gary made it difficult to get a handle on the shelter’s euthanasia rates, but Dainelis said the numbers were not good.

“But it’s easy to blame a shelter for having to euthanize animals when, really, there’s nothing they can do,” Dainelis said. “They take in an average of 1,600 animals a year and their maximum holding capacity is probably about 30 to 40 cages.”

This summer, BPF paid for Scotlund Haisley, president of Animal Rescue Corps, to go to Gary for a full assessment of the shelter and offer recommendations on how to improve the conditions.

“He said there’s not much we can do without closing the shelter down,” Dainelis said.

But Haisley did work to find solutions as well. He approached other facilities in the Gary area and found HSCA in Munster, about 15 miles from Gary, to be a progressive organization with resources to take in other animals.

With the help of BPF, Haisley and Animal Rescue Corps, a plan was presented to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and the city’s chief of police to have animals transferred to HSCA. In addition, animals picked up by Gary Animal Control would be taken to the Calumet facility, where there is adequate housing, proper veterinary care and behavioral modification programs. Instead of facing sure euthanasia in Gary, the animals will be put up for adoption at HSCA.

Freeman-Wilson agreed to the plan, and signed a contract with HSCA that runs through the end of 2014. Gary Animal Control will pay HSCA $50 per animal (feral cats are excluded) per month for its services, with an annual budget of $82,000.

The transfer of animals began in early October, and all are now housed at HSCA. The Gary Animal Control Department is still in operation, however.

“There still are animal control officers working for the city and doing the transporting,” Dainelis said. “They’re still patrolling, keeping the community safe and picking up stray animals.”

The difference is, those stray animals will be taken to the humane society, where they’ll have a second chance at life by being evaluated, cared for and put up for adoption.

And while some may balk at the fees the City of Gary is paying to save these animals, the alternative should be considered, Dainelis said. Building a new shelter in Gary isn’t a viable option, given the city’s budget. And besides the moral objections, euthanizing animals can be expensive.

“This definitely was the most economical option for them,” Dainelis said.” Euthanasia is expensive when you talk about everything that goes into it, including the removal of the animals. That’s where a lot of (Gary Animal Control’s) funding was going. Now, it will go to help keep the animals alive.

“It’s a much more positive outcome, the best option in many ways. The city wins and can run a more effective animal control department because they’re not trying to manage a shelter in addition, they’re not losing money, and the pets have a second chance.”

Dainelis said she hopes animal advocates in the area will still work to address the homeless pet population in the city. Ideally, a program to educate the community on responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering pets, would be put in place.

“We made recommendations about introducing humane education programs and safety net programs like spay/neuter, vaccinations and food to help keep pets in their homes in Gary,” she said. “It’s really a pets-for-life model. They don’t really have the resources, but there are rescue groups in the area that used to do a lot of rescue out of the shelter and I hope they might be able to do more safety-net type of programs.

“Now that the shelter animals are taken care of and we know they’re safe, it would be great if Gary could work at proactive means of limiting the amount of homeless pets. In turn, it will save them [money]. The less they’re taking in, the less they have to pay the humane society for taking them.”

BISSELL Pet Foundation responds to Allegan dogs’ needs with $10,000 donation

The response to the dog hoarding/puppy mill case this week in Allegan County has been overwhelming, bringing hundreds of volunteers, supplies and monetary donations.

Count the BISSELL Pet Foundation among the emergency responders to come to the aid of the 352 seized dogs currently being cared for by the Allegan County Animal Shelter.

The foundation, created by animal advocate and BISSELL Inc. director of corporate affairs Cathy Bissell, on Wednesday afternoon delivered a $10,000 donation check to help pay for the medical treatment of the Shih Tzus, Pomeranians and other small breed dogs. A BISSELL representative presented the donation to Susan Smith, president of the Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance, which runs the Allegan Shelter.

“We obviously saw it unfolding in the media, and our Amanda Parrish (a BISSELL Inc. employee) volunteered down there, so we made some connections with them,” said Veronica Dainelis, administrative assistant in the executive office at BISSELL Inc. “Cathy wanted to immediately respond.

“Three hundred and fifty dogs is a huge financial responsibility, and we felt the best way we could help was through a monetary donation. They need food and other in-kind donations that are easier for the public to purchase, but most people can’t fund heartworm tests, vaccines, dental work and the routine care these dogs are going to need. We thought it best to send monetary support so they could get the medical care they need.”

Dainelis was told it’s doubtful many of the dogs rescued have ever seen a veterinarian.

“They have a lot of issues typical of small breed dogs who don’t get veterinary care, including poor dental health, abscess teeth and skin conditions because of a lack of grooming,” Dainelis said. “Those all cost a significant amount of money, so we wanted to do what we could to help provide them care.”

The BISSELL Pet Foundation, which was founded in late 2011, had come to the aid of an animal cruelty case in Kentucky, where 96 dogs were saved by Animal Rescue Corps. In that case, BPF gave a $7,500 grant to help pay for medical expenses from the “Operation Sweethearts” placement partners.

When it came time to help out a shelter in the Grand Rapids-based company’s own back yard, there was no hesitation.

“Cathy immediately wanted to get money to them,” Dainelis said. “She recognized the urgency and need of these animals and wanted to support this effort in a big. way.”


Thanks to social media, BISSELL Pet Foundation helps come to the rescue of Animal Rescue Corps

The power of social media is made clear to us everywhere we look these days, whether it’s a story breaking via Twitter, a protest/petition from or an awareness brought about through shared links on Facebook.

An Animal Rescue Corps worker helps calm an emaciated dog saved from a Kentucky cruelty case. The Valentine's day rescue of 96 dogs was dubbed "Operation Sweethearts." (ARC photo)

Yet another such story was brought to my attention recently, when one of my Facebook friends posted a link to an item from Animal Rescue Corps (ARC).  ARC had rescued 96 dogs in a cruelty case in Kentucky on Valentine’s day, and thus dubbed the rescue “Operation Sweethearts.”

So moving was the story, so horrendous were the photos and videos of the suffering dogs that I went to ARC’s site to learn more about the organization. After reading about the work these amazing people do, I signed up to be a monthly donor (an ARC Angel) that night.

While I’m hardly wealthy, I figured I could spare $25 a month to help such a worthy cause.

Apparently, the BISSELL Pet Foundation also saw ARC’s posts from Operation Sweethearts. The foundation announced this week a generous grant to ARC, thus allowing the rescue organization to provide $7,500 in  medical grants to the placement partners of Operation Sweethearts. The five placement partners took in the dogs, most of which were in dire need of medical treatment, and have committed to treating and re-homing them.

Next time  you’re wondering whether or not to hit the “share” button on Facebook when it comes to posts involving rescues or fundraising, consider this: Your true friends won’t “unfriend” you for doing it and can choose whether to read your post or not, and whether to donate or not. And your shared link just might reach someone, somewhere, who can make a difference.

Just ask the 96 Sweethearts getting the care they desperately need.

Watch a video of Operation Sweethearts Survivors story here.