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.

Rescued Jack Russells arrive in West Michigan, prep for adoption

Crates of Jack Russells arrive via the ASPCA truck at Kent County Animal Shelter on Wednesday.

Crates of Jack Russells arrive via the ASPCA truck at Kent County Animal Shelter on Wednesday.


The Jack Russell terriers rescued from a suspected puppy mill operation in Lake City arrived at the Kent County Animal Shelter and Humane Society of West Michigan this afternoon.

The ASPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Disaster Response truck pulled into KCAS around 1:30 p.m. and unloaded 15 Jack Russells. Six additional dogs, also JRTs, were then transported to HSWM. No Shiba Inus, also rescued from the puppy mill, were brought to West Michigan.

Dr. Laurie Wright, staff veterinarian at KCAS, said the dogs are in good shape, given what they’re going through. Some dogs had vomit and diarrhea in their travel crates and were given baths upon arrival.

“Most of the dogs are a little bit stressed because they’ve had a long car ride, but they’re really in pretty good physical condition,”  Wright said. “One I just processed had some evidence of flea dirt,  but no fleas. The ASPCA had already pretreated everybody, and  they’re all vaccinated heartworm tested, microchipped, fecal tested and dewormed, so we’re basically just getting them to the point where we can get them settled comfortably.

“They’ll get reassessed probably in the next 24 to 48 hours and we’ll see how they’re settling in. The bandanas you see us putting on them are sprayed with a pheromone to help calm them down. The bandanas aren’t just for cuteness, but also for de-stressing.”

Carly Luttmann, adoption program supervisor at KCAS, said the Jack Russells could be ready to be adopted as early as tomorrow.

“I think we need to do more behavior assessments on everybody tomorrow morning just to see how they’re going to fit in our adoption program, but I anticipate we’ll be ready to have them available,” Luttmann said.

The KCAS dogs all have familiar temporary names to anyone who follows the Detroit Tigers. They’re named after Tigers players and manager Jim Leyland.

“Our marketing and media manager, Lisa LaPlante, came up with Tigers’ players names,” Luttmann said. “It’s always a challenge to name a big group of dogs that comes in at once.”

Because there was just one male dog in the group of 15 at KCAS, Luttmann’s staff had to come up with solutions for the females.

“(The Tigers) have masculine names, so we had a to change a few things,” she said. “For instance, we changed Victor Martinez to Victoria M. We had to get a little creative.”

The dogs at HSWM will undergo behavioral testing before going up for adoption. Nicole Cook, marketing director at HSWM, said the dogs appear to have better temperaments than her staff expected, but they definitely are a bit fearful.

In addition, one HSWM dog is heartworm positive and another has a heart murmur. Cook said a grant from ASPCA will be used for medical treatment on those dogs, and said they should be fine with treatment. There’s no timetable for the adoption availability of the dogs in HSWM’s care.






Five more puppy mill dogs headed to West Michigan

I received word today that in addition to the 20 dogs slated to arrive at Kent County Animal Shelter,  five other dogs from the suspected puppy mill bust in Lake City, Mich., will be headed to the Humane Society of West Michigan.

Five dogs rescued from a suspected puppy mill in Lake City will arrive at Humane Society of West Michigan today, where they'll work with behavior specialists until they're ready for adoption. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter photo)

Five dogs rescued from a suspected puppy mill in Lake City will arrive at Humane Society of West Michigan today, where they’ll work with behavior specialists until they’re ready for adoption. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter photo)

A press release from HSWM said the five dogs are the last remaining from the more than 150 dogs seized and are the toughest to place, according to the ASPCA, because of their behavior challenges. The ASPCA worked in conjunction with law enforcement officials to find temporary shelter for the Jack Russell terriers and Shiba Inus rescued from the suspected puppy mill.

The HSWM release said the five dogs headed their way today are fearful and unsocialized and some suffer from medical issues, including heartworm and a heart murmur.

“We have a fantastic behavior specialist and veterinarian on staff who are ready and skilled to help in dire circumstances like this,” Trudy Ender, HSWM Executive Director, said in the release.  “We are pleased to be able to help these dogs and give them the care and attention they deserve.”

When the dogs arrive at HSWM, they will immediately get medical care and begin working with the behavior staff to acclimate them. The dogs will be evaluated upon arrival and will be placed up for adoption when they are ready for their new “forever” home, HSWM said.

Rescued Jack Russells, Shiba Inus will be available for adoption at Kent Co. Animal Shelter

More than 150 dogs, mostly Jack Russell terriers and Shiba Inus, were rescued from this outdoor kennel, a suspected puppy mill.

More than 150 dogs, mostly Jack Russell terriers and Shiba Inus, were rescued from this outdoor kennel, a suspected puppy mill.

You may have seen a story on the television news last week regarding the seizure of 150 dogs, mainly Jack Russell terriers and Shiba Inus, from a suspected puppy mill operation near Lake City, Mich.

Wednesday, 20 of those dogs will arrive at the Kent County Animal Shelter and will be available for adoption. And because of grants earlier this year from the Michigan Animal Welfare Fund and “George’s Fund,” KCAS will make available all the dogs  for a $50 adoption fee, plus the $12 to license them. The adoption fee covers spay/neuter, vaccinations and microchipping. Check out the “How to Adopt” section on the KCAS website to make sure you’re prepared when you visit the facility.

Animal Shelter Program Supervisor Carly Luttmann said the dogs should be arriving sometime before noon on Wednesday. They’ve already been evaluated for behavior and medical issues and will be immediately available. The dogs will need to be spayed or neutered before being released from KCAS, but that process shouldn’t take more than a few days, Luttmann said.

A Shiba Inu gets a medical evaluation after rescue. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter photo)

A Shiba Inu gets a medical evaluation after rescue. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter photo)

The dogs were taken from two locations: JRT John’s Jack Russell and Shiba Inu Kennel, as a result of civil action prompted by violation of Michigan’s Dog Law. The Missaukee County Sheriff’s office and the Roscommon County Animal Shelter led the way and called on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to help in the removal of the dogs.

The ASPCA said in a news release that the dogs were discovered living in outdoor enclosures with little protection from the elements. Many dogs had no access to clean drinking water or proper shelter, with plastic carriers being their only refuge from rain, snow or sun, the ASPCA said. Many of the dogs were unsocialized and fearful when handled by humans.

For that reason, Luttmann said those planning to adopt any of the dogs should realize that patience and training will be required. KCAS will offer information on Jack Russell and Shiba Inu breeds in addition to recommendations on training.

“We’re hoping people will come out (to KCAS) and help us find these dogs homes,” Luttmann said. “They lived in outdoor conditions at a puppy mill, so they might be shy at first and need training to adjust to their new lives. These Jack Russells are very smart, but they’re not all like the dog from ‘Fraiser.’ They will need training.”

A Jack Russell rescued from the suspected puppy mill who will be looking for a new home. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter  photo)

A Jack Russell rescued from the suspected puppy mill who will be looking for a new home. (Roscommon County Animal Shelter photo)

Luttmann added that the dogs may need dental work, not entirely uncommon for smaller breeds and terriers older than 2 or 3 who have never had dental care.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the $50 adoption special and giving one of these dogs (or any other dog at KCAS) a loving home, be sure to stop by the animal shelter Wednesday afternoon or later.

The rest of the dogs seized are being housed at various locations, the ASPCA release said. They’ve undergone medical examinations and those that are medically and behaviorally sound, like those headed to Kent County, will be immediately placed by Roscommon County Animal Shelter with ASPCA response partners. Those response partners also include Medina County SPCA (Medina, Ohio) and Animal Humane Society (Golden Valley, Minn.), which are also supporting the sheltering operation and will help provide daily care for the animals.

Aside from KCAS, other agencies in Michigan assisting the operation include Michigan Humane Society (Bingham Farms), Kalkaska County Animal Control (Kalkaska) and Clare County Animal Shelter (Harrison).

“This case has been years in the making and we felt strongly that something had to be done to protect these animals,” Missaukee County sheriff Jim Bosscher said in the ASPCA release. “The ASPCA’s resources and sheltering knowledge, combined with the support of the Roscommon County Animal Shelter, will finally allow these dogs the chance to have a happy life.”


Challenge not met, but Kent Co. Animal Shelter a big winner with 300 adopted pets

The Kent County Animal Shelter may not have reached the goal set by the ASPCA and Rachael Ray in the $100K Challenge, but officials at KCAS say they’re thrilled at what the staff did accomplish during the three-month contest period.

This adorable Jack Russell terrier mix was one of 300 pets adopted from the Kent County Animal Shelter during the three-month challenge. (Photo courtesy KCAS)

KCAS was challenged to “save” 300 more animals in the three-month period from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31 in 2012 over last year’s numbers for the same period. Saves included adoptions, field officers returning pets to their owners and owners claiming lost pets at the facility.

Total “saves” for the three months in 2012 was 674, beating last year’s total of 537. That’s a 26 percent increase, but it didn’t quite meet the goal of the challenge.

What surpassed expectations, however, was a 138 percent increase in adoptions from the animal shelter. In all, 300 pets were adopted in three months, beating last year’s total of 126 during the same period.

KCAS earned enough votes in the West Michigan community to qualify for the competition and was one of 50 shelters nation wide competing. The Challenge includes several other categories such as divisional winners and community engagement. Winners of the various monetary prizes will be announced Nov. 30.

KCAS was able to use special pricing on its adoptions, just $50 for dogs and $5 for cats, throughout the contest thanks to a grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Blocktail Party. While the pricing no doubt played a big role in the number of pets adopted, equally important was getting the word out about the animal shelter’s adoption program.

Animal shelter program supervisor Carly Luttmann and her staff worked tirelessly to promote the campaign online through the IC Pawz website and Facebook page, even posting pictures of every adopted pet with its new family.

“This competition brought in dozens of families who had never come to the Kent County Animal Shelter in the past,” Cathy Raevsky, the Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department, said in a press release. “Our dedicated staff worked incredibly hard to promote adoptions and return lost pets to their owners over the past three months.

 “We are so grateful to the Bissell Pet Foundation for the support they gave us these past few months. The real winners are all of the pets who found homes through this event, as well as the families who found a new friend.”

Lisa LaPlante, marketing and communications director of the health department, said she’s happy to celebrate the “little victories” of the Challenge.

“There are nearly 300 families who adopted a pet during this competition — some had never been to the KCAS,” LaPlante said. “There are 300 pets that are up-to-date on vaccines, spayed or neutered, and microchipped, that if they get lost, there is a much better chance of them being returned to their owner. Our efforts raised the level of visibility of the work the KCAS does every day. We may not have won the Challenge, but we can celebrate these victories.”

LaPlante pointed out that while the competition is done, there still are still many pets at KCAS in need of homes. The shelter is open  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Adoptions and visitations end one hour before closing.

For more information, call the shelter at (616) 632-7300 or check them out online at


Dog lovers, take note: “Running Dogs” in the running for ArtPrize

Kent Ambler has been running with dogs most of his life. Beginning Sept. 19, he’s hoping the hundreds of thousands of ArtPrize visitors will do the same.

Ambler, a native of northwest Indiana now living in Greenville, S.C., will be displaying his “Running Dogs” exhibit at DeVos Place Convention Center in this year’s ArtPrize, which runs from Sept. 19-Oct. 7.

Running Dogs features 100 dogs painted on wood panels. The dogs, Ambler said, are an interpretation of those he and his wife, Peggy, have owned throughout the years, as well as dogs he has sketched while visiting friends, relatives and animal shelters.

“I’ve had dogs since I was born,” Ambler said in a phone interview. “These are an amalgamation of all the different dogs I’ve had, or friends dogs and whatnot. They’re based on a boxy-looking Shar Pei mix. I made templates sketched out from old drawings and I use the basic shapes of dogs.

“When I paint them, it’s more intuitive. I don’t know when I start how it will look when I’m finished. I just start painting the cutout panels I’ve made… it’s not based solely on dog XYZ, it’s an intuitive approach.”

Each dog panel — Ambler uses 15 different templates of dogs he has sketched over the years before painting — is about 30 inches wide by 18 inches high. His exhibition space is 7 feet high by 60 feet long. Each dog will “float” and inch or so off the wall of a corridor at DeVos. Ambler installed the piece on Sept. 4 and will be returning for the private ArtPrize Artist  party on Sept. 16.

He’s hoping he has to return Oct. 5, when the Top Ten vote-getters are announced. Should Ambler win the grand prize of $200,000, he plans to help out — what else? — dogs. Aside from expanding his current studio, Ambler said he will donate $10,000 to the ASPCA and also will help out a few dog rescues in the Greenville area with cash donations.

With 1,517 artists competing at 162 venues this year, Ambler said he’s optimistic about his location.

“I combed through all the venues and found about 12 that would work for my exhibit,” Ambler said. “So, I made my profile and connected with the venues. Of the 12 I selected, six declined, so then it was sort of a waiting game. Finally, I heard from DeVos Place Convention Center and it worked out.”

Last year’s ArtPrize winner, Mia Tavonatti‘s mosaic “Crucifixion,” had DeVos Place as its venue.

“It’s a huge space, and there’s a good thing about being in a space like that,” Ambler said. “It has multiple artists. There are 54 artists in there, and people tend to go to venues where they can see a bunch of things rather than a restaurant where there might be one thing there and they had to walk eight blocks to see it.

“Hopefully, it works to my benefit.”

Ambler, whose work is featured in galleries in Asheville, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.;, Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Vicksburg, Miss., among others in the southwest, also works with woodcuts, block constructs and sculpture, He said he usually attends festivals and shows within an 8-hour radius of his home, but once a year goes outside those boundaries.

Last year, he did Madison, Wis. Next year, he’s hoping to make it to a festival in Kalamazoo in June. This year, it’s ArtPrize.

Ambler has recruited one of his three dogs, Grubby, to help him get out the vote. Grubby has his own Twitter account (@GrubbytheDog) and has taken over Ambler’s Facebook page. A postcard Ambler had made for the event features a photo of Grubby telling people about Running Dogs, including the code to vote via text for it, and about ArtPrize in general.

Grubby, a mixed breed who is part Shar Pei by the looks of him, is 9. He was adopted from a shelter, as were his “sister” dogs, Spooky and Pixie. Spooky, a 4-year-old mix, likely also is part Shar Pei. Pixie, who is 2, is anybody’s guess.

“She’s about 30 pounds, but it’s a dense 30 pounds, like with a Jack Russell,” Ambler said. “But she’s black and brown, and she’s got that curly tail, so it’s hard to say what she is.”


Grubby, with artist Kent Ambler’s wife, Peggy (left), Pixie (center) and Spooky.

KCAS announces ICPAWZ campaign to meet $100K Challenge goals

If you’ve seen the ICPAWZ billboards and signs around the Grand Rapids area and wondered what it’s all about, Carly Luttmann of the Kent County Animal Shelter today finally let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.

In fact, Luttmann, KCAS program supervisor, is behind the campaign, which kicks off the organization’s entry in the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. The animal shelter qualified for the Challenge by finishing 27th out of 108 shelters nationwide during the preliminary voting period earlier this summer.

Now, the real “Challenge” begins. KCAS must “save” 300 more animals from  Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 than it did in that same span last year. A “save” is counted if an animal is adopted from KCAS, or a stray from the field is returned to its owner by KCAS, or an animal transferred to another organization is then adopted from that facility.

KCAS received a big boost to help meet the Challenge. With $41,000 in grant money it received from the BISSELL Pet Foundation, from the profits generated through this year’s successful BISSELL Blocktail Party, the animal shelter is able to offer adoptions of its dogs and cats at significantly reduced rates.

Cat adoptions during the 90-day Challenge are just $5, while families can adopt a dog from      KCAS for just $50, plus the cost of a dog license. All animals will be up to date on vaccinations and spayed and neutered, so if you or a family member or friend is thinking about getting a new pet, doing so from August to the end of October not only saves you money, it also helps KCAS in its effort to win the $100,000 Challenge prize.

KCAS has launched a website,, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account (@ICPawz) to promote the event and give the public the opportunity to monitor how it’s doing. The public can use the website to follow the progress, see how many pets have been adopted and see photos of pets and families who adopted them for the duration of the contest. People also can view the many adoptable pets at KCAS.

A kickoff celebration with food, fun, prizes and adoption opportunities, sponsored by BISSELL Pet Foundation, takes place Saturday, Aug. 4  from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last adoption counselor appointment is 3 p.m.), and the public is invited. The event will be held at KCAS, 740 Fuller NE in Grand Rapids.


Crash’s Landing, Kent Co. Animal Shelter, Harbor Humane all could use our help

You know what? The world would be a much better place if we all helped each other out just a little more. Sounds pretty simple, but oftentimes opportunities are lost when even one small gesture could make a huge difference.

Taking anywhere from 8 to 30 seconds to vote for a good cause on Facebook, helping an organization or person/pet in need. Signing a petition on or some other cause. Donating when you have a few extra dollars instead of spending it on something frivolous.

Not only do you make someone else feel good, you feel pretty good about being able to help, too.

I bring this up because some events are going on (and coming up) that require action, and because some of our own stepped up to help out others in need.


Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary is the only pet-related organization to make it to  the top five in Erhardt Construction Building Our Community contest. The top vote-getter for the final round will receive a $45,000 construction project. For those unfamiliar with Crash’s, it’s a cage-free shelter for sick and injured stray cats in Grand Rapids.

Check out the video Crash’s submitted for the contest: Cat Rescue–Crash’s Landing Video for Erhardt Building Our Community Contest

Only one vote per person is allowed in the final round of voting, which started Monday and continues through Aug. 17. You must register to vote, and you’ll be sent a confirmation e-mail after you vote. Note that you must click the link on your confirmation in order for your vote to count!

If Crash’s wins the big prize, it plans to build an on-site medical treatment room for its many cats in need. To register and vote for Crash’s, go to: Check for updates on Crash’s Facebook page.


The Kent County Animal Shelter made it through the qualifying heat of the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge and now must “save” 300 more animals from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31 than it did for those three months in 2011. A “save” is defined as an adoption, stray animal reclaim to its owner or transfer to another organization that results in an adoption.

To meet its goal, KCAS must save at least 843 animals (300 more than during that period last year). If you or your friends or family have been thinking about a new pet, visit KCAS during the Challenge and help them meet their goal.  

KCAS will have a Challenge Kick-Off Party on Saturday, Aug. 4, featuring extended Saturday adoption hours, free pizza, raffle prizes and demonstrations. The BISSELL Pet Foundation is sponsoring the bash, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The last adoption counsels that day are at 3 p.m.

Cat adoptions for the event are just $5, and dog adoptions are just $50 plus the cost of a dog license. Pre-approved adoption applications are highly encouraged for this event to help expedite the adoption process on event day. Go the KCAS adoption program page to download the application by clicking Dog Adoption Survey.

Once the Challenge begins, follow the progress on the Kent County Health Department  Facebook page.


Harbor Humane Society recently sent out a plea for financial assistance from the public. The organization experienced a spike in serious medical conditions of many of its animals and launched an emergency medical campaign to raise $75,000 in public donations.

While it isn’t flush with funds, the Humane Society of West Michigan stepped up to help. HSWM will take in two of Harbor Humane’s dogs who are in great need of medical assistance. One dog has a broken front leg and the other is heartworm positive.

 “Animal welfare is not a single organization’s responsibility.  In order to have the most impact we must collaborate and assist one another whenever possible,” Trudy Ender, HSWM Executive Director, said in a press release.  “Our staff at Humane Society of West Michigan are pleased to shelter these two animals and assist Harbor Humane in this difficult time. “

HSWM is caring for more than 275 animals on its own and couldn’t take in more from Harbor Humane, but is doing what it can by taking a couple of the more severe medical cases.

If you’d like to donate to Harbor Humane’s emergency medical campaign, click here.


Kent County Animal Shelter gets out the vote, qualifies for ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge

The Kent County Animal Shelter cleared the first hurdle in the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, finishing 27th in the event’s qualifying heat. KCAS needed to garner enough online votes to make the top 50 and have a shot at the contest’s several monetary rewards, including the $100,000 grand prize.

Pistol Pete, a 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier, is available for adoption at the Kent County Animal Shelter. Pistol Pete, who weighs almost 14 pounds, is a typical Jack Russell, full of energy and intelligence. Pete is a very active dog and will benefit from having an active owner that is willing to crate train and take him to training classes after the adoption. He'll do best in a home without cats. (KCAS photo)

The Grand Rapids-based shelter finished third in its North Central Division with 10,350 votes in the qualifying portion, which ran from April 5-16. The Humane Society of Central Washington, based in Yakima, Wash., was the overall leader with 33,989 online votes.

“I’ll take 27th out of 104 shelters any day,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor for KCAS. “It’s awesome. We’re thrilled.”

Now, the real work begins. To earn prize money in the Challenge, shelters must “save” 300 more dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from Aug. 1  to Oct. 31, than it did the previous year. A save, or live exit, according to contest rules, is defined as animals who leave a shelter through adoption (including on-site, mobile, satellite and event adoptions), alternative placements (transfers to other facilities or placements with programs such as law enforcement) and return-to-owner (RTO) from the shelter, including RTO by animal control officers in the field.

Only saved animals that represent an increase over the previous year for that month will count toward the Challenge goal. For KCAS to meet the Challenge goal, it will need to total at least 823 saved animals during the three-month contest, an increase of 300 over those same months last year.

“We’re into the Challenge and now we have to creatively brainstorm to find ways to save an additional 300 animals,” Luttmann said. “That’s a significant increase from 2011, so we have to get busy being creative. If anything, though, the qualifying votes have proven we can get the word out and get the community fired up. That’s great for us. We now have to find other ways to spread the word around.”

Those looking to adopt a pet should keep in mind that  August is quite a ways off, and there are plenty of pets in the shelter who need homes now.

Luttmann said it’s likely KCAS will offer adoption specials during the three-month period and possibly discounts on adoptions if her agency can find funding to support such an effort. Last fall, Vicky’s Pet Connection sponsored half the cost of feline adoptions, allowing KCAS to offer “$5 Feline Fridays,” for cat adoptions.

“We’ll do some brainstorming, and it will be a collaboration between the animal shelter staff, the health department administration and other organizations like Vicky’s,” Luttmann said. “We’re fired up to get their ideas. We figure the more creative energy we have and the more we think outside the box, the chances are we’ll come up with some awesome ideas.”

A simple way for the community to help in the effort, aside from adopting a dog or cat from KCAS during the contest period, is to help the shelter increase its return-to-owner count. Having your pet microchipped (KCAS offers $20 walk-in microchipping) so it can be returned if it gets lost would go a long way toward that goal. Likewise, making sure your dog is licensed, as required by law, can make a big difference.

“We need to get the word out about our microchipping program… that would help a lot with reclaims,” Luttmann said. “And with only 18 percent of our target audience complying as far as dog licenses, we have huge room for improvement there. If a dog is licensed, our animal control officers can get it right back to the owner without having to bring it into the shelter.

“We would much rather make contact with the owner than impound a dog at the shelter.”


A plea to those who want to help in Allegan County Animal Shelter ‘Shih-Tzu-ation’

Editor’s note: Following is a guest blog from animal advocate and good friend Karen Terpstra, former Executive Director of the Humane Society of Kent County (now Humane Society of West Michigan). She also was the Assistant Executive Director of the Pasadena (Calif.) Humane Society and Vice President of Operations at both the SPCA of Cincinnati and the Humane Society of Charlotte (N.C.).  She is a certified animal welfare administrator who helped in the rescue of animals after Hurricane Katrina and has experience with animal cruelty cases, hoarders and puppy mill busts. 

We hear and see stories in the news about animals in peril: A cat or dog who has been abused, hundreds of cats and dogs left homeless by a hurricane or tornado, pets from a hoarder’s house or, most recently, 352 small breed dogs from a puppy mill operation in Allegan County.


Guest blogger Karen Terpstra, shown at the Reindog Parade, an SPCA of Cincinnati function. Rudy, the adoptable dog in the photo, found his forever home in 2009.

Our hearts ache for these animals and we want to help. And they need our help. Due to the sheer volume of animals and how they were housed, they will need extensive veterinary and grooming care. Most have filthy, matted fur, skin issues, bad teeth and communicable diseases from cramped living quarters and an unsanitary environment.

In addition to their immediate medical needs, they probably have extensive social needs from having limited contact with people. Most likely have never been inside a house or had an opportunity to run around. They have not walked on grass or carpet or a sidewalk. They have never been on leashes. They have not been around children, cats or other dogs (outside of their cramped cages) and often are very shy or scared. They are not house trained. Shih Tzus have the reputation of being one of the most difficult breeds to house train. They are a very smart and sweet breed, but are also known for their stubbornness.

If you have always wanted a Shih Tzu or a Pomeranian or other small dog breed, if you understand the breed, if you have the time, patience, home environment and budget to help one of these animals and provide it with a life-long, loving home, then, by all means, apply to adopt one.

If that doesn’t sound like you, you can still help. Donate money or items from the wish list to the Allegan Shelter. Educate yourself about puppy mills and share this information with your friends. Puppy mill dogs are not only found in pet stores, they are often sold through Craigslist and classified ads. (A responsible breeder will let you meet the mother dog and the entire litter where they are being housed.)

Take comfort in the fact that these puppy mill dogs are safe now. They have been rescued and they are getting the care and attention they need. Thousands of people are applying to adopt them and they will get homes.

However, our shelters and rescues are filled with animals who need homes. They don’t have a story leading the 11 o’clock news about how they ended up in the shelter, but often their need is more urgent. If no one adopts them, they may be euthanized. Many of these cats and dogs are ready to fit in to your home: house trained, litter trained, know basic obedience, good with other animals or children.

Adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue. Be a quiet hero and know that you have saved a life.